TAUNTON, Mass. – In the middle of the D1 South Sectional championship game, the Mansfield boys basketball team put on a clinic in front of a jammed pack crowd inside the Rabouin Field House at Taunton High.
For over eight minutes, the Hornets dominated on both ends of the court. It started with terrific defense, and more often than not, ended with an extra pass and an open look. The result was a runaway win for the top-seeded Hornets, a 78-65 decision over #2 Brockton.
It’s Mansfield’s second D1 South Sectional title in the past three seasons.
“The guys seemed locked in,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “Anything they threw at us, we seemed to have an answer for it. I thought the ball movement was tremendous. Our ball movement is really good and when we move the basketball, I think a lot of different guys can contribute and that definitely happened in the second quarter.
“We start working on [the ball movement] in December, and around mid-January, I thought we were a kind of lackadaisical and guys were trying to get their own instead of running the offense. We just have to grind through those possessions to try and get to a point where it all seems to click. We always talk about playing our best in March and so far we are doing that.”
The momentum started with a 9-1 surge to end the opening quarter. After Brockton’s Isaac Lane drained a three-pointer to make it a two-point game at 13-11, the Hornets created a double-digit advantage with its late run.
Junior TJ Guy (six points, six rebounds) dished out one of his eight assists, finding classmate Brendan Foley wide open cutting to the basket for two. Junior Cincere Gill was fouled driving to the basket and hit two from the line, and junior Matt Boen (19 points, eight rebounds, six assists) scored five straight points for a 22-12 advantage through eight minutes.
“A lot of times you see a team with that size, with that length, and that athleticism and guys seem to back up,” Vaughan said. “We want to go at them and find opportunities to score. Use the ball as your friend to move and get going in the offensive end.”
After finding success cutting to the basket, Mansfield found some space on the perimeter as both senior Sam Stevens (29 points, seven rebounds) and Boen drained early threes. That afforded Drew Rooney (10 points, six rebounds) space up the middle for a strong take and Guy turned an offensive board into a traditional three-point play, capping an 11-4 run for a 33-16 lead.
The Boxers converted a steal into points but Mansfield answered in the form of an 11-0 surge. Stevens started it with two free throws, Gill joined the three party with a triple of his own, and then Stevens splashed two more triples for a 44-18 lead.
Boen took a feed from Jack Colby and drained a three before Stevens added another one from deep as the Hornets took a 50-27 lead into halftime. In total, Mansfield hit nine first half three-pointers, including four apiece from Boen and Stevens.
“For us, we just have to trust the process,” Vaughan said. “If we do that, allow the game to come, we’ll settle into what we need to do and I think that makes a big difference for our comfort level. Then kids can go out there and make plays. It felt like we could score on every possession in the first half.
“They wanted to take away the perimeter, take away Matty and deny Sammy the ball. That let Drew get some easy baskets early, TJ could have had a couple more. That allowed more of our guys to get comfortable. Once they get comfortable, Sammy and Matty can get going.”
Brockton played better in the third quarter, hitting six field goals from the floor including three from deep. But Mansfield was quick to match the Boxers, as Stevens accounted for 10 of the Hornets’ 16 points in the quarter.
Freshman Chris Hill had a pair of finishes at the end of the press break and Rooney added a putback for the Hornets, Stevens had a three, hit five free throws, and drained a contested elbow jumper at the buzzer as Mansfield carried a 66-44 lead into the fourth.
“Sam has had a great second half of the year and a lot of that is from settling in and trusting his teammates,” Vaughan said. “It’s about understanding that he can pass up on an early shot to get one going. Once he starts doing that and feeling good, you trust him to take that early shot. And when he’s making them, you can play off of him a little bit and that makes a big difference.”
Mansfield’s lead hovered around 20 for the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter, a bucket from Hill on a feed from Boen giving the Hornets a 70-51 lead.
But Brockton kept it interesting with a bit of a late run. An 8-1 run made it 71-59 with just over two minutes to play, and the Boxers in possession. Brockton hit just one of two from the line and Boen came down the other end and converted through contact, completing a three-point play to essentially ice the win.
Mansfield boys basketball (advances to the D1 State Semifinal and will take on the D1 North champion on Tuesday at the TD Garden at 7:15. Lowell (22-0) and Lynn English (21-2) meet on Saturday night in the D1 North Sectional final.
