WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip came into Friday’s game on a high after scoring 73 points and winning by 42 on Tuesday, but the shots that all seemed to go in against Stoughton mostly stayed out against Mansfield. The Hornets, on the other hand, were on fire. They knocked down six three-pointers through three quarters and built their lead to as many as 21 at one point in the third.
Mansfield rode that quick start to a 53-44 victory that keeps the Hornets two games back of league-leading Franklin and alone in second place in the Kelley-Rex division.
“We didn’t think we could play zone the whole night but they never forced us out of it,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Foul trouble impacted them a little and we kind of played our regular rotation and took advantage of that. Both teams have a lot of great athletes and both of us need to work to score points but we did a good job making open shots when we got them.”
Sydney Mulkern was the spark for the Hornets on Friday, scoring a game-high 20 points, including 14 in the first half. She got off to a quick start, knocking down a three and driving to the basket for a quick 5-0 lead. Mulkern scored on the break, following a pinpoint pass by Becca Hottleman, and added a layup in traffic off an inbounds pass by Kara Bendanillo (four assists).
“That really affects us because they’re both leaders, they allow us to have a flow to the game, they keep us calm, and when they’re together it’s really something special,” said KP coach Amy Siggens about the early foul trouble. “They’ve been getting used to that the last couple of games (following O’Connor’s return from injury) and in a tough game like this they needed to lean on each other.”
O’Connor scored four points in the first and assisted on an Emma Glaser basket that cut the Mansfield lead to two, but the Hornets got four quick points to lead by six after one.
Mulkern kept the hot shooting started with a three in the second and then Emily Vigeant added a pair of threes before halftime as well. In between, Maggie Danehy got started on the offensive end by crashing the boards and getting five points in the quarter. KP tried to hang around by getting a spark off its bench, with sophomores Caroline Aaron (eight points) and Glaser contributing.
Mansfield led by 15 points at the break and looked to put the game away in the third. Danehy hit a couple of jumpers and Mady Bendanillo scored on a put-back. Mulkern added two more threes and the Hornets pulled away to take a 44-23 lead.
“They’re the fastest team we’ve seen so far,” Siggens said, “and I think we’re shell-shocked a little first half and I think we adjusted second half. It just wasn’t falling for us the way it was the other night. Sometimes it’s that and you just have to pick it up in other places.”
KP tried to climb back into the game and make things interesting down the stretch. The Warriors went on an 8-0 run to close out the third with O’Connor hitting a pull-up jumper, Aaron getting to the basket, and Veilleux finally able to get some touches around the basket.
The momentum the Warriors gained during that stretch couldn’t carry over to the fourth because they just couldn’t find the range from the outside. Veilleux hit a jumper off a Faith Roy assist and O’Connor hit a mid-range shot on an inbounds pass from Kendall Mason, but KP wasn’t able to significantly cut into the Mansfield lead.
“We played really well on offense in the first half and the start of the third we were great but then we kind of went dead and the defensive intensity for them picked up,” Redding explained. “I liked the way we played, they battled back and we had to fight our way through the fourth quarter with all the pressure.”
Danehy tried to keep the Warriors at bay when she created three chances on one possession before scoring on an offensive rebound for the third time in the game. “Maggie is just so active on the boards,” Redding said. “Meg [Hill] dominated the boards for us but Maggie does it in a very different way with athleticism and great instincts and gets us those extra points.”
After knocking down six three-pointers on Tuesday night, Julia Leroux made KP’s first three of the night with the game’s final shot and got the Warriors as close as they had been since the second quarter.
“This is the first time we’ve seen it,” Siggens said about Mansfield’s ability to stop KP from getting out on the break. “I think we outscored them in the second half and that’s good, but I attribute a lot of the first half to that shock of how tough they are, how fast they are.”
The Hornets continue to hang around in the league title race, trailing Franklin by two games with one head-to-head meeting left on the schedule.
“This was a huge road win,” Redding remarked. “Every game is like an elimination game. You can’t have a hiccup or you’re done, so this is a big one for us.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Even the parents were out of their seats, creeping closer to the mat, and counting down the final seconds of the night’s final match. Mansfield junior Noah Jellenik laid flat on his stomach, holding off Franklin’s Riley Downing and waiting for the final horn to sound.
As the ref waved his hand to signal the end of the match, Jellenik, who is in his first year as a wrestler, rolled onto his knees and threw his hands in the air in triumph. On three edges of the mat, his teammates, coaches, and Mansfield alumni hugged, cheered, and celebrated, as the Hornets moved one giant step closer to securing the program’s first ever Hockomock dual meet title.
