Junior TJ Guy converted a putback and scored down low, sandwiching buckets around a three-pointer from Cincere Gill. After a steal, senior Sam Stevens drained a three off a feed from Drew Rooney, and then hit another from deep off a feed from Matt Boen to cap a 14-4 run in the final minutes of the game.
But this time, things were different. This run only cut into a large deficit created by Lynn English that proved to be too big of a hole for the Hornets.
The Bulldogs, winners of the North sectional and defending D1 State champions, shined on both ends of the court from start to finish to earn a 74-58 win and a return trip to the state final.
“I thought defensively we did a good job following what we were trying to do, it’s just they are so talented at so many positions,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan.
The Bulldogs had their best offensive quarter in the opening eight minutes, scoring 22 points to build a five-point lead. By halftime, Lynn English led by 12, and the advantage balloon to as much as 23 in the fourth quarter before the Hornets finally found a consistent rhythm on offense, closing the gap over the final minutes.
The combination of 6’8” center Jean-Baptiste Mukeba (20 points) and 6’6” forward Ademide Badmus (eight points) was a matchup problem for Mansfield, which threw a handful of looks defensively in the post both before and after the entry pass.
And when the Hornets came with a double or fronted to deny the pass, the speed and playmaking ability of English’s guards — Jarnel Guzman (19 points) and Jack Rodriguez (20 points) — gave the Bulldogs second and third options.
Even when the Hornets slowed the guards, denied the entry passes, and played good defense, the Bulldogs got points out of eight of their 10 offensive rebounds.
“A lot of teams you play, maybe they have one good rebounder and they get an offensive rebound but they miss the putback…[Lynn English] didn’t miss the putbacks,” Vaughan said. “You over-rotate, you double the post, they throw out of it and you get the exact play you want but it doesn’t matter if its Guzman or the other two perimeter players, they are knocking down the three. And then their ability to get you off of the bounce, so at any point we have Sammy, TJ, and Chris [Hill] in at the same time, we have a big on a guard and they can expose that.”
For all the problems that the Bulldogs presented on the offensive end, there were equal issues on the defensive end. Mukeba and Badmus defended the post, turning easy looks into difficult takes. After hitting a trio of threes in the first quarter, Mansfield didn’t get many clean looks the rest of the way and had just one make on nine attempts between the second and third quarters.
After junior Matt Boen tormented the Bulldogs for 32 points in the regular-season matchup, the Bulldogs assigned Mason Jean-Baptiste to shadow Boen’s every move, almost attached at the hip to try and prevent a repeat performance.
“Teams don’t sustain that intensity [on defense] typically, you see it in the first quarter and you think you’ve weathered the storm, down by five,” Vaughan said. “And then all of a sudden you think you can make an adjustment or two in the second quarter but we just never got to that point, except maybe the last couple of minutes, we just never got comfortable and looked like a normal Mansfield team on offense. Some of that is execution, some of that is we were pressing because we got down so much, and some of it was just their defensive ability.”
Mukeba was the beneficiary of some handoffs down low, racing out to 10 points in the first half. Guzman was equally as dangerous, finding space to attack the rim or pull up for mid-range for nine points in the opening quarter.
Freshman Chris Hill hit on a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, the second one giving Mansfield a brief 8-7 lead — its last edge on the scoreboard. Boen scored his only points of the first half on a circus-like layup to start the second to make it 22-19 but an 8-0 burst from the Bulldogs pushed the lead to double-digits.
Gill (career-high 17 points), who was a huge boost off the bench all night for the Hornets, drained a three and Guy (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) attacked for two more to make it 30-24 but Louis Rivera came off the bench and delivered Lynn English’s lone three of the half and sparked an 8-2 run to close the half with the Bulldogs ahead 38-26.
“We kind of prepared more for them trapping in the backcourt and their pressure and it kind of left us susceptible to the half court stuff,” Vaughan said. “I thought when we got good position, we kind of forced action which causes you to have bad possessions and it’s a bit of a snowball effect. They were locked in, ready to go to take stuff away. Every possession we had was not easy and that has a lot to do with their game plan and their execution.
“It’s tough because you can’t punish them. Everything you do, they have a guy that’s going to alter the shot. When normally you might get something as a layup, now it’s an altered shot so it’s that much more difficult to score.”