But the Hornets couldn’t break through, and the pressure came just a bit too late as #11 Brockton used a pair of first half goals and added a third one on a counter attack midway through the second half to secure a 3-0 victory over #3 Mansfield.
The Boxers, a team much better than your typical #11 seed, had complete control over the first 40 minutes of the game. Brockton had a lion’s share of the possession and neutralized Mansfield’s attempts to get up field.
“They have a hell of a lot of talent over there,” said Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan.
While the Boxers didn’t create a ton of goal scoring chances, they did capitalize on the opportunities they did have. After controlling the game of the opening 15 minutes, the visitors found the back of the net to go ahead.
After earning a free kick along the right flank, Brockton’s Luis Spinola served the ball to the near post to teammate Leonardo Teixeira. Teixeira had his first touch blocked down but tracked it down and fired in a shot at the near post on a tough angle to make it 1-0.
While Mansfield began to work its way into the game some, earning its first corner and first real attacking throw in, the Boxers struck again in the 33rd minute. Vanilton Xavier and Teixeira combined to get Xavier out wide. After using a cut back to avoid two defenders and centered it back to Teixeira, who headed in a ball he played up to himself.
“They played a little bit more aggressive,” Sheridan said, as compared to the regular season meeting between the clubs. “They were passive the first time, they didn’t play aggressive until the second half. In this game, they came out from the get go with a lot more gusto than the first time. We came out timid but we settled down. After the lightning break, we took it too them. We just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Mansfield’s lone chance of the opening half came off the foot of junior Colin Caridi, who blasted a low shot from 20 yards out but it slid wide at the far post.
“First, we had to keep the ball,” said Brockton head coach Herminio Furtado about defending Mansfield. “As long as you keep the ball, you’re safe. Second, don’t give them throw ins, they love that. We’d rather play from the back and if we lose it, just try to win it back instead of playing it out and giving them throw ins. It was about possessing and being conservative.”
The second half came to an abrupt halt just over minutes in because of a lightning delay. After the teams cleared the field, play resumed 36 minutes later. After the delay, the Hornets ramped up the pressure.
Mansfield had three straight conner kicks in the 38th minute, but only the final one had a chance on goal with Luke Savoie’s header saved on a bounce.
While Teixeira didn’t play a lot of minutes for Brockton in the second half, he did have a chance in the 51st minute but Mansfield junior keeper Cam Bovey made the stop.
While the Hornets pushed numbers forward, the chances on goal didn’t pile up. Instead, the Boxers were able to strike on a quick counter attack. Edson Lopes played Joel Arsenault wide but as soon as Lopes released the ball, he took off sprinting forward and was rewarded for his run as Arsenault slipped a ball in behind and Lopes touched it around the keeper for a 3-0 lead in the 60th minute.
“They only [broke us down] a couple of times.” Sheridan said. “The third goal, we were pushing numbers up and had less guys in the back…2-0, 3-0, 4-0…didn’t matter, we had to go for it.”
Mansfield’s best chance of the game came a minute later as Luke Devine flicked a ball in behind on a header and Savoie fired a hard low shot across the goal but it hit off the far post and rolled across the goal line, somehow staying out and keeping the Hornets scoreless.
Mansfield boys soccer finishes the season 13-3-5.
In the first round of the Division 1 South tournament, the Panthers’ defense took center stage.
#4 Franklin’s defense prevented #5 Brockton from getting in the end zone, adjusted to limit the Boxers’ run game, came away with three interceptions and anchored the Panthers to a 26-3 win.
After Brockton’s offense combined for 97 yards and three points on its first two drives of the game, the Panthers’ defense limited the Boxers to just 66 yards the rest of the way. Of Brockton’s final seven drives, three ended with interceptions, one with a safety, and two turnover on downs.
“Our defense has been pretty good all year in all of our wins,” said Franklin head coach Eian Bain. “It’s been pretty solid all year and in the second half, they won us that game. They put the nail in the coffin and sealed it for us.
“I love coaching and all that but the kids do all the work. From day one, they bought in. We’ve taken our bumps and we’ve grinded along the way but these guys earned everything they’ve gotten so far. I think we have great athletes but these guys have everything in their power to develop as people and as football players. That’s really shown this year.”
