BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan couldn’t recall exactly what he said throughout his self described “eight-minute rant” during halftime of the Hornets’ matchup with Bridgewater-Raynham.
But whatever he was selling, his kids bought it.
The Hornets turned a 13-point deficit at halftime into an 11-point win with a dominant second half performance spearheaded by an active and energetic defensive effort. Mansfield limited the hosts to just 16 points in the second half to earn a 66-55 decision to conclude the 2018 calendar year.
“I don’t know what I said exactly but something along the lines of ‘It was unacceptable, it’s not how we do things around here, and it’s not a level I want to play at,’” Vaughan said.
“I’ll lose but we have to go down fighting. We didn’t fight in the first half.”
With Mansfield struggling to find consistency on both ends of the court, a good Bridgewater-Raynham team took full advantage. The Trojans shot 7-for-12 from the field in the opening quarter to jump out to a 17-12 lead.
And then Bridgewater-Raynham cashed in on a handful of open looks, taking of advantage of some switches and went a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range in the frame. The Trojans scored 22 points in the quarter and opened up a double-digit lead, 39-26, after 16 minutes of play.
“The whole halftime…it wasn’t about winning or losing, it’s about looking like we know what we’re doing,” Vaughan said. “I told the kids I was a little embarrassed by the way we played in the first half, just from a technique standpoint. I thought the kids responded well and I thought our technique and attention to detail in the second half was significantly better. We have to get better in a lot of areas on the defensive end and sometimes just playing a little harder helps.”
The Hornets went to a full-court man-to-man press, using traps and double teams to get the energy going. The result was exactly what Vaughan was looking for and Mansfield worked its way back into the contest.
After making just one three in the first half (on 1-for-8 shooting), the Hornets came out right away and ran a set play for Tommy Dooling (12 points), and he sank a three. Mansfield forced a turnover on B-R’s first possession, and although it didn’t turn into points, the tone was set.
Mansfield forced seven turnovers in the third quarter, limiting B-R to just nine points. A strong take from sophomore TJ Guy (13 points) on a feed from Damani Scott (game-high 23 points, 10 rebounds) brought the Hornets within seven (39-32) but a 7-2 spurt from the hosts stretched the lead to 12 with two minutes left to play in the third.
The Hornets had a strong response over the final moments of the quarter, going on an 8-2 run. Scott sandwiched a three-pointer between single free throw makes. Dooling drained a three from straight away with less than 10 seconds left to pull within six, 48-42, heading into the fourth quarter.
“I think at the end of the day, we were either going to lay over and continue to get our butts kicked or we were going to start to play hard,” Vaughan said. “I think we started to play hard and the full court pressured allowed us to do that, to hold them accountable for longer parts of the possession. It just boiled down to us having to play harder, play with an identity. It’s been a while since we allowed that many uncontested shots, and B-R is a good team, they are going to make those shots. They didn’t have many bad shots in the first.
“For us, we had to do something. We had to figure out our identity…were we going to let them do what they want? Or were we going to take some things away.”
Mansfield forced five more turnovers in the final quarter and held the Trojans to just one made field goal. While the defense did its part, Mansfield’s offense finally got in gear and poured in 24 points in the quarter.
The Hornets opened on a 7-1 run to take the lead with 5:21 to go in the game. Makhi Baskin started things off with a steal and easy layup and Guy used a nice spin move in the post to give the Hornets the advantage, 50-49.
Scott finished off his own miss and the Hornets defense got a stop with Matty Boen being fouled while rebounding the ball. Boen drained two free throws to go extend the lead to 54-49 with 4:24 left.
B-R countered with two free throws from Conor Rubenskas (21 points) and drew an offensive foul to get possession back. Both teams had empty trips before Rubenskas hit a tough baseline shot to make it a one-point game, 54-53, with 3:25 to play.
Mansfield quickly answered as Dooling found Guy for two and the Hornets press paid off, forcing a turnover. Scott hit one of two from the line to make it 57-53. Mansfield’s defense got a stop and got the ball in the hands of Scott. Scott, who had his way getting to the basket for the majority of the game, garnered a lot of attention and alertly handed a ball off to Boen for a left-handed take.
After the teams traded turnovers, the Trojans missed a triple on one end and on the other end, Boen penetrated the defense, forcing B-R to collapse. Boen alertly kicked the ball out and Guy drained a wide open three to make it 62-53 with a minute to go, securing the win. Guy had 10 of his 13 points in the final quarter.
“The fight in the second half was significantly better, the kids really tried,” Vaughan said. “I don’t want to say they didn’t try in the first but they sat back and waited for everything to happen. In the second half, we took things away…we challenged them, we made things difficult.”
Mansfield boys basketball (4-1) returns to action Friday night for a key Kelley-Rex division battle against rival Franklin in a rematch of last season’s D1 State Final.