Canton’s Machuga Makes Return To Basketball Court

Xavier Machuga
Canton senior Xavier Machuga puts up a shot in the opening minute against Mansfield. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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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.”

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.”

Boen Boosts Mansfield To Close Win Over Rival Franklin

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield sophomore Matty Boen (career-high 19 points) drives to the basket in the second half against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield sophomore Matty Boen has witnessed dozens of Mansfield and Franklin clashes from the stands, watching older brothers Michael and Max dawn the Hornet uniform against the rival Panthers.

Boen got a little closer to the action last season, watching all three meetings between the teams from the bench as a reserve.

Friday night was finally his turn to become part of the rivalry.

Boen came out on fire, scoring 11 of his career-high 19 points in the opening quarter, and then coming away with the game-sealing steal in the final seconds of the game to help the Hornets secure a 59-57 win over the Panthers.

“It’s crazy,” Boen said. “I kept saying to the guys in the locker room, ‘It’s so much better being out there and taking it all in.’ It’s great. I can’t be more happy than I am now.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Boen (seven rebounds) sank a pair of free throws with 1:11 left to put the Hornets up 57-54, but Franklin junior Chris Edgehill (20 points, eight rebounds, four assists) answered with a strong take to cut the deficit to one.

Mansfield sophomore TJ Guy (15 points) went 2-for-2 at the line with 22.8 left to extend the Hornets’ advantage to 59-56. Franklin called timeout with 12 seconds to go but missed a three out of the break. Edgehill grabbed the offensive board but was immediately fouled with 6.7 to go.

Edgehill hit the first one but was just off on the second, but senior Jalen Samuels (eight points, night rebounds) soared in for the offensive rebound. The Panthers moved the ball and tried to it out to Edgehill at the three-point line, but Boen read the play and tipped the pass free to secure the victory.

“Talk about an all-star performance for a sophomore,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “He comes out in the first quarter, hits big shots, gets a couple of rebounds, blocks a shot…and then the steal at the end of the game capped off his performance of what he did tonight. When I saw the loose ball, and the reversal and I saw Edgehill standing out there, I thought ‘Oh boy, we could be in trouble.’ And sure enough, Matty comes out of nowhere and gets the deflection. I’m glad he’s on my team for another three years and hats off to him for his performance.”

If had it not been for Boen’s tip, the Panthers were looking at a possible three-pointer from Edgehill, one of the top shooters in the league.

“I thought it was a great offensive rebound by Jaylen,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We had a couple of timeouts in our pocket, but with two seconds left, if that pass goes through, it’s going to Edgehill for an open three, and we’ll take that. If we call the timeout, they can set up their defense. If that pass gets through, I’ll take that look.”

The Hornets were without the services leading scorer Damani Scott (20.4 points per game), but the offense came out on fire in the first quarter, spearheaded by Boen. Guy, Khristian Conner, and Boen hit consecutive triples to help Mansfield jump out to an early 9-4 lead. Boen had a traditional three-point play followed by a putback and then a three-pointer to push Mansfield’s advantage to 17-12 with 3:23 left in the first. Boen’s 11 points in the opening quarter matched his career-high from earlier this season against Sharon.

“In warmups, I was kind of feeling it, so I wanted to get more shots in the game,” Boen said. “I haven’t been shooting that much so far this year. With Damani out, I knew I needed to step up. We all usually feed off of Damani, so we all had to step up tonight.”

Franklin kept pace throughout the first quarter with Steve Karayan (nine points) coming off the bench to score five straight points, but a late bucket from Guy had the hosts up 25-22 at the end of one.

“I thought their offensive output in the first quarter is what really did us in,” Neely said. “We were matching them, we were playing some of our best offense of the season, but allowing 25 points in a quarter isn’t going to get it done against a team like that. We played really well defensively for three quarters, letting up 10, 14, and 10, I’ll take that here every time. It just seemed like we couldn’t hit those big shots we’ve made. We had a couple of looks that just didn’t drop. Obviously, our free throws down the stretch weren’t great. We shot well from the line overall, but we didn’t hit the key ones down the stretch. “

An early triple from Boen in the second quarter pushed Mansfield’s lead to 28-22, but both defenses seemed to settle down over the final seven minutes of the half. The Panthers limited the hosts to just seven points the rest of the way.

Jack Rudolph’s three off a nice feed from Edgehill got the Panthers on the board in the quarter at the halfway mark. Edgehill scored five straight himself to cut the deficit to one, 31-30. Mansfield responded with a 5-0 run to take a 35-30 lead into the locker room.

“I didn’t think we were tough enough in the first half,” Neely said. “I thought they were beating us to loose balls. I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half that led to transition baskets. They wanted it more, especially in the first quarter. Sometimes when you’re down a guy, other guys really step up their performance, and they did that.”

The Panthers needed just two minutes in the third quarter to orchestrate a 9-0 run to take the lead. Samuels (who was limited because of foul trouble), Edgehill, and Will Harvey (nine points) each scored two and Jake Macchi drained a corner three to put the visitors ahead 39-35. Mansfield hit back with an 8-0 run, a three from Boen and five straight from Tommy Dooling (10 points, six assists).

“Talk about a huge performance by other guys that stepped up. I don’t know how many points Tommy had but he probably logged 28-29 minutes,” Vaughan said. “He had to handle the ball, play defense, getting kids in the right position and being a good leader. Hats off to him for the way he played, he may not be the headline story stat wise but deserves mention.”

After the teams traded baskets twice, Guy and Makhi Baskin (eight points) scored in the final minute for the Hornets to give Mansfield a 49-45 edge after three.

“We try to practice at this level so some of this energy comes from that, we put our kids in tough situations in practice so this hopefully seems easy.” Vaughan said. “But you put 800 people in the stands, I can’t imagine that it’s easy. But we have guys come in, ready to perform, and they are excited for the game. They stuck to the game plan, weathered their first punch, weathered a second punch, and then maintained the lead in the fourth quarter.”

