MANSFIELD, Mass. – When Mansfield went up by 13 in the third quarter of Monday night’s Roundball Classic opener against Needham at the Albertini Gym, there was a sense that the Hornets were going to cruise to a big win. The Rockets had other ideas, eventually trimming that lead down to as few as two points late in the fourth quarter.
One of the things that has made Mansfield so successful in recent years is its ability to find ways to win close games against good teams. Monday was no different, as the Hornets got a big stop, Sam Stevens knocked down a pair of clutch free throws, and Mansfield walked away with a 63-58 victory.
Matt Boen was once again the star man for the Hornets, leading the way with 23 points, but also pulling down 12 rebounds and being an impact player on both ends of the court.
“It’s Matty being Matty at this time of the year,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “He’s been playing great the last couple of games, he steps in and makes big plays, and keeps us at a good pace on offense. I thought his play was exceptional.”
It was Boen that got the Hornets off and running in the opening quarter, scoring 12 points in the first. He buried a three while being hit to make it 7-5, then drove and took contact before finishing at the rim for a 10-10 tie, and grabbed a steal and turned it into a layup to make it 15-10.
“When a guy can go from the point guard position, cover on the perimeter, and find ways to go and get 12 rebounds, it says a lot about his game plan and how he conducts himself,” Vaughan added about Boen’s all-around game.
TJ Guy added four points, including a tough and-one off a dish by Brendan Foley that pushed the lead to five. Needham’s star guard Will Dorian drilled his third three of the first quarter to close the gap to 18-16 after one. He scored nine of his team-high 19 in the first but only made two more shots from the field for the remainder of the game.
The Rockets were using a 1-3-1 zone in the first half and Mansfield was able to move the ball well enough to get good looks both on the perimeter and with Guy (10 points, five rebounds, and four assists) in the paint.
“He’s special too,” Vaughan said about Guy. “He’s pretty dominant and when he gets inside like that we’re a pretty tough matchup. It’s just a matter of him being consistently dedicated to get himself in those positions.”
Stevens (16 points) scored six in the second and Chris Hill stepped up with five off the bench to help Mansfield build the lead to nine at the break. Hill and Boen hit back-to-back threes and Guy scored with a strong post move to make it 34-21, but Tim Reidy scored six points in the closing minutes to pull Needham back to single digits.
In the third quarter, Needham clamped down defensively, holding Mansfield to just eight points, but the Rockets only managed 10, so only cut two points off the halftime lead.
Mansfield had the lead back up to 13 when Stevens got a steal and transition layup. Then Boen turned a defensive rebound into a runner plus contact on the other end to put the Hornets ahead 44-32, but Needham scored the final five points of the third to cut the lead to seven.
Dorion continued the comeback at the start of the fourth with a corner three to make it 44-40. After a pair of Guy free throws, John Hood (16 points) nailed a three but that was quickly matched on the other end by a corner three from Hill (eight points).
Reidy (11 points) hit from the outside and the lead was 50-46, but Stevens answered with a three in front of the Mansfield student section. Foley also drilled a clutch three that put the Hornets back up by 10 points, 58-48.
Vaughan said, “That’s what we’ve kind of been built on over the years is trying to find that diamond in the rough kid who can give us anything off the bench and a spark when they start taking away your main three. They have the confidence to step up and hit a big shot.”
Four straight at the line kept Needham in the game and then Hood got free for his fourth three of the game and the lead was right back down to four. Johar Singh drilled another three, the 11th of the night for the visitors, to make it 60-58. After a timeout with a little more than 26 seconds remaining (21 on the shot clock), Needham elected to foul Stevens and send him to the line for a one-and-one.
Stevens capped his senior night by making both at the line to make it a two-possession game. The Hornets made one more stop to seal the victory.
Mansfield (20-2) will face the winner of Brockton and Whitman-Hanson in the Roundball Classic final on Wednesday night.
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