By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Over the past couple of seasons, when Franklin and Mansfield have played, the game has come down to whoever played the better defense.
That was no different on Friday night at Mansfield High, as the Mansfield boys basketball team held Franklin to just 13 first-half points in a 59-47 win.
After Chris Edgehill made a layup over two minutes into the game to open up the scoring, Mansfield rattled off twelve straight points to take a 12-2 advantage. Four points from Franklin captain Paul Mahon (15 points, four rebounds) in the last minute of the quarter put the Panthers within striking distance at 12-6 entering the second quarter.
In the second quarter though, Mansfield continued their defensive onslaught while its offense came alive behind nine points in the quarter from John McCoy (16 points, five steals, four rebounds), who helped the Hornets outscore Franklin 17-7 in the frame.
Mansfield began the quarter on a 9-2 run which was broken up by a three from Edgehill, but the Hornets quickly answered back with a three of their own from Justin Vine (11 points, three three-pointers), which sparked an 8-2 run to end the half, giving Mansfield a comfortable 29-13 lead heading into the halftime break.
“They’re a great team, and every time we play them we talk about how it’s got to be 32 minutes of great defense, it can’t be 28, because when you go into that four-minute lull, they went on a quick run there with the threes from Vine, and then McCoy had one or two, and there’s the difference right there, that’s the game,” Franklin coach CJ Neely said about the second quarter.
“I thought the whole first half was definitely the key, just our defensive presence, our defensive energy, our defensive commitment to the game plan was as good as I’ve seen it here for a long time, there were not many possessions that I would say was a bad possession defensively, we were keyed in,” Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan said about his team’s performance in the first half.
The second half started off with a bang for Mansfield, as McCoy buried a three 30 seconds into the quarter to extend Mansfield’s lead to 19. The Hornets rattled off a 14-4 run to begin the second half, behind five from McCoy and four from Damani Scott (13 points).
Sean Leonard scored six of his eight points in the third quarter for the Panthers, who were outscored 19-10 in the quarter and entered the fourth quarter down 48-23.
Franklin used a press in the fourth quarter and was able to get Mansfield out of their rhythm offensively. Edgehill (16 points) started out the quarter by converting a traditional three-point play, and just a few seconds later, Paul Mahon converted one of his own to cut the Mansfield lead to 48-29.
Scott hit a shot for Mansfield, but Franklin rattled off nine straight points to cap off a 15-2 run that cut the Mansfield lead to just twelve at 50-38.
The Hornets held on though, and Franklin never got closer than ten with just over a minute left, as Mansfield took a 59-47 win on their home floor.
“We’ve kind of created this trend where they beat us up the first time and we come back and find a way to get one back from them,” Vaughan said. “Since my third year, we’re literally one game over .500 [against Franklin[, which was tonight, so before tonight we were .500 since my third year.
“It’s just an unbelievable game, they did a great job, tonight we did a better job, last time when we played at Franklin earlier in the year, we did a good job, they did a better job, and that’s just how this game works.”
With the win, Mansfield (17-2, 13-1 Hockomock) takes over sole possession of first place in the Kelley-Rex Division. They host King Phillip on Tuesday night.
Franklin (15-2, 12-2 Hockomock) will return home for a clash with Attleboro on Tuesday night.
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