Brockton’s offense had its lone success of the first two drives of the game. After a good return, the Boxers offense quickly marched 47 yards — all on the ground — into the Franklin red zone on the first drive of the game. But the visitors couldn’t convert as Franklin’s Nolan McLaney and Austin Jordan combined for a tackle for loss on second down, and Brockton fumbled on third, meaning they had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Carlens Jean.
It took Franklin just over two minutes to respond, finding the end zone in just six plays on its first drive of the game. Junior quarterback Nick Gordon (11/16, 178 yards, two touchdowns) converted a third down by finding junior Jake Davis up the seam for a 36-yard gain – the only stopping him from going the distance was his own momentum.
After two plays without a gain, Franklin converted another third down, this time Gordon finding a streaking Jack Nally up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
The Boxers nearly struck back with an immediate response of their own. Brockton junior running back Ahmik Watterson broke free for a 50-yard scamper to get inside the Franklin 10-yard line. Another run from Watterson put the ball at the 1-yard line. Franklin’s defense came up with a key stop and Brockton was whistled for a dead fall foul, pushing them back to the 15-yard line.
Two plays later, Jean’s 25-yard field goal attempt was just wide left and Franklin’s offense took over.
“They had a pretty cool set early where they where they were unbalanced one way with a power-I going the opposite,” Bain said of Brockton’s early running success. “You have to adjust the front while also maintain some integrity on the back and be gap sound. Once we settled down we felt OK.”
The Panthers marched up field, going 74 yards to get into scoring territory at the Brockton 6-yard line. The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard catch from Sean Leonard and a terrific leaping 30-yard catch from Ryan Driscoll on third down. But Brockton’s defense was up to the task, not letting Franklin get any closer.
The Panthers settled for a 23-yard field goal from Parker Chevrant and a 10-7 advantage with 6:55 to play in the second quarter.
Although Brockton’s defense just had a big stop to get some momentum, Franklin’s defense stole it right back. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Brockton quarterback Michael Norman was intercepted by Driscoll near midfield and he returned it all the way into the red zone at the 18-yard line.
Four plays later, on fourth and 2 from the 10-yard line, Bain elected to go for it and Gordon linked up with Leonard, who just got his feet down, in the end zone for a 17-3 advantage with 4:29 left in the first half.
“Any game you can really boil it down to about a half dozen moments and for us, that stretch was certainly one of them,” Bain said. “We’ve put a lot of stock in our kids and we really trust them. We went up to the line with a dummy call, we weren’t going to run a play but Leonard is a three-year guy, Gordon has stepped in the clutch all year so we let them do their thing.”
Brockton started its drive inside its own 20-yard line and junior linebacker Evan Wertz made a big tackle on third down to force the Boxers to punt. But the snap sailed high on the punter, and by the time he was able to pick it up he stepped out of bounds in the back of the end zone while under pressure from McLaney, resulting in a safety and a 19-3 lead for the Panthers.
Franklin had a chance to add onto that lead before half, getting to the Brockton 30-yard line on the ensuing drive but a fumble ended the drive.
Brockton moved 30 yards to get into Franklin territory in the final minute of the first half but Owen Palmieri came away with an interception to send the teams into the locker rooms for half.
“For us, our strength is our back end, our strength is our athletes,” Bain said. “I think we have very good linemen but we’re always going to be outsized, that just the way it is here. But we’re fast and athletic, so we if we can get a team to play to our strengths, we’re in a better spot. We wanted to make them throw it some and get out of their comfort zone.”
The second half featured a battle of ground games trying to solve two strong defensive fronts. Brockton had 20 plays in the second half with a total of 29 yards.
Franklin’s offense didn’t fare much better as it tried to get its ground game going and keep the ball away from the Boxers. The Panthers offense had 30 plays for a total of 57 yards.
“We like we had some opportunities to run, that was what they were giving us,” Bain said of keeping the ball on the ground for the majority of plays in the second half. “We didn’t want to give them a short field or anything. They have the athletes to get back in the game in one strike. I don’t want to say we were conservative, we truly believe they were the right play calls but hopefully we can have some more success on the ground next week.
The big play of the second half came when Franklin’s defense once again thwarted the Boxers trying to throw the ball. Midway through the fourth quarter, a sack from senior Adam McMorrow forced the Boxers into a 3rd and 15 scenario inside their own 20 yard line.
Norman tried to link up with a receiver down field but McLaney stepped in front for the interception. The senior returned it 26 yards to the 1-yard line, setting the Panther offense up.