Mansfield went right to the heart of the Bulldog defense, with both Stevens (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Guy finding success attacking the rim. The Bulldogs called a timeout just 1:19 into the second half, and it paid off, resulting in a 10-4 boost over the next four minutes.
Lynn English took a 57-39 lead into the final quarter, and had its largest lead after a three from Guzman, a putback from Mukeba, and back-to-back drives from Rodriguez before the Hornets went on their run to make it 70-57 with two minutes to play.
“I thought their game plan was excellent in terms of denying Matty the ball, and when he did have it try to take away his left hand and make him work for everything he had,” Vaughan said. “They have three guards that can do it. Most teams have one or two defensive specialists, they’ve got three that can do it. And from a scheme standpoint, you overcome that and find a way to almost punish them, then you have to shoot over a 6’8 or 6’6 kid. It’s just a double whammy. You think you have great offense and then a shot gets blocked or altered.
“I think it starts with their game plan and scheme that their coach came up with and then it goes to their guard play with their speed and athleticism, and their commitment to defending, and then third you have the bigs altering shots once you finally break them down. I thought they played at a good pace where they didn’t over force it, they picked their spots to be effective. I think the combination of their patience and execution was a big difference.”
Mansfield boys basketball wraps up its season at 23-4, half of its losses coming to the Bulldogs, one to rival and Central finalist Franklin, and one to Whitman-Hanson, who is competing in the D2 State Semifinal on Wednesday.
The Hornets also secured the program’s eighth straight Kelley-Rex division title. Mansfield graduates three seniors: Makhi Baskin, Rooney, and Stevens.
“It’s been great,” Stevens said of his two years as a starter for the Hornets. He finished with 782 career points. “It’s always disappointing when you don’t come out on top. Winning the South isn’t something to bat your eyes at so I’m proud of everything this team accomplished.”
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.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Needham got the benefit of a layup right at (or just after) the halftime horn and went into the locker room with a little bit of momentum. The Rockets added a layup early in the third quarter and trailed by just two points in Sunday afternoon’s Div. 1 South semifinal at Taunton’s Rabouin Field House.
It felt like a game that would go down to the wire. At least it did, until Mansfield clicked into gear and put in arguably its best quarter of the season.
The Hornets went on a 16-0 run to take control and won the third quarter 24-4, dominating on both ends of the floor. Thanks to that big run after halftime, Mansfield rolled to a comfortable 73-52 victory and a fourth straight sectional final.
“Based on the margin and what we did defensively and offensively that it’s got to be up there with one of the better quarters we’ve had,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “We just did everything right. There were very few mistakes in that quarter.”
He added, “My biggest critique at the half is that we didn’t want to move the basketball and anytime we moved the basketball in the first half we got whatever we wanted. Once we did that in the third quarter, we looked like an all-star team.”
Chris Hill got the first basket of the third, which was matched by a layup from Jacob Hammermesh. Hill then assisted on a three by Matt Boen (15 points and 12 rebounds). TJ Guy (17 points and five assists) grabbed a defensive rebound and turned into a layup on the other end and then followed that with a drive to the rim plus a foul to put Mansfield up 10.
After Boen swerved his way through traffic for a tough layup, Sam Stevens (game-high 20 points) took over. He buried a three in the corner in front of the Mansfield bench and added a second one from the opposite corner in front of the Mansfield student section. After a Will Dorion free throw, Stevens answered with a drive to the basket and a 51-32 lead.
Dorion (16 points) added another free throw, but then Drew Rooney, who was tasked with matching up against Needham’s star on the defensive side, drove baseline for a layup.
It was a complete performance by the Hornets in the third and put them on the brink of the final.
“I think we just committed a lot more on the defensive end, make sure we’re talking a lot more,” Stevens explained. “A couple of the guys that aren’t used to being in this environment and are on the quieter side had to speak up and that helped us out. In transition, we did a good job getting back and calling out our guys.”
To secure the win, Mansfield needed to make sure and not let a 22-point lead slip over the final eight minutes, but that looked precarious a couple minutes into the fourth when Needham used a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 15 and forced Vaughan to take a timeout.