Franklin had opportunities in the final frame but the Hornets did not surrender the lead. A free throw from Harvey closed the deficit to two with 5:21 to go but Dooling answered on the other to push the lead back to five.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Defense and free throws from Karayan and Edgehill cut the Mansfield to just one, 55-54, with 1:28 to go. The Panthers got a key steal but couldn’t convert from the free throw line to take the lead. Seconds later, Boen hit his free throws to extend Mansfield’s advantage heading into the final minute.

“Win or lose, we were going to fight, they were going to fight,” Vaughan said. “The atmosphere was great, the gym was packed, it was 150 degrees in here, you can’t beat it. The emotion of how much goes into this game, starting when these kids are little, it’s such a high energy. All the practices, all the two-minute drills, you do it for nights like tonight. To get this energy from both teams this early in the season is tremendous. And we know good and well, we’re going to go over to Franklin and be in the same situation, and we might end up in the same boat or the opposite boat. But it’s such a fun atmosphere.

“Kids stepped up and made plays for both teams and we were fortunate to make one more [play].”

Mansfield boys basketball (3-1 Hockomock, 5-1 overall) is back in action Tuesday night when it hosts Milford. Franklin (2-2, 4-3) will try and bounce back when it hosts Stoughton on the same night.

Hornets Show Fight In Comeback Win Over B-R

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield’s Makhi Baskin drives to the basket for a layup in the second half against Bridgewater-Raynham. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan couldn’t recall exactly what he said throughout his self described “eight-minute rant” during halftime of the Hornets’ matchup with Bridgewater-Raynham.

But whatever he was selling, his kids bought it.

The Hornets turned a 13-point deficit at halftime into an 11-point win with a dominant second half performance spearheaded by an active and energetic defensive effort. Mansfield limited the hosts to just 16 points in the second half to earn a 66-55 decision to conclude the 2018 calendar year.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I don’t know what I said exactly but something along the lines of ‘It was unacceptable, it’s not how we do things around here, and it’s not a level I want to play at,’” Vaughan said.

“I’ll lose but we have to go down fighting. We didn’t fight in the first half.”

With Mansfield struggling to find consistency on both ends of the court, a good Bridgewater-Raynham team took full advantage. The Trojans shot 7-for-12 from the field in the opening quarter to jump out to a 17-12 lead.

And then Bridgewater-Raynham cashed in on a handful of open looks, taking of advantage of some switches and went a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range in the frame. The Trojans scored 22 points in the quarter and opened up a double-digit lead, 39-26, after 16 minutes of play.

“The whole halftime…it wasn’t about winning or losing, it’s about looking like we know what we’re doing,” Vaughan said. “I told the kids I was a little embarrassed by the way we played in the first half, just from a technique standpoint. I thought the kids responded well and I thought our technique and attention to detail in the second half was significantly better. We have to get better in a lot of areas on the defensive end and sometimes just playing a little harder helps.”

The Hornets went to a full-court man-to-man press, using traps and double teams to get the energy going. The result was exactly what Vaughan was looking for and Mansfield worked its way back into the contest.

After making just one three in the first half (on 1-for-8 shooting), the Hornets came out right away and ran a set play for Tommy Dooling (12 points), and he sank a three. Mansfield forced a turnover on B-R’s first possession, and although it didn’t turn into points, the tone was set.

Mansfield forced seven turnovers in the third quarter, limiting B-R to just nine points. A strong take from sophomore TJ Guy (13 points) on a feed from Damani Scott (game-high 23 points, 10 rebounds) brought the Hornets within seven (39-32) but a 7-2 spurt from the hosts stretched the lead to 12 with two minutes left to play in the third.

The Hornets had a strong response over the final moments of the quarter, going on an 8-2 run. Scott sandwiched a three-pointer between single free throw makes. Dooling drained a three from straight away with less than 10 seconds left to pull within six, 48-42, heading into the fourth quarter.

“I think at the end of the day, we were either going to lay over and continue to get our butts kicked or we were going to start to play hard,” Vaughan said. “I think we started to play hard and the full court pressured allowed us to do that, to hold them accountable for longer parts of the possession. It just boiled down to us having to play harder, play with an identity. It’s been a while since we allowed that many uncontested shots, and B-R is a good team, they are going to make those shots. They didn’t have many bad shots in the first.

“For us, we had to do something. We had to figure out our identity…were we going to let them do what they want? Or were we going to take some things away.”

Mansfield forced five more turnovers in the final quarter and held the Trojans to just one made field goal. While the defense did its part, Mansfield’s offense finally got in gear and poured in 24 points in the quarter.

The Hornets opened on a 7-1 run to take the lead with 5:21 to go in the game. Makhi Baskin started things off with a steal and easy layup and Guy used a nice spin move in the post to give the Hornets the advantage, 50-49.

Scott finished off his own miss and the Hornets defense got a stop with Matty Boen being fouled while rebounding the ball. Boen drained two free throws to go extend the lead to 54-49 with 4:24 left.

B-R countered with two free throws from Conor Rubenskas (21 points) and drew an offensive foul to get possession back. Both teams had empty trips before Rubenskas hit a tough baseline shot to make it a one-point game, 54-53, with 3:25 to play.

Mansfield quickly answered as Dooling found Guy for two and the Hornets press paid off, forcing a turnover. Scott hit one of two from the line to make it 57-53. Mansfield’s defense got a stop and got the ball in the hands of Scott. Scott, who had his way getting to the basket for the majority of the game, garnered a lot of attention and alertly handed a ball off to Boen for a left-handed take.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After the teams traded turnovers, the Trojans missed a triple on one end and on the other end, Boen penetrated the defense, forcing B-R to collapse. Boen alertly kicked the ball out and Guy drained a wide open three to make it 62-53 with a minute to go, securing the win. Guy had 10 of his 13 points in the final quarter.

“The fight in the second half was significantly better, the kids really tried,” Vaughan said. “I don’t want to say they didn’t try in the first but they sat back and waited for everything to happen. In the second half, we took things away…we challenged them, we made things difficult.”

Mansfield boys basketball (4-1) returns to action Friday night for a key Kelley-Rex division battle against rival Franklin in a rematch of last season’s D1 State Final.

