MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Mansfield boys’ and girls’ basketball teams both celebrated senior nights with victories on Monday night in the Albertini Gym and both advanced to the finals of the 2016 Round Ball Classic. The boys pulled away in the second half to roll past Weymouth 69-42, while the girls used a strong finish to get past Walpole 51-39.
Although Weymouth came into the game with just one win on the season, Mansfield could expect to be challenged, as the Wildcats are led by former Franklin coach Dean O’Connor and even just one year in have already taken on some of his trademark intensity.
“You can already see Dean’s effect in terms of his kids’ knowledge of where they need be and the challenges they presented on their defensive end,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “There were a lot of possessions we didn’t look real comfortable.”
He added, “The biggest difference is that we have guys who can score they don’t.”
The Hornets mixed and matched the lineup with junior Sam Goldberg sidelined with injury and with Vaughan making sure that his seniors got plenty of time on the court. Kyle Swansburg scored five of his team-high 14 points in the opening quarter and junior Christian Weber scored six, all on drives to the basket.
“When he’s going to the hoop and Matt [Ehrlich] complements him going to the hoop and we can score inside out then I think it makes a big difference,” said Vaughan about Weber’s contributions.
Weymouth shocked the Hornets by hanging around through the first quarter. The Wildcats scored 15 points, led by Adrian Quinn’s five. The problem for Weymouth was trying to keep that output going over four quarters.
Mansfield scored another 16 points in the second with Phil Vigeant scoring five points including a put back on a missed free throw that extended the lead to 22-17. Matt Ehrlich added five in the quarter as well, three on a layup plus the foul and another bucket that pushed the Hornets lead to its largest of the first half, 11.
Weymouth scored the final four points of the half to stay within single digits at the break, but Mansfield broke the game wide open in the third. Leading 37-31, the Hornets went on a 13-2 run to close out the quarter and build a comfortable edge heading to the fourth.
Ehrlich (eight points) started the run with a layup and a free throw then Swansburg scored over Weymouth’s 6-foot-9 center Julian Mincey and hit a pair from the line. Evan Christo scored to make it 46-31 and Tyler Boulter scored on an offensive rebound. After a Weymouth hoop, Vigeant (seven points) scored again to close the quarter.
Vaughan said, “Overall I was happy with the ball movement and sharing the basketball and trying to work to get the best available shot as a team and not just necessarily an individual.”
If there was any thought that the Wildcats may be able to make it a game in the fourth quarter, Mansfield ended those fears early. Boulter buried a three-pointer, followed by another shot from deep by Max Boen and then Boulter took the ball strong to the rim. After Swansburg hit a pair of free throws to make it 61-41, Mansfield emptied its bench to give debuts to younger players.
Mansfield will face Cohasset in the Round Ball Classic final on Thursday and Vaughan said that the team still has plenty to work on as it looks ahead to the tournament.
“We just keep talking about continuing to get better, to be solid as a group, and just get better each day and each game,” said Vaughan. “We want to be playing our best starting next week and we’re playing really good basketball right now, so I like where we’re at.”
Mansfield 51, Walpole 39
The final score made it seem a comfortable win, but with just fewer than three minutes remaining in the game, Kelly Fogarty’s fifth three-pointer of the game had brought Walpole back within two at 41-39.
Momentum was with the visitors but the Hornets regrouped and closed the game with 10-0 run that started with Meg Hill being left open on an inbound play under the basket for her first points of the night. Then in transition Jen Peel added her sixth assist of the night to Juliana Newell (10 points) for an easy layup and the lead was quickly back to six points.
Hill had been quiet for most of the game but she pulled down a big defensive rebound and scored in the paint to build the lead to 47-39. Peel and Anna Chiarolanza each made two from the line to seal the victory.
“We showed a little character,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “We kind of held off the charge, kind of took back control, had a few good possessions to get some separation to put the game away.”
Despite starting with an unusual lineup thanks to senior night, the Hornets jumped in front early. Mansfield outscored the Rebels 16-6 in the first quarter, led by Caroline Maher’s five points. The lead grew to 11 by halftime with Peel (six points) adding four in the second and Jackie Carchedi and Jen Kemp each knocking down jumpers.
But Walpole dominated the third quarter and came all the way back to tie the game. Newell scored four of her 10 in the quarter but Fogarty nailed two threes, Melanie Weber collected an offensive rebound and scored, Emma Flynn banked home a three and Courtney Brigham scored in the paint to even things up at 31-31.
“You know, up 11 at the half and we played a lot of people and then we just fell asleep at halftime and they definitely came to play,” said Redding. “They came in needing to win two out of three to get into the tournament and they definitely played like it in the second half and Fogarty heated up.”
Mansfield scored the final four of the third to get the lead back and in the fourth quarter turned to Maher to hold off the Walpole charge. The senior guard scored six in the fourth, including a banked floater on an offensive rebound and a layup on the break.
“She wants to make shots in the end,” said Redding of Maher. She’s played for four years, Jackie has played for three, Jen is in her third year, the guard position is loaded with experience and in close games you need people who are going to put it on the floor, get it to our bigs, get to the free throw line and make free throws.”
In the end, Mansfield had enough to get the win and stay within touching distance of one of the high seeds in the upcoming Div. 1 South tournament. The Hornets will face Dartmouth on Thursday in the Round Ball Classic before taking on Attleboro on Monday to decide the winner of the Kelley-Rex division.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.