“I thought at the start of the fourth we went into a mode of like just trying to hang on,” he said. “After that timeout, I thought we came out and had three good possessions, both ends of the floor, that kind of knocked them in the face a little bit.”
Boen got free for a three-pointer late in the shot clock that restored the lead to 18. Stevens set up Hill for a layup and Guy added back-to-back finishes at the rim. Stevens added six more in the fourth and, despite Dorion scoring nine points in the quarter, the Hornets were able to see out the victory in style.
“I thought everything we wanted to do defensively, for the most part, worked,” said Vaughan. “Obviously, it starts with Drew containing Dorion and keeping him kind of in check and once you get to the second level I thought the other guys stepped up. We closed out possessions by rebounding the ball well.”
Mansfield’s offense got into high gear right from the opening tip, as the Hornets scored 22 points in the first to grab a six-point lead. Stevens got things started with a pair from beyond the arc, Guy scored six points in the paint (while dishing out three assists) and Boen added five. Brendan Foley also came off the bench and hit a big three.
Needham hung around thanks in part to seven points from Johar Singh, but the senior wouldn’t score again until he added a fourth quarter free throw.
The fluidity of Mansfield’s offense ground to a halt in the second, as Needham held the Hornets to just nine points. Tim Reidy had a pair of steals that turned into layups on the other end, but a Guy offensive rebound put the Hornets back up 28-27 and then Foley drilled a three off a Rooney assist.
Dorion attempted a long three at the buzzer that fell short and Matt Fernandez grabbed the rebound and scored. It appeared that the layup was after the buzzer and the Mansfield bench was furious, but the score was 31-29 at the break.
Eight minutes of game time later, the Hornets were up by 22 and heading to another South final.
“I think we’re a tough matchup,” said Vaughan. “Who do you put on TJ? Who do you put on Sammy or Matty, who’s been playing great, who do you put on him now that he’s bringing the ball over?”
Stevens and the Hornets have plenty of experience on this stage and this particular court and that comfort level was obvious on Sunday. He said, “If someone’s dribbling too much or trying to take it to the rim too much, he makes sure to get us back and work the ball around, make sure everyone touches the ball.”
Mansfield (21-3) will face the No. 2 seed Brockton on Friday night at Taunton in a rematch of the 2018 South final that the Hornets won on their way to a state title.
“You could have charged double and people still would have gotten their money’s worth.”
In front of a packed standing-room-only crowd inside James Albertini Gymnasium, the third meeting between the Hornets and Bombardiers proved to the best of the series. And in the end, it had the same result as the first two with top-seeded Mansfield clawing out a 54-52 win over Attleboro in a D1 South Quarterfinal clash.
How it played out, however, was far different from the two regular season meetings between Kelley-Rex foes. This go-around, Mansfield had to dig itself out of a 12-point hole in the second half, and after struggling from the free-throw line all game (11-for-26), sank clutch shots from the charity stripe in the final seconds and held their breath as a near full-court heave from the Bombarders just missed at the buzzer.
“Just play harder, play with a sense of urgency,” Vaughan said of the turnaround. “I talked with the two seniors Sammy [Stevens] and Drew [Rooney], told them they weren’t going to go out this way and to put it all on the line, leave it on the table and see what happens.”
What happened was a new aggressive approach from junior TJ Guy (11 points, seven rebounds), attacking the basket with a purpose. And while that set the table for the comeback, the space it created allowed junior Matt Boen (22 points, four rebounds, four assists) to carry the Hornets over the hump and into the lead.
Attleboro’s Nick McMahon (13 points, seven rebounds) hit a pair of free throws to give the visitors a 37-25 edge with 4:49 left in the third quarter, the first time the Bombarders pushed the advantage to 12 points. Guy sliced through the defense for two, was fouled after collecting his own rebound after getting to the basket again, and once again attacked the basket for a traditional three-point play.
“I thought TJ did a good job coming out in the third and being aggressive to the basket and that opened things up and guys had to make shots,” Vaughan said. “We needed multiple people in the room to fight and he took it to heart. And what I was proud of TJ about is when they started to adjust to what he was doing, he came down three straight possessions and distributed the ball, so we didn’t end up just watching him every time.”