Mansfield Starts, Finishes Strong To Take Down Foxboro

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield’s Khristian Conner takes a shot in the second half against Foxboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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MANSFIELD, Mass. – Throughout the first half, the Mansfield boys basketball used a swarming defense and unselfish play on offense to build a double-digit advantage and looked poised to run away with a win.

But Foxboro refused to go away, scoring more points in the third quarter than the entire first half while holding the Hornets to just seven points to get back into the game.

And the Warriors used a 6-0 burst early in the fourth quarter to cut Mansfield’s 22-point lead down to just seven with the chance to make it a two-possession game, down 43-36.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Every time you play Foxboro, they don’t give up,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “They take things away, they challenge you for 32 minutes and they just play so hard. It’s a good lesson for our guys because we can look at the effort they gave, and now we have to match it.”

The Hornets were able to get a stop to keep the lead at seven and sophomore Matt Boen (seven points, 10 rebounds) converted a traditional three-point play on the other end of the court to extend the lead back to 10 and Mansfield closed out the final five minutes strong to earn a 57-42 win over the visiting Warriors.

“I thought in the first half we had moments of being very consistent moving the ball and when they cut it to seven, we had a couple of possessions where we did what we like to do and they all resulted in a basket or a foul shot,” Vaughan said. “We went back [to what worked] and settled in. When you give up a lead like that, typically it’s by playing a little more selfish or being lazy with the ball, and we had to clean that up.”

Mansfield forced a turnover on the defensive end, just one of three Foxboro turnovers in the second half compared to 17 in the opening 16 minutes. That resulted in a free throw from sophomore TJ Guy (10 points, five assists).

The Hornets got yet another stop and senior Tommy Dooling (10 points, four assists) found junior Sam Stevens (10 points, six rebounds) for an open triple and a 50-36 advantage with 3:44 to play.

Foxboro cut it back to 10 with just under three minutes to go but Boen drained a corner three with two minutes to go to end any comeback hopes.

“At halftime we took a deep breath and just told them to shoot when they are open and we talked about turnovers and the second half was much better offensively but it ended up being too big of a hole,” said Foxboro head coach Job Gibbs. “I was really proud of the character we showed in the second half, facing a big deficit on the road against a good team. It would have been easy to quit but they kept battling and we made a game of it. Hopefully we can build off that second half moving forward.”

After being held to just 5/17 shooting from the field and forced into 17 turnovers in the first half, Foxboro looked like a new team in the second half. The Warriors were able to turn a 19-point deficit at halftime (33-14) into a 10-point game after the third quarter.

Sophomore Kevin Gallagher scored six of his career-high 14 points in the third frame while juniors Ryan Hughes and Will Morrison (nine points) each chipped in with five points in the third to help Foxboro get back into the game.

And defensively, the Warriors only allowed seven points on 3-for-11 shooting while forcing six Hornet turnovers. Gallagher and Morrison each hit a triple over the first four and a half minutes of the quarter, but Foxboro made its big run with a 10-4 burst over the final three minutes of the quarter.

Hughes made a putback and converted a free throw for a three-point play, Gallagher hit another three, Hughes scored on a breakaway after a nice defensive play, and Morrison hit two free throws as the buzzer expired to make it 40-30.

In the first half, it was almost all Mansfield. Each team had just one three-pointer after four minutes of play but Mansfield rattled off a 12-0 run in just 90 seconds to change the game early. Guy and Damani Scott (16 points, 11 rebounds) each had a pair of buckets and Dooling hit a triple in that stretch while Foxboro turned it over six times.

Michael Devlin gave Foxboro a lift with a couple of nice defensive plays and had back-to-back baskets to make it 15-7 at the end of the first.

In the second, it was more of the same for Mansfield. The Hornets forced six more turnovers in the second quarter and shot 5-for-11 from the field to create a double-digit lead by halftime.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Obviously it wasn’t a pretty first half for us offensively. I thought our half-court defense was solid, but unfortunately, they got a ton of points off of our turnovers. Offensively, we looked like an inexperienced team, guys were tentative and not trusting themselves, passing up wide open shots they make in practice, and obviously turning the ball over too much.

“Playing Mansfield on the road in the first game, it’s a baptism by fire. It will let you know real quick where you are and what you have to work on. It’s a good learning experience for some of the guys.”

Mansfield boys basketball (1-0 Hockomock, 1-0 overall) is back in action on Friday when it travels to Attleboro. Foxboro (0-1, 0-1) will try to bounce back on the road at Canton on Friday night.

Mansfield Beats Rival Franklin For First State Title

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield boys basketball players celebrate after winning the D1 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Just when it looked like Mansfield would run away the state championship, Franklin stormed back with a big run and had a chance to make it a two-possession game.

And no one was surprised because that’s the never-give-up type of team that Franklin is.

But when Mansfield was able to weather the storm, keep its lead, and break the pressure to pull away in the final minutes, it didn’t come as a big surprise either, because that’s the team the Hornets have been this season.

And with that, Mansfield earned a hard-fought 67-54 win over Franklin to earn the D1 State Championship, the first in program history.

“We’d knew they would press and do whatever they needed to do to get back into the game, that’s who they are,” said Mansfield senior Sam Hyland (17 points, five rebounds, four assists). “We turned it over more than we should have and we didn’t take the best shots. But from there it was just about winning the final three minutes, then winning the final two minutes, and so on. It was just about focusing at the time at hand and outworking them. They hit some deep shots, I have to commend them for those, sometimes you have to live with it. But we did enough at the end.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield led by as much as 18 points, up 59-41 with five minutes to play in the game after Ryan Otto (four points, four rebounds) hit a deep two just before the shot clock expired.

But true to form, Franklin turned things around. Jalen Samuels (seven points, seven rebounds, four assists) hit a free throw and then took a charge to get some momentum back. Sophomore Chris Edgehill (18 points) hit in the lane and Paul Mahon (14 points) splashed in a three to get the game back to ten, 59-49 with four minutes to play.

