MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Hornets came into its playoff opener against Big 3 champion Brockton at the James Albertini Gym on a roll. Mansfield had won its final seven games of the regular season, including last Monday’s title-deciding victory over Attleboro.
That momentum carried over to Sunday, as the Hornets stormed out of the locker room and promptly took control of the game with a 15-0 run from the opening tip. Mansfield never looked back and rolled to a comprehensive 72-38 victory and advanced to the quarterfinal of Div. 1 South.
“It’s great when things work how you want them to,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding after the game. “Caroline knocked down some shots from the outside and that opened up things for Meg in the paint…and Jackie was good taking it off the dribble. A lot of things worked well tonight.”
According to Redding, the Hornets had prepared for Brockton to play a lot of man, but the Boxers started the game with a 2-3 zone. The Hornets took advantage.
Jackie Carchedi buried a corner three then fellow senior Caroline Maher hit one from the opposite corner. Maher hit a second three from a couple feet behind the line and Carchedi followed her own shot for a putback that made it 15-0.
When Brockton switched to man-to-man, Mansfield countered by getting the ball inside to sophomore Meg Hill. The 6-foot-2 center scored off an assist by Jen Peel (five assists) and then again off an assist by Maher after a drive to the basket. The Hornets led 21-7 after the first quarter.
“It’s just tournament and it brings out the best in teams,” said Hill who finished the night with 16 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks, “and I think we just kind of clicked. It just worked.”
Brockton coach April Dingwell explained, “We’re I think possibly the smallest team in the state this year…once they started hitting the shots we had to spread it out and opened it right back up for her inside.”
Mansfield uses a deep bench in most games and Redding admitted after the game that he may have started subbing a little too early as the rhythm that the Hornets had in the first disappeared in the second.
Brockton cut the lead to 23-10 in the second but Mansfield countered with an 8-0 run. Peel lobbed a pass into Hill for a finish then, after a pair of free throws by Carchedi (15 points, eight rebounds), Maher found the center after drawing the defense. Juliana Newell closed out the run with a jumper off a Jen Kemp assist.
Leading 32-15 at the half, Mansfield could have taken its foot off the gas in the third but Redding said the team talked about coming out strong after halftime to put the game away.
Again it was Hill who provided the spark, as the Hornets continued to find room for her in the paint. Newell, Carchedi, and Maher found Hill in the lane for close-range finishes.
“I’ve gained confidence from the people around me,” said Hill about her continued improvement on the offensive end. “They tell me that I can finish down there and i think that’s been a huge part because I used to be scared to go to the hoop.”
Peel picked out Carchedi on a back-cut for a layup and also scored on a drive to the basket. The junior point guard then pulled off a trademark fake pass and layup move that built the Mansfield lead to 46-18. Ann Maher followed it with a three and Carchedi with a drive to the basket, as Mansfield led 51-30 heading to the fourth.
Redding called the potential opponents in the tournament (the sectional’s top three seeds – Newton South, Bishop Feehan, and Braintree) a “real murderer’s row” and in the fourth quarter he turned to his extended bench.
“It’s great to be able to take out the starters and rest them and keep everyone healthy,” he explained.
In the fourth quarter, several players took advantage of the extra playing time and extended the Mansfield lead. Lindsay Dalton scored all six of her points in the fourth, Anna Chiarolanza went 4-4 from the line and freshman Margaret Danehy scored five points in her first varsity minutes of the season.
“I think our girls fought hard the whole game, that’s just a tough team,” said Dingwell.
Mansfield (20-3) will advance to the quarterfinal and face No. 3 seed Newton South. Redding is comfortable with his team’s position and is hoping that the Hornets will have an edge as the Lions will not have played in more than a week.
Momentum was on Mansfield’s side on Sunday and the Hornets will hop it carries over to Thursday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.