SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield junior Damani Scott admits he was trying to find his role out in the Hornets’ loaded and balanced offense throughout the regular season.
During the postseason, that all changed.
Scott went from averaging under 10 points per game during the 23-game regular season to leading the Hornets in both scoring (18.5 points per game) and rebounds (6.7 per game), playing a monstrous role in helping Mansfield secure its first-ever state championship with a 67-54 win over rival Franklin at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.
“I don’t I’ve seen [this type of progression] think in the same season,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan about Scott. “I’ve seen it over a career but I’ve never seen a progression like his from where he was to where he is now [in one season]. It was not an easy run. Every team we played had great coaches and a lot of history, so to be able to complete this run was special.”
In the state championship against the Panthers, Scott finished with a team-high 19 points. And what has been most impressive about his game during the playoffs is his ability to get it done in multiple ways on the offensive end.
His three-point shot has come a long way to the point he’s drawn extra attention on the perimeter. And when the defense does come out, he has shown that he has no problem taking a defender off the dribble to get to the basket for a layup, draw a foul, or both.
He shot 50% (5-for-10) from two-point range against the Panthers, drained a pair of three-pointers, and earned his way to the line for six free throw attempts. His steal and breakaway dunk tied the game at the end of the first quarter, capping a 7-0 run to give the Hornets a wave of momentum.
“He’s a stud, and we’ve known that from the beginning,” beamed teammate Sam Hyland. “He had a bumpy season, and that’s what happens, you go through spurts and you’re not always playing your best. But he turned it on for the playoffs. It was the right time to turn it on too. He was knocking down threes, he was attacking the basket and he was playing smart on both ends of the court.”
And for his play this postseason, there’s little doubt he should be considered the MVP of the Division 1 tournament.
Scott wasted little time asserting himself in the playoffs. In the opening round of the playoffs, he went a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range on his way to a career-high 25 points.
From that point on, Scott was locked in.
“I knew in the first playoff game that Johnny [McCoy] was going to get a lot of attention, so I felt like someone needed to step up, so I stepped up,” Scott said. “And I have all my teammates to help me. You have [Ryan] Otto in the corner that I can dish it too, Tyler is probably the best shooter in the state, [Justin] Vine off the bench, Khristian [Conner] attacking the basket, Tommy [Dooling] is another good shooter. And Sam too. I knew that I had the support around me. If I didn’t have the play, I knew I had the support of my teammates.”
After Boulter put together an epic performance to shoot Mansfield past BC High in the second round, Scott was back at it against the Newton North Tigers.
Although he had scored just nine points in the first matchup back in December, Scott showed just how hard he has come this season with an MVP-like performance at inside the Rabouin Field House at Taunton High.
He connected on 8-of-12 shooting, dropping a team-best 23 points while hauling in 11 rebounds. The junior was a beast on the boards early on, getting some easy buckets that transitioned into a breakout game.
“He played as good as you could,” Vaughan said after the Newton North game.
“I wasn’t fitting into the offense as much in the first half of the season,” Scott said. “When I have confidence, and I can be the man, I turn it up a little bit. I kind of found my identity in the offense. When defenses focused on Johnny, I knew I had to be the next man up.”
When the Hornets had another rematch, this time against the Boxers of Brockton in the D1 South Final, Scott’s progression was on full display again.
In the first go around, Scott didn’t get into double figures for scoring. The second time, Scott played the role of finisher.
He scored 10 of his 21 points in the final quarter, helping the Hornets slam the door shut on the Boxers to clinch the program’s first South Sectional title since 2013.
“He’s really focused, he really wanted to win this state championship with us,” McCoy said of Scott. “I think his play throughout the tournament showed he can be one of the best players in the league and he’s going to have a good year next year.”
And under the bright lights of the TD Garden, where he had scored 13 points on over 85% shooting against Cardinal Spellman earlier this season, Scott dropped 17 points against North champion Everett. He was clutch from the free throw line (8-for-12), hauled in seven rebounds and dished out four assists.
“What drives me to coaching is kids’ progression,” Vaughan said. “People ask if I’d ever go to the college game, but when you watch a kid come into your program and progress… Damani, he played on the freshmen team as freshman. And now as a junior, he’s excelling at a high level.”
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