Out of a timeout he Panthers’ Matt Elias (eight points) picked off a pass at midcourt, leading to another three from Edgehill and suddenly the Panthers trailed 59-52 with three minutes to go.

Franklin had three chances to close the gap further but Mansfield’s defense wouldn’t allow it. Mansfield forced three straight empty trips, and then in transition, Mansfield junior Damani Scottt (19 points, four rebounds) drew the defense in and dropped a pass off right under the hoop for an easy two from Otto.

The Panthers came up short on the other end again, and Mansfield went on to sink six free throws over the final 90 seconds to secure the win the D1 State Championship.

“I can’t really put it into words,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I know the last time we were [in the state championship], the stage might have been too big. From the moment we got on the bus on Thursday, the kids were locked in. They’ve been locked in all season long. It’s been a great ride. We did great things in D1 South, we did great things in the EMass game, and we did great things tonight.”

While it looked like it may turn into a blowout in the fourth quarter, Vaughan knew that Franklin would go down swinging to the very end.

“That’s a very good team we just played,” Vaughan said of the Panthers. “We made some shots, we did some things we had to do but [Franklin] wasn’t underprepared, this wasn’t a lack of effort by Franklin. If we play this game 10 times, five go one way and five go the other. It comes down to the fact at some point in the second and third quarters, we made a few extra baskets.

“They weren’t going to go away, they weren’t going to roll over. They play hard, they compete, they do all the little things well. They were going to give us every last breath they have. Paul Mahon is one of the best players our league has seen in terms of his ability to change the game on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. He held Tyler [Boulter] (four points, seven rebounds) in check tonight plus scored points of his own. Edgehill is a special player, we still have to deal with him for two more years as a top player in the league. And Samuels is great too, and then they have great role players who step in a do a lot of things for them.”

Franklin coach CJ Neely had a similar outlook, noting that in the end, the Panthers knew it would come down to the small things. The Panthers finished 10-for-22 from the free throw line compared to 23-for-30 from the Hornets.

“As much as the hype went on all week, we talked about how at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to a couple of loose balls, rebounding and taking care of the ball, and making our free throws,” Neely said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to and they [made their free throws]. When you play in this rivalry, if you’re not making your free throws and they are, and they can go from four to an eight-point lead instead of keeping it close.

“When it starts to expand, you have to come out of what you want to do a little bit. And both teams have had to do that in all three games, we’ve gotten out of what we wanted to do because the lead extended. Then you’re doing something that you practice but it’s not your go-to or your identity. You’re trying to get back into it and you’re taking a lot of risks. Mansfield did a good job of extending their lead making their free throws, and we didn’t. At the end of the day, we didn’t do what we needed to do.”

While Mansfield had the key runs throughout the second and third quarters, they needed another one in the first quarter just to keep pace with the red-hot Panthers.

Holding a 10-9 advantage late in the first quarter behind a free throw from Samuels, the Panthers got hot from deep. Mahon took a feed from Edgehill and made a deep three, and then repeated the same sequence two plays later for a 16-9 lead with just over a minute to play.

Mansfield was able to answer over the final minute though. Hyland drove hard for two, Scott completed a traditional three-point play on a possession the Hornets had because of a steal from Khristian Conner, and then Scott came up with a late steal and went in alone for a thunderous one-handed slam to tie the game after eight minutes.

Franklin’s offense picked up where it left off as Elias drained a three to open the second quarter and junior Will Harvey joined in on the three-party with a corner trifecta for a 22-16 lead just over a minute into the second.

Hyland hit a three but Edgehill answered with a traditional three-point play to keep the Panther advantage at four. A free throw from Scott cut it to three, and two more from Justin Vine (five points) made it one after he went to the line after hauling in a defensive rebound because Mansfield was in the bonus.

With both Scott and Hockomock League MVP John McCoy (18 points, 11 rebounds) in foul trouble for the Hornets — and Samuels for the Panthers — Mansfield’s Hyland stepped up into the spotlight.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Hyland hit another trifecta, this one putting the Hornets up 27-25 with just under three minutes left in the half. Elias hit one free throw to make it a one-point game but Hyland got his layup to fall while fighting through a foul, completing the three-point play at the line. Two possessions later, Hyland once again attacked the basket, draw the foul, and got a kind bounce off the rim for another three-point play, plus a 33-26 lead.

Hyland finished with 12 of Mansfield’s 19 points in the second quarter and tied a career-high with 17 points overall on top of five rebounds and four assists.

“There wasn’t a specific game plan to get me going but we got into some foul trouble early so someone else had to step up and score points, it’s the Mansfield way,” Hyland said. “I had a couple open opportunities early that sometimes I’d pass up and wouldn’t take but fortunately I knocked them down. That gave me the confidence and then I started to get to the rim. I got a couple of bounces to go my way, a couple of calls and had a strong first half that kind of got the momentum back on our side. It ended up working out pretty nice.”

Franklin’s defense came out strong in the second half, holding Mansfield scoreless for nearly the first three minutes of the third. However, Mansfield’s defense was equal to the task and the Panthers only scored once, a layup from Mahon, during that stretch.

McCoy drained a three to give Franklin some life, pushing the lead to 38-28. Mansfield went up as much as 14 points in the frame (44-30) on a traditional three-point play from Scott. But Franklin closed with an 8-4 run with Samuels scoring the first four and Elias and Edgehill each contributing two.

Franklin nearly had a big stop to keep the deficit in single digits at the end of the quarter, but Hyland came flying in to steal an offensive board for an easy putback.

Mansfield opened the fourth with a set play to get two for McCoy, and then ran a set that resulted in a corner three for Vine. McCoy knocked down a pair of technical free throws to stretch it to 55-38.

Mahon answered for Franklin with a triple but two more from McCoy at the line, and a deep two from Otto gave Mansfield a commanding 59-41 lead, only for Franklin to charge back with its 11-0 run to make it a seven-point game.

“The resilience of this team….we’re never going to go away,” Neely said. “We’re not going to be the team that plays for the newspaper and loses by 10 or 11, we’re going to go out there and try and cut back into it as much and possible, and we’ll lose by 50 but we’ll do it trying to get back into it.