After being stuffed on the first two tries on QB sneaks, Gordon took the next snap in shotgun and pushed his way up the middle for a 26-3 lead with 5:39 to play.
Franklin football (6-2) advances to the D1 South Semifinal and will take on top-seeded Xaverian (6-1) on Friday night at 7:00 in Westwood. The Hawks beat BC High 17-0 in the opening round.
TAUNTON, Mass. – There are a lot of programs that would love to have the level of consistent success that Mansfield has enjoyed over the past several seasons, but heading into Friday night’s Div. 1 South final at Taunton High the Hornets were not thinking about all the games that they had won in the last five years.
The Hornets, especially the senior class, were thinking about the two sectional finals they had reached in the past three seasons, including last year’s loss to Needham on the same court, and focusing on ensuring that the third time would be the charm to bring home the program’s third South title. It was.
Mansfield put in another dominant performance on both ends of the floor to beat Brockton 79-65. The Hornets used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to break the game open, led by as many as 24 points, and the 14-point final margin was the closest that the Boxers got in the second half.
“We’ve lost it twice and our senior year we wanted to go out on top and win the South sectional final,” said senior point guard Sam Hyland after the game. “We’re not done yet, but that was awesome. It meant a lot to win it.”
Senior John McCoy added, “We want to win the state [tournament]. We had three goals at the beginning of the season – to win the Hock, win the South sectional finals, and to win the state title – so far we’ve done two of those three.”
When Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan was asked about what drove the Hornets to get over the hump and bring home the title, he replied, “Last year, when we lost to a very good Needham team, the guys who played last year felt that pain, they wanted to get back here and represent the South in the state tournament.”
Few teams are playing as well as Mansfield at this point in the season and even fewer teams are as good when facing a team for a second time. The Hornets avenged one of their two losses by beating BC High by 13 in the quarterfinal and rolled past Newton North for the second time this season in the semifinal. After beating the Boxers by five in a tight game a little more than two weeks before, Mansfield made sure this meeting was nowhere near as close.
One of Mansfield’s strengths is the balance it has on offense and in the first quarter six different Hornets scored, including Tommy Dooling who drilled a three after a scramble for a loose ball fell to Ryan Otto and he swung it over to the junior guard. The three put the Hornets up 19-15 after one.
“I know my job,” said Hyland about the team’s depth. “I’ve got to get the ball over half-court and let someone make a play. Vine hit a couple shots, Damani was huge obviously, Tommy Dooling hit the biggest shot of the year for him, and Johnny has always been huge.”
McCoy answered a Brockton basket to start the second, but the Boxers got a layup off an inbounds pass to cut the lead back down to just two. The Hornets scored the next 15 and never looked back.
Senior Justin Vine (11 points) started the run with a straightaway three off another of Otto’s five assists on the night. Damani Scott also started to get going with a basket off an offensive rebound and a transition basket after a Hyland steal. After the Boxers finally ended the run with a runner, Vine added another three, this time from the corner off a Tyler Boulter feed. Mansfield went into the break leading 41-26.
“The thing I like about this team right now is they’re really engaged with the game plan,” said Vaughan. “They’re executing what we’re putting in; they’re executing the little things in the game we need to do to win.”
Brockton came out for the third quarter energized but, similar to the game against Newton North, the Hornets always seemed to have an answer to prevent a comeback. The Boxers cut the lead to 15, but Otto (nine points) chased down an offensive rebound and Hyland moved it over to Boulter for a big three in the corner.
Despite the Brockton full-court press, the Hornets continued to get the ball into the offense thanks in large part to Hyland keeping turnovers to a minimum. He explained, “[Coach] told me before the game tonight that when they’re pressing you have to be like a boxer. You can’t let them keep pounding you, you’ve got to try and attack them.”
Boulter would score seven of his 10 points in the third to help stretch the lead, while McCoy continued to take over the game with his ability to get to the rim. The senior, who was greeted by “MVP” chants by the Mansfield crowd after every basket, scored six in the third on his way to a game-high 23. He also pulled down nine rebounds, had a pair of steals, and dished out three assists.
“It was almost like he was pacing himself early, letting the game come to him and we said to him at halftime of the last game you need to put your will on the game,” said Vaughan of McCoy. “There’s reasons why basketball has superstars and he played like a superstar the other day and tonight was no different. He’s a game-changer on both ends of the floor.”