Although Downing won the 285-pound match 6-2, Jellenik had accomplished his only goal, which was to avoid a pin. With the Panthers only earning three points in the final match of the hotly-contested dual meet, Mansfield held on for a 30-27 victory.
“Do not get on my back,” Jellenik said with a laugh when asked about his strategy going into the match. Trying to reflect on how he felt after securing the win, he said, “Wow, it’s kind of surreal right now. I’ve known these guys almost my whole life, at school and around town, and I’ve known the dedication they’ve put into the sport and to just be here for them and to support them is a hell of an honor.”
Mansfield coach Mark DiSanto said, “He showed so much heart tonight. Noah dug down deep and he pulled it out for us tonight. He was supposed to come out last year but during football season he tore his ACL. He watched last year. He went from manager to winning us the Hock.”
Downing nearly ended the celebration before it started. He was within an inch, maybe less, of earning a pin and pulling out a tie for his team, but Jellenik wriggled free enough to get back on his stomach and run out the clock.
“It would’ve been kind of a fitting ending considered how close it was,” said Franklin coach Carmine Colace. “This was a great dual meet. I’m proud of the kids. It’s like, what more could we do to change the outcome? Not much considering how we wrestled. They wrestled great, we wrestled great, and it was a lot of fun.”
It was a match that featured strong performances even in defeats, as the teams combined for only three pins and kept things tight throughout the match – Franklin’s 9-0 lead was the largest of the entire dual meet.
“That was a complete team effort, every weight class…We couldn’t have asked for more,” DiSanto said. “Every kid fought. I don’t even know what to say. That’s an unbelievable Franklin team there and they took us to the limit but we stepped up tonight.”
Drew DiFilipo got things started in strong fashion for the Panthers with a 15-0 win to earn five points at 106 pounds and Jake Carlucci earned another four points with a 12-0 win at 113 pounds. Although Franklin got nine quick points, both Stefan Wells and Noah Price were able to avoid the pin in each match.
Mansfield got on the board at 120 pounds when Max Farley earned a pin with 45 seconds left in the second period. At 126, it was Franklin’s turn to battle and avoid the maximum points. Antonios Seavastos, who had been originally scheduled to wrestle at 120, got two points in the first period and that was the only scoring in his match with Alex Fracassa to tie the meet at 9-9.
“Bumping [Sevastos] up to 126 was a good move,” Colace said. “Even though it was only a three-point match, our kid has won a lot of matches this year, so it was a good strategy on their part.”
The Panthers got the lead back at 132 with Jordan Carlucci earning their only pin of the night, ending his match just 17 seconds into the second period. Kenny Sauer earned a 9-1 win at 138 and put Franklin ahead by 10 points. Will Stratton got three points back for the Hornets at 145 with a take down seconds into his match, which he held onto for a 2-0 win.
DiSanto continued to make adjustments to his lineup to try and get his team the best possible match-ups. It really became a math problem, calculating how many points the Hornets would need from every match to get the team win. At 152, Ciaran Connolly stepped in and moved the regular rotation up a weight class. Connolly not only put in a solid performance but he also snagged a 4-1 win that moved Mansfield back within four.
“We go through every single matchup multiple times and how we can do it differently,” DiSanto explained. “We have a lot of talented kids behind our good kids, so we just tried to maximize our points by getting those other kids in. Tonight, Ciaran, we needed to get him in there and he came through.”
C.J. Glaropoulos won 4-2 in a hard-fought match against Caleb MacLean at 160 to make it 19-18 and his brother George followed with an equally tough win, 6-2, against Dom Sackley (who nearly caught Glaropoulos on his back in the first period) to give the hosts their first lead of the night. That lead extended to eight points when Jayden Curley took to the mat. The dominant senior had no problems jumping up a weight, as he got a pin just 37 seconds into his match.
“I attack every single second of the match that I can,” said Curley about his approach to the match. “I really don’t like to let up. Every match I go into with the same mentality, which is to score points and put people on their back.”
Franklin’s Dylan Nawn was also pushed back a weight class and he jumped in at 195 and won 19-4 to cut the lead to 27-24 with just two matches left. Ethan Nirenberg put the Hornets on the brink of the win when he got a 3-0 win at 220, after keeping Matt Walker from escaping in the second and then getting an escape and a fall in the third period.
It was 30-24 heading into the final match. Jellenik was cheered on by the raucous Mansfield home crowd and led 2-1 heading into the third period, while keeping his distance from Downing. He started the third period on the bottom and Downing nearly took advantage and turned that into a decisive pin, pushing Jellenik to the brink, but the ref’s hand stayed up in the air.