“We just couldn’t make a couple of those baskets there to get back into it. When Mansfield builds a lead like that, they do a great job of moving the ball and making you work, getting to the line and making their free throws.”

Vaughan agreed, stressing the importance of getting a big lead because he knew Franklin would continue to push back.

“This was a game we were fortunate to be up 18 so we could weather the storm and let the clock tick away,” Vaughan said. “But it comes down to what we’ve done all year. Otto steps up and has a huge basket, Vine hits the three in the corner. Different guys doing different things makes a huge difference for our team.”

While the Hornets secured their first state title win with a victory over rival Franklin, Vaughan noted his squad focused more on themselves and getting a win than about the rivalry.

“It wasn’t really about the opponent, it was just about winning this game,” Vaughan said. “If anything, there’s a part of me that knows how hard it is to get here, and I know what Franklin basketball is all about, and what CJ is all about and most of those kids I’ve coached at some point. They are great kids, great young men.

“There’s a part of me that has some sympathy. I wish there were times we weren’t in the same division and we didn’t face each other at some point. But we’ve also lost to Franklin back when they were in the South. It wasn’t about who we were playing, but it was about playing in this game and doing everything we can to win it.”

Franklin finishes the season 23-4 and had a second straight appearance in the D1 State Finals.

“The guys should be very proud of themselves,” Neely said of his team. “They are working hard year round, they are sacrificing a lot to put Franklin on the map and be one of the powers in the state. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams this season, we didn’t shy away from challenges. They should be very proud of themselves.

“These guys have brought Franklin to a place they had never been before and did it twice in a row. They have a lot to be proud of. Obviously, both teams wanted to win tonight, it’s two great teams that know a lot about each other. [Mansfield] was the better team tonight.”

Mansfield boys basketball picks up its 27th win of the season, finishing with just two losses.

“This win means a lot, I know a lot of players on [Franklin] and I’m pretty close friends with some of them,” McCoy said. “It’s definitely just amazing to beat Franklin in my last high school game.”

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Hornets Weather Crimson Tide, Book Trip To State Final

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield’s Khristian Conner drives baseline against Everett in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOSTON, Mass. – Just when it looked like Mansfield was out of new players stepping up and taking control, in stepped junior Khristian Conner.

It’s only fitting that five years to the date, Conner was able to equal the performance his older brother, Kevin, had in the 2013 EMass Final.

The Hornets have had different players take charge throughout their 2018 postseason run: Damani Scott scoring 25 points against Newton South, Tyler Boulter dropping 35 points against BC High and Johnny Mccoy’s MVP performance against Newton North.

We’ve seen the likes of Justin Vine, Ryan Otto, and Tommy Dooling come in and hit a big three or take an important charge.

And you can’t forget about the tireless work of point guard Sam Hyland, who has continued to make good decisions on the offensive end while shutting down some of the most formidable opponents on the defensive side.

Now with the lights shining brightest, it was Conner that came off the bench and delivered 13 points and three steals to help the Hornets hold off Everett, 73-65.

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Mansfield advances to the MIAA D1 State Championship and will take on rival Franklin on Saturday in Springfield with time and exact location to be determined.

It will be the first time in D1 history that two teams from the same league will meet in the state finals for boys basketball.

“This was Khristian’s speed tonight…open floor, get out and take the matchup that’s given to you and go and make a couple of plays,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “He couldn’t have played bigger tonight.

“That’s the make up of our team. Any given night someone can step up and make plays. Tonight was his night. We’ve been talking about. The years we made some runs, back in 2012 and 2013, there were games no one knew who the superstar would be. But if you play good defense and get guys in the right positions, it gives guys opportunities like Khristian.”

Conner’s biggest play came with just over three minutes left in the game. After turning the ball over trying to force a pass baseline, it looked as though Everett had a chance to pick up some momentum and cut into the 10-point deficit.

Instead, Conner hunted the ball down, coming up with a quick steal just seconds after losing possession and went up for an easy two. That gave Mansfield its largest lead of the fourth quarter, 65-53, with 3:29 to play.

On the ensuing trip up the court, Conner used his quickness to get a hand in on the dribble, forcing it to bounce off the Everett player and out of bounds for a turnover. Although Mansfield didn’t score on its turn up the court, the Hornets ran off more time to get under three minutes to play.

“I just stuck with it,” Conner said of the play. “I couldn’t get down on myself because of the turnover so I just focused on defense. Defense is so important especially in this game and I was able to get the stops.”

After McCoy (13 points, five rebounds, four assists) hit one free throw to make it 66-57, Caleb Jacobs answered with a three-point play to get within six with under a minute to play.

McCoy responded with two free throws and Isaiah Likely drive in for two for Everett. The Hornets had a turnover against the Crimson Tide press and Everett cashed in with a putback for two, making it 68-64 with 19.4 to play.

But Scott (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists) hit a pair of free throws, Everett’s Jalen Iles-Smith only made one, McCoy hit another, Everett threw it away and Scott iced the game with two more from the charity stripe to end the game.

“I’ve said all postseason that we’re a really hard team to play when we’re up,” Vaughan said. “All of our stuff seems to work, we’re more comfortable playing, that was a major key. If we could minimize their opportunities in the first and second quarters and get any cushion whatsoever, I think it made a big difference in the outcome of the game.”

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Mansfield was able to take the lead between the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters. After going back-and-forth with the Crimson Tide for the first seven minutes, the Hornets finished the opening stanza with a quick surge.

Scott splashed in a three from the left side on a feed from Hyland (nine points, four assists, there rebounds), Vine got out in transition for two, and then Hyland went one-on-one to the basket to beat the buzzer for two to give Mansfield a 21-17 edge after one.

That momentum carried into the second quarter as Mansfield outscored the Tide 13-2 over the first five minutes of the second quarter.

Scott hit two early free throws and then set up Vine in the corner for a trifecta. McCoy had two free throws followed by a strong baseline drive from Boulter. McCoy then followed a free throw with a big three-pointer to make it 34-19 with 2:56 left in the first half.