In the fourth quarter, Mansfield made sure the game stayed out of reach with stellar ball movement to find open looks. Scott caught fire on the fourth, scoring 10 of his 21 in the final quarter. He buried a pair of threes from essentially the identical spot right in front of the Hornets fans and he capped a near-perfect night for the Hornets with a steal and dunk that put Mansfield up by 24.
“We’re just excited to be able to close the loop on the South and put our name back in there,” said Vaughan, who has now won three South titles as coach (2011 and 2013 being the others). “It’s been a while since we’ve gotten this so we’re excited to be back here and now we’ve got more work to do starting tomorrow morning.”
Although there is still work to be done, the players were definitely enjoying the moment on the floor. As the crowd was being urged to disperse, Hyland stood at midcourt cradling the South championship trophy. When asked how it felt at that moment, he said, “It feels pretty awesome right now. This thing feels pretty great in my hands right now.”
Mansfield (25-2) will play the North champion, either Everett or Lawrence, at the TD Garden in the state semifinal on Monday night at 7:30.
But the second half was a different story.
The Boxers amped up their defensive pressure, leading to turnovers and transition baskets and a 71-48 win in the opening round of the D1 South tournament.
Attleboro trailed by as much as five but held a 9-8 lead at the midway point of the first, and used a late three to knot the game 15-15 at the end of one.
Sophomore Bryant Ciccio (13 points) scored six straight for Attleboro early in the second quarter, each bucket erasing a deficit to tie the game.
But late in the first half, the Boxers switched their defense up to apply a halfcourt trap. From that point, Attleboro scored just two points over the final four minutes, a bucket down low off the hands of sophomore Qualeem Charles (eight points, nine rebounds).
Although trailing 32-28 at half, the Bombardiers seemed to be in a good spot, shooting nearly 50% from the floor despite missing some transition layups.
“We were okay at halftime,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “I thought if we came out in the second half and played a little bit better…we did some really good things in the first half we just had to hit some transition baskets on our own side. But we really never put the pressure on them to keep it close. Their defense in the second half just swarmed us. Even our good looks didn’t seem as good.”
“I just said to Coach Houle that I thought [Attleboro] controlled the game in the first half,” said Brockton head coach Bob Boen. “We were playing at their pace, we were doing what they wanted to do. I thought we were lucky to be ahead by four the way the first half went. I just decided we couldn’t play that way any longer, we had to get out and start pressing and pressuring in the half court.
Unfortunately for Attleboro, it was the Boxers who dominated the second half.
The halfcourt trap continued to bother Attleboro, who had more turnovers (seven) than field goals made (five) in the third quarter. Brockton’s active pressure led to easy transition buckets.
“[The pressure] made the difference,” Boen said. “It really got us lively and kind of took them out of their offense. They made a couple of threes against us but not much else. We did a real nice job with it, we were active and covered up when they made good passes.”
Kevin Velazquez hit an early triple to cut the deficit to three, and Douglas drained one from deep to get the Bombardiers within six with five minutes left in the third. But Attleboro couldn’t find consistency in its offense due to the trap and Brockton rattled off eight straight points over the next two and a half minutes.
“We did some good things early in the game obviously,” Houle said. “Even in the first half we had some opportunities to get them out of the 1-3-1 but we missed some shots and missed on some inside outs. We had a couple of chances in transition to really kind of force them into some different things. I thought if we got a couple of baskets against the 1-3-1 early on they might not have stayed in it, it definitely gave us fits there.”
Charles snapped the run with a putback of his own miss to get it back to 10, but Brockton created plenty of separation with a 9-3 run to finish the quarter, taking a 57-41 lead into the final quarter.
“They are long, they are quick and they got into the passing lanes, and we didn’t come to the ball,” Houle said. “When we did have opportunities to make plays, we didn’t play with as much confidence in the second half. I think that’s what it came down to. We were a little less confident as the game went on.”
It was more of the same in the fourth for Attleboro. The Bombardiers only managed seven points in the final quarter and didn’t score until two minutes left in the game. Ciccio hit two free throws, Lorenzo Wilson scored in the paint and Jornell Abadia drained a three.
“One of the things we had to do tonight was play through contact, and we didn’t do that,” Houle said. “And they had their run outs, and we didn’t want to let them get out in transition. So two things right there hurt us, especially in the third quarter. That opened the lead a little bit.”
Attleboro boys basketball finishes the season 13-10.