Nonetheless, McMahon answered with a triple on the other end and Attleboro once again had a 12-point advantage, this time at 42-30 with 3:23 left to play.
After four straight takes from Guy, the Hornets found space on the perimeter and Boen sank a triple to get the run going. An Attleboro turnover resulted in another triple from Boen after a feed from Guy. A handful of empty possessions from both sides preceded yet another three from Boen with just 12 seconds left in the third and the Hornets cut the deficit to just 42-39 entering the fourth quarter.
“TJ is a special player for them and he’s got quick feet, he got to the rim a couple times in the third quarter,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “And that matchup favored them when TJ had the ball in those situations and he kind of took the game over. He’s a very good player, and once he gets his, we started to collapse a bit and then they start kicking it out and Boen went off. They have some terrific players and when they needed it, those guys stepped up.
“That kind of changed the flow of the game and it coincided with their defensive pressure too.”
Attleboro senior Bryant Ciccio (11 points, three assists) pushed the Bombarders’ lead to 44-39 to open the quarter but a 5-0 spurt from the Hornets — a free throw from Boen, two from Stevens at the line, and a steal from Brendan Foley that led to a bucket from Boen — tied things up with 5:52 to play. Both Foley and junior Jack Colby gave the Hornets strong minutes defensively in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Matty was awesome in the third quarter and we needed someone to step up and start playing,” Vaughan said. “I think Matty was kind of holding back [in the first half] for some reason, whether it was the atmosphere or the first playoff game where he’s ‘the man.’ It’s our first tournament game, some guys have more experience. I think he just needed a half to figure out how he could be effective and once the first one falls, he started to play with confidence.
The Bombarders missed on a pair of three-point chances before Rooney went up and under for two, only for Attleboro senior Qualeem Charles (10 points, nine rebounds) to answer on the other end.
“They forced some turnovers in the second half,” Houle said, the Bombardiers with eight turnovers after the halftime break. “I thought our rhythm on offense was pretty good early but they got us to turn the ball over and really pressured us. You get energy off of the defense and that’s what they did.
“We like to be in these grind it out games, I had a lot of confidence we would find a way to tie it up and get the win, but [Mansfield] has some terrific players too.
Stevens came up with a big block in the lane and Boen hit his sixth triple of the game to put the Hornets ahead with 3:29 to go. Attleboro once again was off the mark from three, and then had a possession in which they missed two more. Stevens deflected a pass that led to a steal from Boen, but Attleboro got the stop and McMahon hit a little runner in the lane to make it 49-48 with 1:16 to go.
Attleboro got the turnover it needed but came up just short on a baseline layup take. Stevens hit both from the line with 23.3 left for a 51-48 lead and Guy added another for a 52-48 advantage.
McMahon made two at the line to get within two before Stevens hit another for a 53-50 lead. McMahon kept the Bombarders in it with two more from the line before Boen pushed the lead to 54-52 with 3.7 seconds left. Attleboro’s heave at the buzzer was off the back of the rim.
“I’m certainly very proud of our guys and the effort we had tonight and throughout the season, especially our seniors and the amazing crowd we had tonight,” Houle said, with at least half of the crowd at Mansfield clad in Attleboro blue. “You see that many kids and that many fans there before a game, it really shows how much like this group and that made me proud. This has been a terrific group.”
Mansfield built a 15-13 edge after one quarter due to some strong shooting from the perimeter. Boen, Rooney, and freshman Chris Hill all hit from deep while Guy and Stevens had success down low. Attleboro kept pace by going to the hoop, as both Charles and Lorenzo Wilson had four points each.
The second quarter belonged to the Bombardiers, outscoring the hosts 14-2 in the frame to build a double-digit lead by halftime. The Hornets had four turnovers against a strong Attleboro defense and went 0-for-8 from the floor. Mansfield’s only points came at the line, although they missed six straight at one point.
On the flip side, Jason Weir hit his first of three made three-pointers and Ciccio went off his nine points in the quarter, including an impressive bucket to beat the buzzer where he split a pair of defenders and nailed a pull up jumper.
“I thought in the first quarter we were okay,” Vaughan said. “I think we were ahead as many as five and then we get to the second quarter and we scored two points. When’s the last time we scored just two points in a quarter? I think we just had to find our rhythm.”