“That was amazing,” Curley said about Jellenik’s match. “That was just the heart we needed.”
He added, “It means everything in the world. Obviously, we still have other matches left in the Hock but this was the big dog that we had to take down. Even in individual matches, it all comes from how we work in the room.”
Mansfield (14-4, 2-0) still have two dual meets remaining in the league season, including a tricky one against King Philip, but this was the meet that everyone was focused on. A win next Wednesday against Taunton will secure at least a share of the first league title in program history.
Franklin (13-3, 2-1) will be back on the mat on Saturday at Chicopee before facing KP net week.
CANTON, Mass. – Less than two years after suffering a life altering brain injury, Canton senior Xavier Machuga hit one of the biggest milestones on his road for recovery.
He made it back onto the basketball court.
A swing player during his sophomore season, Machuga was slated two be a starter for his final two years of high school before suffering a brain aneurysm in early May 2017. He spent over a week in a medically induced coma and could barely move when he regained consciousness after the stroke caused bleeding in his cerebellum. He had to learn to talk and walk all over again.
Over the past 18 months, Machuga has achieved plenty of milestones all while attending Bulldog practices and games during their historic season a year ago. During that run, Machuga and head coach Ryan Gordy, who formed a special bond in 2015 when Machuga moved from Connecticut for his freshman year, had a conversation about what could have been. During that conversation, the idea that Machuga would never play for the Bulldogs again came up.
“Why not?” Gordy asked. “Let’s create that opportunity for you as a senior.”
After months of strenuous rehab, and more recently, hours of layup practice, the moment came in the opening minute of the Bulldogs’ clash with defending D1 State Champions Mansfield. Machuga earned his first career start and scored the first points of the game for Canton, hitting a layup to standing ovation from both teams and fans.
“To be honest, it felt nothing less than awesome,” Machuga said. He was the first Bulldog to be named a captain for this season. “To be out there again with all my teammates, it’s a great feeling. It’s another milestone for me to take the floor with my fellow teammates and score a bucket, that was awesome.”
— Ryan Lanigan (@R_Lanigan) January 15, 2019
Machuga has made terrific strides in his recovery, and currently walks with the aid of a cane. And there is no denying his love for basketball. Before his injury, the story goes that Machuga made friends with the custodians at Canton High in order to get in extra shots up inside the gym.
“Xavier’s moment, it’s bigger than basketball,” Gordy said. “To see all the hard work he’s put in to get back to that moment, it’s pretty emotional for me, him and his family, and all the guys on the team. It’s been a long road to recovery and it’s just a really awesome, special moment for him and everybody in our community to see that happen.
“Tonight was pretty special, it was one of the coolest moment I’ve been involved in in my life.”
Gordy was hopeful the moment would happen this year but he left it up it Machuga to pick when. The senior forward hand picked Tuesday’s matchup with Kelley-Rex leading Mansfield, but not because of the showdown between division leaders, but because of his relationship with Hornet head coach Mike Vaughan. It was important for Machuga to have personal connections with both coaches and Vaughan coached Machuga in AAU basketball prior to the incident.
“It’s so much bigger than basketball,” Vaughan said. “Just to be able to recognize a kid who, given different circumstances, would have been here and been a key contributor to the Canton High team, but because of some unfortunate events had to take another path. I knew X before he got sick and now I’ve been able to see what he’s been able to do after he got sick. What’s amazing is he still wants to impact people. You just can’t say enough good things about when people live their life that way and want to do good things. There’s a lot of people who take adversity and fail and he’s doing nothing but being successful out of this. This was an opportunity for him to get highlighted, all the people chanting his name, my kids engaged and excited for him. It was very special, it was very touching. It was something I’ll remember for a long time.”
Canton dedicated last year to Machuga and used the slogan “Soldier X.” The Bulldogs went on to earn a share of the Davenport division title, the program’s first league crown since 1992.
“I was super determined to play again,” Machuga said. “The team winning the league championship last year drove me to make the comeback that I did. I mean I was working hard already but seeing what they did really pushed me inside.”
Machuga’s teammates fed off the moment, trailing by just one (15-14) and leading 26-25 over the once-beaten Hornets heading into the locker room. But Mansfield proved to be too much in the second half, using an early 9-0 run in the third to flip the game. The Hornets outscored Canton 24-9 in the third and finished with a 70-43 victory.