Boulter and Conner helped carry the Hornets in the third quarter. Boulter drained an early three and had seven of his 14 points in the frame while Conner had two straight baskets, a big steal, and a free throw all in a row for the Hornets.

“All of my teammates were just pushing me to have a good game,” Connor said. “I didn’t do too well in the other playoff games. Coach Vaughan just told me to come out and play your game and I just tried to do that at my best. I love my role on this team, I just have to come out when given the chance and compete. When I make the first couple, my adrenaline was pumping and I just wanted to help the team win tonight.”

Meanwhile, Hyland was at it again on the defensive end. Ghared Boyce, who has over 2,000 career points, scored 22 hard earned points but was held to just 31% shooting with Hyland in front of him.

“Hyland’s been our unsung hero right now,” Vaughan said. “He doesn’t score a lot of points, he takes everyone’s best shot because he has to take the ball up and then he’s getting everyone’s best player [defensively].”

Mansfield boys basketball (26-2) will now take on rival Franklin (23-3), who defeated Springfield Central 61-43, in the D1 State Championship.

The Hornets fell at Franklin on January 12th but have won 17 straight games since, including a 59-47 verdict over the Panthers at home on February 9th.

“First game they whacked us, second game we were in control for most of the game,” Vaughan said. “A league opponent, going out to Springfield. If this isn’t Duke-UNC at its finest in the NCAA tournament, I don’t know what it is. There’s going to be no secrets. We’re going to know who dribbles right, who dribbles left, who’s girlfriend is named what, what brand of underwear they like [they’ll know] what brand of underwear we like. This is going to be one for the ages. I don’t know if any state title has been done from two teams from the same conference.

“We’re 18 minutes from each other and we’re going to drive an hour and 45 minutes to Springfield to do this a third time. The beauty if we both one once so this is the ultimate rubber match. You don’t get a better rubber match than this. We’re going to get Franklin’s best shot. CJ [Neely] is going to do a tremendous job. The emotion is going to be high, the game is going to be high…we’re excited to be here, we’re going to enjoy it and start getting ready tomorrow for a very, very talented and well coached Franklin team.”

The game is scheduled for Saturday in Springfield, with exact location and time still to be determined.

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Mansfield Knocks Out Boxers to Win South Title

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield won its first South sectional title in five years with a strong performance against Brockton at Taunton High. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – There are a lot of programs that would love to have the level of consistent success that Mansfield has enjoyed over the past several seasons, but heading into Friday night’s Div. 1 South final at Taunton High the Hornets were not thinking about all the games that they had won in the last five years.

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The Hornets, especially the senior class, were thinking about the two sectional finals they had reached in the past three seasons, including last year’s loss to Needham on the same court, and focusing on ensuring that the third time would be the charm to bring home the program’s third South title. It was.

Mansfield put in another dominant performance on both ends of the floor to beat Brockton 79-65. The Hornets used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to break the game open, led by as many as 24 points, and the 14-point final margin was the closest that the Boxers got in the second half.

“We’ve lost it twice and our senior year we wanted to go out on top and win the South sectional final,” said senior point guard Sam Hyland after the game. “We’re not done yet, but that was awesome. It meant a lot to win it.”

Senior John McCoy added, “We want to win the state [tournament]. We had three goals at the beginning of the season – to win the Hock, win the South sectional finals, and to win the state title – so far we’ve done two of those three.”

When Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan was asked about what drove the Hornets to get over the hump and bring home the title, he replied, “Last year, when we lost to a very good Needham team, the guys who played last year felt that pain, they wanted to get back here and represent the South in the state tournament.”

Few teams are playing as well as Mansfield at this point in the season and even fewer teams are as good when facing a team for a second time. The Hornets avenged one of their two losses by beating BC High by 13 in the quarterfinal and rolled past Newton North for the second time this season in the semifinal. After beating the Boxers by five in a tight game a little more than two weeks before, Mansfield made sure this meeting was nowhere near as close.

One of Mansfield’s strengths is the balance it has on offense and in the first quarter six different Hornets scored, including Tommy Dooling who drilled a three after a scramble for a loose ball fell to Ryan Otto and he swung it over to the junior guard. The three put the Hornets up 19-15 after one.

“I know my job,” said Hyland about the team’s depth. “I’ve got to get the ball over half-court and let someone make a play. Vine hit a couple shots, Damani was huge obviously, Tommy Dooling hit the biggest shot of the year for him, and Johnny has always been huge.”

McCoy answered a Brockton basket to start the second, but the Boxers got a layup off an inbounds pass to cut the lead back down to just two. The Hornets scored the next 15 and never looked back.

Senior Justin Vine (11 points) started the run with a straightaway three off another of Otto’s five assists on the night. Damani Scott also started to get going with a basket off an offensive rebound and a transition basket after a Hyland steal. After the Boxers finally ended the run with a runner, Vine added another three, this time from the corner off a Tyler Boulter feed. Mansfield went into the break leading 41-26.

“The thing I like about this team right now is they’re really engaged with the game plan,” said Vaughan. “They’re executing what we’re putting in; they’re executing the little things in the game we need to do to win.”

Brockton came out for the third quarter energized but, similar to the game against Newton North, the Hornets always seemed to have an answer to prevent a comeback. The Boxers cut the lead to 15, but Otto (nine points) chased down an offensive rebound and Hyland moved it over to Boulter for a big three in the corner.

Despite the Brockton full-court press, the Hornets continued to get the ball into the offense thanks in large part to Hyland keeping turnovers to a minimum. He explained, “[Coach] told me before the game tonight that when they’re pressing you have to be like a boxer. You can’t let them keep pounding you, you’ve got to try and attack them.”

Boulter would score seven of his 10 points in the third to help stretch the lead, while McCoy continued to take over the game with his ability to get to the rim. The senior, who was greeted by “MVP” chants by the Mansfield crowd after every basket, scored six in the third on his way to a game-high 23. He also pulled down nine rebounds, had a pair of steals, and dished out three assists.

