MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Mansfield boys basketball team had plenty to celebrate on Monday night after clinching at least a share of the program’s ninth straight Kelley-Rex division title while senior Matt Boen scored his 1,000th career point in the process.
But neither accomplishment came very easily.
After suffering their first loss of the season to Taunton on Sunday afternoon, the Hornets found themselves in close to a must-win situation against the Tigers if they wanted to extend their impressive reign atop the Hockomock League.
And after Boen dropped 31 points on Sunday, the senior guard attracted plenty of attention from the Taunton defense. That defense coupled with the pressure and nerves of nearing the milestone resulted in just two points through three quarters of play.
But all’s well that ends well as the Hornets put the game to bed with a dominant fourth quarter, limiting the visitors to just three total points over the first six minutes of the final frame to pull away. Boen got going as well, and the Tigers did their part in making sure the senior guard reached the milestone in front of family and friends by intentionally fouling twice in the final minute.
Boen got a kind roll off the front of the rim on a free throw with 15.2 seconds to go to hit the millennium mark, the final touch to a 68-53 win for the Hornets.
“I talked to Coach Vaughan and told him that the first thing I wanted to do was cut down the nets [for a league title] and then focus on getting my name on the banner,” Boen said. “To get them both done on the same night is even better.”
“When’s the last time we won one without a Boen, that’s the big question,” asked Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. Michael Boen was apart of three straight from 2013-2015 while Max Boen won three as well (2015-2017). Matt has been apart of the past four teams that have raised a banner.
“Taunton played great last night, they gave us everything we could handle,” Vaughan continued. “Tonight I thought we did a much better job rebounding the ball which I think was the difference in the game. We made some plays when we needed to. Matty was off a little bit with the pressure but he was able to find other ways to help us.”
Mansfield came out with more zest in this contest compared to just over 24 hours before when Taunton dictated play with its energy. Even though Taunton held a slim lead at the end of the first quarter (13-12) and used a late bucket to tie things at halftime (29-29), it never felt like the Tigers had real control of the game.
The Hornets threatened to pull away in the third, getting key contributions from the rest of the roster as Boen tried to find his rhythm. Foley (six rebounds) had five points, including a three, and Hill (six rebounds) was responsible for four more as Mansfield rattled off a 9-0 run for a 42-33 lead.
Taunton did its best to hang around with senior Tyler Stewart (9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) fighting through a double team for two only for Hyland (five rebounds, five assists) to answer with a three-point play on the other end. Ryan Sullivan (15 points, six rebounds) drained a three and Josh Lopes dropped in a floater to get the Tigers back within five at the end of the third, 45-40, but that would be as close as the visitors would get the rest of the way.
“It was everything, we were a half step slow tonight,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “We won the 50-50s yesterday and they won the 50-50s today. It just started mounting up, our kids were dead tired. But you have to play through it, they are no less tired than [Mansfield], they played the same game yesterday. We just got too deflated too early. Things weren’t going our way and you could see it in their body language. Our outside shots weren’t falling and then Tyler’s in foul trouble…it just snowballed.
“Last night it was Boen, Boen, Boen, and tonight the other guys stepped up. They have their ball movement and all of a sudden it’s flying around and we’re late on a close-out or behind on a cut, two points here, two points there.”
Foley opened the fourth with back-to-back confident, strong takes to the rim and Boen picked up just his second field goal of the game to push the lead to two possessions. Boen hit two from the line before Taunton finally snapped the scoreless drought, Stewart alertly finding Faisal Mass (16 points, nine rebounds) for two down low. But the Tigers couldn’t get a stop as Foley once again found success driving to the rim.
Stewart added one from the line but Jack Colby responded with a nice take and, after an offensive foul took gave Stewart his fifth foul, Foley came down with a dagger three to make it 60-43 with just under two minutes to go.
“Just the commitment the guys make year in and year out, we never rebuild we just keep reloading with new guys and new faces,” Vaughan said. “What about Jack’s play the last couple of weeks? What about Foley’s play today, it was tremendous. Chris Hill is no longer a sophomore after today’s game, he really came out and battled and played really well. We told him in our film session we needed him to be better and that’s a lot of pressure for a sophomore but he stepped up to the plate. Matty Hyland’s been super consistent all year, he had some big baskets tonight. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”
The Hornets wasted little time getting Hill going in the first quarter as he took a shot on four of Mansfield’s first six possessions with seven points. Meanwhile, Taunton had five players get on the scoring sheet in the opening eight minutes with Mass hitting a corner three late to give the visitors a 13-12 lead.
Hyland and Hill had early triples for the Hornets and then scored back-to-back at the rim to keep the Hornets ahead. Santos answered with three and Lopes attacked the basket for two but Brian See drained a key three and Hyland took a charge to get the Hornets the ball back. Hyland scored on the other end but five straight from the Tigers — two from the line from Santos and a traditional three-point play by Mass — brought the visitors level by halftime.
Mansfield (9-1 Kelley-Rex, 13-1 overall) will host Lowell Catholic on Wednesday night at 6:30. Taunton (6-1, 6-1) will try to bounce back when it travels to Attleboro on Wednesday at 12:00.