ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For nearly the entire first half, the young, inexperienced Bombardiers of Attleboro High not only just keeping pace with the visitors from Mansfield, they were going toe-to-toe with the Hornets.
But if you give these Hornets an inch, they’ll take a mile — and in a blink of an eye too.
First, it was a short burst from the Hornets in the final moments of the first quarter that prevented the hosts from boasting a surprising lead through eight minutes.
And then when it looked like it would be a close game going into the halftime break, the Hornets stung the Bombardiers with a game-changing run that led to an advantage that never went below double digits the rest of the way.
In the end, Mansfield left with an 80-58 decision over Attleboro in the first matchup between the two teams this week.
“I thought the pace of play started to lean in our direction,” offered Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan, in the midst of his 17th year at the helm of the Hornets.
Mansfield erased a five-point second quarter deficit to pull even with the hosts, entering the final two-plus minutes knotted at 29-29. With the pace of play in their control, the Hornets closed the quarter with a 14-2 run.
Senior Matt Boen was once again a handful on the offensive end (30 points) and on the boards (six of his 10 rebounds coming on the offensive glass), and was the catalyst for the run. It was his steal and fast-break layup that got things started. He scored six straight to start the run, getting assists from Brian See (12 points) and Matt Hyland (12 points, seven rebounds, four assists) with the latter a traditional three-point play.
Brendan Foley hustled to track down his own miss, finding Hyland for a key three in the final minute, and Hyland returned the favor by hitting Foley on the break to cap the 14-2 run and give Mansfield a 43-31 lead at halftime.
“They missed a couple of easy ones, had some turnovers, and we came down and made some shots,” Vaughan said. “I thought Attleboro handled our pressure well so we went back to our base defense because I felt like we were giving up too many baskets without scoring. Once we got into more of our staple defense, we got the stops we needed and turned those into baskets.”
Attleboro senior Justin Daniels (16 points) played a big role in helping his squad get off to a strong start, hitting a pair of threes in the opening quarter and adding another in the second. In the second, the Bombardiers showed no fear attacking the basket as sophomore Trevor White (13 rebounds, four assists, four blocks) scored seven of his 13 points, Alvin Harrison (six boards) had six of his 11 points, and Joe Francois-Annevil added two more with a strong take to the rim, his bucket making it 29-29 late in the second.
“I saw them play their two games against Milford and I came away thinking that team could beat anyone on any given night,” Vaughan said. “They have guys that can shoot, they have good guard play. The big kid [White] is impressive, he must have had five or six blocks, all of which looked like uncontested layups and he came out of nowhere. And he blocks to keep it in bounds so it’s almost like a block and a steal at the same time. They have some good pieces.”
Mansfield picked up the second half where it left off at the break. See sank a triple and sophomore Chris Hill took a freed from Hyland and drained one from downtown. Despite missing a three, Boen followed his shot came flying in for the offensive board, and converted the putback while being fouled for a three-point play, and a 53-34 lead.
On top of it all, the Hornets created the separation without their second-leading scorer in TJ Guy, who went out in the second quarter with an existing injury.
“Their transition game really took over,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle, a 26-year veteran on the Bombardier bench. “That’s one thing when you play against them, you have to be careful to not get into too much of a transition game. You have to take your opportunities when you get them, but you can’t let them get out and run. They can spread you out and they can shoot the ball. Matty [Boen] had a terrific game. They rallied around TJ when he went down.
“Their defense in the second quarter, the pressure…they decided to run and jump a little bit in the half court. It’s tough to simulate that in practice and that kind of put us a little bit on our heels.”
While it looked like the game was out of reach, the Bombardiers never quite quit and clawed their way back into the game over the next eight minutes. Helped along by a couple of big blocks from White on the defensive end, Francois-Anvil scored on the other end, and a breakaway dunk from White kept the hosts around.
Evan Houle hit two free throws and White completed a traditional three-point play at the buzzer of the third quarter to keep things interesting with Mansfield holding a 62-49 lead going into the fourth.
The Bombardiers were in the bonus for the entire fourth and free throws from Daniels and Alec Eaton early followed by a corner three from Chris Holcomb made it 66-56 with just over five minutes to play.
But instead of getting any closer, Mansfield slammed the door shut with yet another 14-2 run to close the game. Boen hit a pair of three-pointers while See and Hyland converted at the rim with Attleboro bringing double teams. The Bombardiers were held without a field goal the rest of the way.
“It’s a great challenge to play in this league and play against teams like Mansfield,” Houle said. “We’ve been successful recently and it’s because we play hard. I thought our effort was there tonight, we just made too many mistakes collectively.”
Attleboro (2-1, 2-1) on Thursday night at 7:00.