“It was almost like he was pacing himself early, letting the game come to him and we said to him at halftime of the last game you need to put your will on the game,” said Vaughan of McCoy. “There’s reasons why basketball has superstars and he played like a superstar the other day and tonight was no different. He’s a game-changer on both ends of the floor.”

In the fourth quarter, Mansfield made sure the game stayed out of reach with stellar ball movement to find open looks. Scott caught fire on the fourth, scoring 10 of his 21 in the final quarter. He buried a pair of threes from essentially the identical spot right in front of the Hornets fans and he capped a near-perfect night for the Hornets with a steal and dunk that put Mansfield up by 24.

“We’re just excited to be able to close the loop on the South and put our name back in there,” said Vaughan, who has now won three South titles as coach (2011 and 2013 being the others). “It’s been a while since we’ve gotten this so we’re excited to be back here and now we’ve got more work to do starting tomorrow morning.”

Although there is still work to be done, the players were definitely enjoying the moment on the floor. As the crowd was being urged to disperse, Hyland stood at midcourt cradling the South championship trophy. When asked how it felt at that moment, he said, “It feels pretty awesome right now. This thing feels pretty great in my hands right now.”

Mansfield (25-2) will play the North champion, either Everett or Lawrence, at the TD Garden in the state semifinal on Monday night at 7:30.

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Mansfield Rolls Past Newton North Back Into D1S Final

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield senior Johnny McCoy (25 points) drives to the basket in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – Coming off a loss on the road at Franklin in mid-January, Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan admitted he wasn’t quite sure where his Hornets fit into a loaded D1 South field.

Fast forward nearly two months and those Hornets are now clicking on all cylinders, the proof being a dominant 70-50 win over #4 Newton North.

With the win, Mansfield returns to the D1 South Sectional Final for the second straight year, the third time in the past four years, and fourth time in the past six seasons.

“I was concerned, I was really concerned where we would fit in the South, considering the South was loaded this year,” Vaughan said. “There are eight teams that if they were to win the South no one would be surprised, it’s a loaded field. We are playing good at the right time, other teams are playing good as well. We’re going to continue to do what we do and hopefully try to find a way to get one more against either Brockton or Needham.”

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The Hornets haven’t lost since that game at Franklin High, rattling off 17 straight wins including victories over Hanover (defending D3 state champions and current D2 South semifinalists), Cardinal Spellman, Taunton, Brockton, and Newton South. Mansfield also avenged its lone two losses in that span, comfortably beating both Franklin and just last week, BC High.

The winning ways continued on Monday night at Taunton High as the Hornets beat Newton North for the second time this season.

Senior John McCoy took over in the second half, scoring 18 of his game-high 25 points after halftime, junior Damani Scott was nearly unstoppable on the offensive end with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and senior Sam Hyland spearheaded an impressive Hornet defensive effort the resulted in Ethan Wright – arguably the best player in the state – scoring just nine points, three of which came in the fourth with the game in hand.

“We had to throw everything we had at him,” Vaughan said of defending Wright. Wright scored 32 points in the first meeting back in December. He was held to just nine points on 4-for-10 shooting on Monday night.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve seen play at the MIAA level. He’s a tremendous kid, tremendous athlete, tremendous competitor. Our goal early was to try to take him out of his rhythm, and I thought we did a good job doing that. It’s just a matter of grinding through possessions, limiting his touches, and contest what he has opportunities. I thought Sammy was tremendous playing him and I thought I help defense was good making sure he didn’t get easy and clean looks. He’s a very special player and we just do everything we had at him.”

The Hornets got off to a strong start on both ends of the court. While limiting the high power Tigers’ offense from getting going, Mansfield began to establish itself on the offensive end. Tyler Boulter (11 points) hit an early three and had a strong take to the basket, Scott turned a pair of offensive rebounds — one his own, another from Ryan Otto — into four points, and McCoy added four of his own for a 15-6 lead after one.

Scott became the focal point of the offense in the second quarter. He opened the scoring for the Hornets with a traditional three-point play and got by his defender for two right after Newton North had answered.

“I didn’t feel good at the shootaround today so I didn’t expect this at all,” Scott said. “With Johnny and Tyler and all the guys I try to ease my way in and score when I can. And having Johnny, it makes it easier for me to get into a rhythm because he’s there if I miss. When I get into a rhythm it really gets me going.”

McCoy hit another three and Scott continued to find success at the rim with four straight points, helping Mansfield take a 31-18 lead at the break.

“He played as good as you could,” Vaughan said of Scott. “He’s engaged on defense, you can’t ask for a kid to play a better game at this point in his career. It was nice to see, he kind of helps us weather the first half when we weren’t as comfortable as it may have seemed. He had to go make some plays for us, and made some tough ones. He made the difference of us having a lead and as we talked about before, when we have a lead, we are more difficult [to beat] because all of our stuff works. When we’re playing from behind, it’s difficult for some of our stuff to work so it played to our advantage tonight.”

Scott scored on the first possession of the second half but picked up two quick fouls on the defensive end, forcing him to the bench. With their top scorer in the game on the bench, the offense switched gears and McCoy took over.

Tom Andreae (11 points) cut the deficit to single digits for Newton North but McCoy responded with a traditional three-point play on the other end. After a turnover, McCoy once again attacked the basket, resulting in another three-point play and a 41-26 advantage.

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Boulter and Newton North’s Aaron Cooley traded baskets but McCoy couldn’t be stopped. He once again drew contact at the rim, finishing off yet another three-point play for a 46-28 lead.

Wright came up with a Mansfield turnover and tried to inject some life into the Hornets with a two-handed slam on the fast break, but the Hornets quickly got the ball up court for an easy two from McCoy, preventing Newton North from building any momentum.

“Part of our game plan offensively was to pick our spots when we thought we could get downhill,” Vaughan said. “They are a really good contest team, one of their focuses is to defend the three-point line which sacrifices helping. I thought we had some matchups with Damani, who play tremendous, and Johnny in the second half. Johnny answered my call at halftime. He needed to be better and he was, he was tremendous, that’s why he was league MVP because of the performance he put on in the second half.”