“I can’t thank Mike and the whole Mansfield program enough for their sportsmanship and participation,” Gordy said. “They had the ‘Soldier X’ warmup shirts which were awesome, those were a surprise to us. Xavier got emotional when he saw that, it was a really cool thing. The way the Mansfield kids reacted, it was really cool to see.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Coming into Friday night’s game against Oliver Ames in the Albertini Gym, Mansfield coach Mike Redding wasn’t sure what he would be able to get from senior guard Sydney Mulkern, who had been sick at practice the day before.
As it turns out, the Hornets got plenty from Mulkern. She came off the bench and scored a game-high 17 points, including 13 in the second half and eight in the fourth quarter, to provide the offensive punch in an otherwise defensive struggle with the Tigers, helping the Hornets pull out a 41-32 win.
“Syd was sick all week but she gave us some minutes and just made some big shots,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said. “We really didn’t think she was going to play tonight. Yesterday she really looked awful and said she’d be able to help a little off the bench and she was probably the difference tonight.”
Neither team was really able to find a rhythm on the offensive side of the court.
The game was tied at 2-2 five minutes into the opening quarter. Maggie Danehy (13 rebounds) scored her only bucket on an offensive rebound to put the Hornets in front, but freshman Caroline Peper (nine points) answered with a three. Ashley Santos scored back-to-back baskets, but Ally Scolnick knocked down a three to tie it 8-8. Caroline Flynn also grabbed 10 rebounds in the first alone and finished with 20 boards for the Tigers.
Mulkern’s first points gave Mansfield a 10-8 lead after one, a lead that it would never relinquish.
The second quarter was even more difficult for both offenses. Mady Bendanillo (eight points and seven rebounds) scored to make it 12-8 but neither team would score again until there was 2:10 left in the quarter when freshman Hailey Bourne got her lone basket of the night for OA. Mulkern hit a layup and Megan MacVicar scored off a Bendanillo assist to make it 18-12 at the break.
“It was 18-12 at the half, come on girls can we score some points?” OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook was left asking at halftime. “We scored 57 against Foxboro and we only managed 12 in a half tonight. I’d be so happy with 41 as a points against game, but, I don’t know, offensively we just weren’t present.”
Mansfield came out in the second half and started to pull away, leading by as many as 12 points at one point. Mulkern started the third with a deep three off a pass from Kara Bendanillo (six steals and three assists). Peper cut the lead to 23-16, but Mady Bendanillo hit a huge three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to put the Hornets up double digits and her sister followed with a layup in transition for a 28-16 lead.
“There were a lot of good athletes defending and the refs let us play us a little bit and it was just tough to get a good look,” Redding said. “Both teams are pretty well-coached on what the other team wants to do and we had some kids step up.”
OA continued to find points tough to come by, but the Tigers made a little run to cut the Hornets lead to just five. Sadie Homer got a steal and transition layup and twice Meg Holleran was able to find Scolnick (team-high 13 points) on consecutive backdoor cuts.
“We got into no rhythm but I think it was self-inflicted,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Not to discredit Mansfield’s defense because they always play good defense, but we were so out of sync. We had shot but we just didn’t finish them. We are much more capable of presenting ourselves in a better way but we just didn’t play up to our capabilities.”
Kara Bendanillo got out in transition to close the third with a layup and give the Hornets a seven-point edge heading to the fourth. Scolnick opened the fourth with a jumper to keep it close but then Mulkern broke the game wide open.
She sandwiched a Becca Hottleman steal and layup with a pair of threes (one after Kara Bendanillo kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound) to extend the lead back to 11.
OA kept the game on edge to the final whistle by causing havoc with a press, raising the energy of the team but not getting the Tigers any closer than eight points.
“We’d rather win ugly than lose. Defensively we played well but on offense we were just out of sorts,” Redding said. “We made enough shots but we never got into any rhythm and fortunately they didn’t either.”
Redding admitted that this was an important win for the Hornets, despite it still being early in the season. The Hornets, who are seeking a program-record fourth straight league title, trail division-leading Franklin by two games and are now tied with the Tigers for second in the Kelley-Rex.
“This was almost like an elimination game for us,” he said. “Now were still two back and Franklin still has OA twice, they have Foxboro, and we have Franklin at home. There’s a long way to go but you feel like we’re in it and now we need to go on a little run in January to be there in February and have a shot at a [title].”
Mansfield (5-3, 4-2) will face a tough test on Tuesday night with the visit of Canton, which has won five games in a row, while Oliver Ames (5-3, 4-2) will try to get back on track at home against Sharon before facing Franklin for the first time.