Mansfield boys basketball (21-3) advances to the D1 South Semifinal against #4 Needham, who took down #5 Newton North 59-46. The Hornets and Rockets will tipoff at 3:30 on Sunday at Taunton High. Attleboro finishes the season at 17-7.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – When Mansfield went up by 13 in the third quarter of Monday night’s Roundball Classic opener against Needham at the Albertini Gym, there was a sense that the Hornets were going to cruise to a big win. The Rockets had other ideas, eventually trimming that lead down to as few as two points late in the fourth quarter.
One of the things that has made Mansfield so successful in recent years is its ability to find ways to win close games against good teams. Monday was no different, as the Hornets got a big stop, Sam Stevens knocked down a pair of clutch free throws, and Mansfield walked away with a 63-58 victory.
Matt Boen was once again the star man for the Hornets, leading the way with 23 points, but also pulling down 12 rebounds and being an impact player on both ends of the court.
“It’s Matty being Matty at this time of the year,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “He’s been playing great the last couple of games, he steps in and makes big plays, and keeps us at a good pace on offense. I thought his play was exceptional.”
It was Boen that got the Hornets off and running in the opening quarter, scoring 12 points in the first. He buried a three while being hit to make it 7-5, then drove and took contact before finishing at the rim for a 10-10 tie, and grabbed a steal and turned it into a layup to make it 15-10.
“When a guy can go from the point guard position, cover on the perimeter, and find ways to go and get 12 rebounds, it says a lot about his game plan and how he conducts himself,” Vaughan added about Boen’s all-around game.
TJ Guy added four points, including a tough and-one off a dish by Brendan Foley that pushed the lead to five. Needham’s star guard Will Dorian drilled his third three of the first quarter to close the gap to 18-16 after one. He scored nine of his team-high 19 in the first but only made two more shots from the field for the remainder of the game.
The Rockets were using a 1-3-1 zone in the first half and Mansfield was able to move the ball well enough to get good looks both on the perimeter and with Guy (10 points, five rebounds, and four assists) in the paint.
“He’s special too,” Vaughan said about Guy. “He’s pretty dominant and when he gets inside like that we’re a pretty tough matchup. It’s just a matter of him being consistently dedicated to get himself in those positions.”
Stevens (16 points) scored six in the second and Chris Hill stepped up with five off the bench to help Mansfield build the lead to nine at the break. Hill and Boen hit back-to-back threes and Guy scored with a strong post move to make it 34-21, but Tim Reidy scored six points in the closing minutes to pull Needham back to single digits.
In the third quarter, Needham clamped down defensively, holding Mansfield to just eight points, but the Rockets only managed 10, so only cut two points off the halftime lead.
Mansfield had the lead back up to 13 when Stevens got a steal and transition layup. Then Boen turned a defensive rebound into a runner plus contact on the other end to put the Hornets ahead 44-32, but Needham scored the final five points of the third to cut the lead to seven.
Dorion continued the comeback at the start of the fourth with a corner three to make it 44-40. After a pair of Guy free throws, John Hood (16 points) nailed a three but that was quickly matched on the other end by a corner three from Hill (eight points).
Reidy (11 points) hit from the outside and the lead was 50-46, but Stevens answered with a three in front of the Mansfield student section. Foley also drilled a clutch three that put the Hornets back up by 10 points, 58-48.
Vaughan said, “That’s what we’ve kind of been built on over the years is trying to find that diamond in the rough kid who can give us anything off the bench and a spark when they start taking away your main three. They have the confidence to step up and hit a big shot.”
Four straight at the line kept Needham in the game and then Hood got free for his fourth three of the game and the lead was right back down to four. Johar Singh drilled another three, the 11th of the night for the visitors, to make it 60-58. After a timeout with a little more than 26 seconds remaining (21 on the shot clock), Needham elected to foul Stevens and send him to the line for a one-and-one.
Stevens capped his senior night by making both at the line to make it a two-possession game. The Hornets made one more stop to seal the victory.
Mansfield (20-2) will face the winner of Brockton and Whitman-Hanson in the Roundball Classic final on Wednesday night.