McCoy opened the fourth quarter in familiar fashion, taking advantage of a Tiger turnover and then driving to the basket for two points plus the harm – he hit the free throw for his fourth three-point play of the half.

“It was definitely nice to see the ball go through the hoop finally,” McCoy said after scoring eight points through the first two playoff games. “I kind of struggled the past two games, but my coaches and teammates told me to just stick with it and keep shooting, and it worked out tonight.

“Once we get to the hoop it opens things up for the shooting. When we get to the hoop our offense really gets in motion and everything starts to go down.”

After Scott hit a three, Newton North amped its defensive pressure up with a press, resulting in four quick points but after each team traded turnovers, McCoy sank a triple that wrapped the game up. Mansfield led 59-42 with five minutes to play.

Mansfield boys basketball (24-4) will take on either Needham (19-3) or Brockton (19-3) in the D1 South Final. If the Rockets beat Brockton, it will be a rematch of last year’s final (Needham won, 65-56). If the Boxers ground the Rockets, it will be a rematch of regular season matchup that Mansfield won 69-64. The game will be at Taunton High with the date and time still to be determined.

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Boulter Boosts Mansfield Past BC High, Into Semis

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield’s Tyler Boulter readies to take a three pointer against BC High. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan mentioned that sometimes when senior Tyler Boulter misses his first three point attempt, it can sometimes take him a while to even attempt a second.

That was not the case on Saturday night at Taunton High School.

After missing his first look on the opening possession of the game, Boulter connected on his next eight trifectas, shooting 13-for-16 from the field overall en route to a career-high 35 points, leading the top-seeded Hornets to a 71-58 win over #8 BC High.

“He started the year hurt and he’s had to grind and battle and get his legs underneath him,” Vaughan said of Boulter. “He missed his first, and sometimes when he misses his first it takes him a while to shoot his second whether it goes in or not. He stuck with it and what a performance.”

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Boulter was just off on his first shoot but two points apiece from Damani Scott, Ryan Otto, and John McCoy had the Hornets off to a quick 6-0 start.

It wasn’t until 2:42 left in the opening quarter when senior Sam Hyland hauled in an offensive rebound off a miss and dished it out to a wide open Boulter that the senior got it going.

That three created a 12-5 advantage for the Hornets but the Eagles quickly put up six straight to cut it to one.

Once again, Boulter came up big with a three, sparking a 7-0 run (Hyland putback, Khristian Conner layup) to end the quarter with Mansfield up 19-11.

“I think we struggled a little bit in the first game against [BC High] so I felt I could help in that regard,” Boulter said. “And just defensively, picking up the energy and getting out there and running the floor. I just wanted to create some energy.”

The Eagles started the second with an 8-1 run to get within a point again, but Boulter had yet another answer dropping his third triple of the game. And on the ensuing possession, Boulter picked off a pass and went in alone for an easy layup.

“The thing with Tyler, he left last season as a possible league MVP candidate at the level he’s capable of playing at,” Vaughan said. “I think it took him enough trust in his body, and then get his basketball legs under him. He’s just been able to get into a nice rhythm and he’s played big for us in key moments.”

He added a free throw and another transition bucket later in the quarter as well. BC High cut the deficit to five with two minutes left but Hyland converted down low and Boulter hit a triple, giving the Hornets a 36-27 edge at the break.

Although Boulter had an impressive first half (6-for-8 FG, 3-for-4 3PT), he had more to offer in the second half, and his shooting became contagious.

Boulter opened the half with a three out of a set play but the Eagles landed a counter punch in the form of a 7-0 run to get within three.

Of course it was Boulter who put a run to a halt, hitting a trifecta to bump the lead to six. When BC High got it within four, Boulter hit yet another triple off a feed from Hyland and then senior Ryan Otto joined in on the fun with a three of his own to make it 48-38.

“I had a moment of deja vu,” Vaughan admitted. In the team’s first meeting, the Eagles used a run early in the third quarter to create the separation they needed to win. “I think we came down and got back to back baskets that got it back to 10 so we kind of weathered it. We talked about how BC High is capable of scoring points in a hurry. [BC High’s Travis] Evee (25 points) is obviously one of the best players in the state and he’s going to get his.

“But you have to come back down and capitalize on the other end. I thought we did a nice job of capitalizing tonight when our backs were against the wall. When they cut it four or six, I thought we did a good job of getting a good possession, not just any possession.”

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Hyland got in on the action with a three, and a few possessions later, Scott deposited his first triple of the game, giving Mansfield a 56-44 lead through three quarters of play. In the third quarter, Mansfield shot 6-for-8 from deep.

“It’s about doing what we do within our team structure,” Vaughan said of getting the outside looks. “We’ve seemed to be a better team in the second half of the year when we control the tempo of the offense. Historically we’ve liked to score in transition. This team has found more opportunities running in the half court. They really do a good job of helping each other out and making each other better by setting screens or cutting hard, or just little things that creating more space.

“I think three of [Boulter’s] threes were off offensive rebounds. We weren’t doing anything to be offensive geniuses there, that’s just doing a really good job on the glass. That was one of our focuses today, rebounding. We didn’t think we did a good job the first time, I thought we were much better this time and we got some key baskets. I’m not sure how many offensive rebounds we had but I’d say most of them resulted in baskets.”

Boutler’s three with 6:23 to play made it 62-46, and then he converted through the contact at the rim to make it 66-53. After a monstrous block from McCoy on one end, Boulter took a nice pass from Scott and finished for an easy two.

After a steal by Hyland on the defensive end, Boulter put a bow on the win by draining his eighth trifecta of the game.

“Our goal was to win the three point line,” said BC High coach Bill Loughnane. “Needless to say we did not succeed in that. We were trying to take it away but they did a nice job of running their stuff, getting to that option and all of a sudden there’s a guy standing there by himself and they didn’t miss tonight.”

Mansfield boys basketball (23-2) advances to the D1 South Sectional Semifinals. The Hornets will take on #4 Newton North (18-4) on Monday at 7:30 at Taunton High.

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