Teams of the Decade: Top Playoff Runs

Teams of the Decade

Over the past couple of months, our staff has reviewed hundreds of championship-caliber Hockomock League teams from the past decade (Fall 2010 through Winter 2020) and selected its Top 20 “Teams of the Decade.” During that process, we came across so many talented teams that accomplished so much. Below is a list of teams that just missed out on the final list but stood out for their postseason performances.

2019 Taunton Baseball

Record: 21-7
Division 1 State Champions

The stars aligned perfectly for the Tigers when the postseason rolled around. Although Taunton finished in third in the Kelley-Rex division in the regular season (behind Super 8 selections Franklin and Mansfield), the Tigers took full advantage of their opportunity in Div. 1 South. At 11-7 midway through May, Taunton won four straight to finish the regular season at 15-7 for the fourth seed in the D1 South bracket. After dispatching Marshfield, the Tigers rallied to stun Catholic Memorial with a seventh inning rally, scoring the game-winning run off a bunt from Lucas Martins. Taunton followed with a shutout of Catholic Conference power Xaverian before taking down Hockomock rival Attleboro, 6-1, to win the South.

The magic continued for Taunton, head coach Blair Bourque, and its playoff hero Nic Notarangelo in the D1 State Semifinals. Against a powerful Lincoln-Sudbury side (21-2 entering the game), the Tigers fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning. Logan Lawrence had a huge game, hitting a two-run home run in the first and pitching four scoreless innings in relief. Notarangelo smacked a hard hit to right to score sophomore Ty Cali in the bottom of the ninth inning for the game-winning run. Taunton capped its magical run with a 5-3 win over Shrewsbury and 6’8 Boston College-commit John West. Josh Lajoie made his first start of the playoffs, senior Evan Melo put a cherry on top of a special individual postseason by driving in the game-winning run, and both Notarangelo and Lawrence – as they had done all tournament – made key plays in the final innings to help Taunton secure its first-ever Div. 1 State Championship.

2016 Franklin Boys Hockey

Record: 18-4-5
Division 1 State Champions

Just one year removed from a historic trip to the Super 8, and after graduating 21 seniors, Franklin showed off the depth in its program and erased its demons at the TD Garden, ending a three-decade wait for a second state title. A team without a true star, Franklin’s depth and its work rate were its greatest strengths. The Panthers were 12-3-5 and the fourth seed in Div. 1 when the playoffs began, but it felt like a wide open bracket. The tournament run began with a 2-1 win against Wellesley, followed by a 1-0 win against Walpole in a jam-packed Pirelli Rink.

After dispatching a third straight Bay State Conference team, Newton North, in the semifinal, Franklin avenged a late-season loss against highly-regarded Marshfield. In the state title game at the TD Garden, a place where Franklin and head coach Chris Spillane had come up empty three seasons in a row earlier in the decade, the Panthers led 3-1 heading into the third period against St. Mary’s (Lynn), a team that just missed out on a Super 8 berth. The game went to double overtime before senior Jake Downie assisted on sophomore Luke Downie’s dramatic game- and title-winner and secured a first state title since 1983.

2018 Franklin Baseball

Record: 21-5
Division 1A (Super 8) State Champions

It was a season that started with high expectations and ended in history, but it was hardly a straight and easy path for Franklin. Few will remember because of how the season ended, but the Panthers opened the season by being shutout by Foxboro, were swept by Taunton, and finished a game behind Mansfield in the league. Through it all, Franklin put together a good enough resume that it was selected for the Super 8 for the first time in program history. The Panthers (21-5) entered as the No. 7 seed, but once the playoffs began everything seemed to fall into place.

Thanks to the dynamic duo of Jake Noviello and Bryan Woelfel and a lineup filled with clutch hitters, Franklin beat Wachusett in the opening game and then proceeded to beat St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic (twice). The final three games were all one-run wins. In the Super 8 finale against the Raiders, head coach Zach Brown brought Noviello into the bottom of the eighth in a tie game with runners at second and third. He struck out three of the next four batters (hitting one in between) to somehow keep it tied and in the top of the ninth Evan Wendell’s perfect suicide squeeze plated Steve Luttazi with the title-winning run.

2016 Foxboro Girls Tennis

Record: 19-2
Division 2 State Champions

The third time proved to be the charm for the Foxboro girls’ tennis team. After coming up short in the state final in 2014 and 2015, the Warriors took a 3-2 decision over Wayland to clinch the title. The Warriors dropped two matches all season, both 3-2 to eventual Davenport division champion Sharon, as Foxboro finished second in the division at 14-2. The sister combination of Diana Prinos at first singles and Sophia Prinos at second singles gave Foxboro a huge advantage while junior Lexi Nelson was such a steady presence at third singles.

Behind interim head coaches CJ Neely and Jon Montanaro, the Warriors earned the fourth seed in the Division 2 South bracket and survived an early scare with a 3-2 win over Westwood. The second doubles team of Michaela McCarthy and Morgan Krockta helped the Warriors knock off a strong Hingham team in the quarterfinals and Foxboro swept singles action in both the sectional semifinals and finals to defeat previously unbeaten and top-seeded Apponequet and Hopkinton, respectively. After dropping a singles match in the state final, the Warriors had to show off their depth as a team and the first doubles pairing of sophomore Kayla Prag and freshman Julia Muise pulled out a 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 win to secure the title.

2012 Sharon Football

Record: 10-3
Division 3 Eastern Mass. Champions

It’s hard to think of a more special individual season than the one the Sharon football team had in 2012. To put things in perspective, the Eagles had just won seven games over a seven-year span in the previous decade and its last winning season came in the late 1980s. Head coach Dave Morse led Sharon to four wins in his first year in 2011 but that turned out to be just a preview of what was to come. The Eagles had a special group of players come together and accomplish something a lot of people thought they would never see: bringing a Super Bowl title back to Sharon.

While it wasn’t a perfect season, the Eagles got it done against division foes. Sharon knocked off Canton in overtime, scored with under a minute left to stun previously unbeaten Stoughton, and used a gutsy fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion touchdown to secure a win over Foxboro and clinch its first Davenport division title. In the playoffs, the Eagles held on for a 7-6 win over Pembroke when the Titans’ two-point conversion with a minute to go fell short. In the Super Bowl, senior running back Sean Asnes capped a terrific season with a pair of touchdowns as Sharon notched a 12-3 win over Wayland in a freezing cold game at Bentley University.




2018 Mansfield Boys Basketball

Record: 27-2
Division 1 State Champions

Mansfield’s playoff run during the 2017-2018 season was as close to perfect as you can get in basketball. The Hornets were very good during the regular season, but they were close to unstoppable once the state tournament rolled around. Mansfield suffered two setbacks during the season, one in December to BC High and a 15-point loss on the road to rival Franklin in January. Head coach Mike Vaughan has said that second loss might have been the spark that ignited one of the most impressive playoff campaigns of the decade. With seven seniors (John McCoy, Tyler Boulter, Ryan Otto, Nick Ferraz, Alex Ferraz, Justin Vine, Sam Hyland) and a trio of talented juniors (Damani Scott, Tommy Dooling, Khristian Conner), the Hornets made the most of the playoff opportunity.

The top-seed in Division 1 South, Mansfield rolled through the bracket — and we mean rolled. Mansfield beat all four of its opponents by double figures, dismissing Newton South (76-49) in the first round, avenging its loss to BC High (71-58) in the quarterfinals, eliminating a very good Newton North (70-50) team in the South semis, and beating a talented Brockton (79-65) squad to win the South championship. The momentum continued as the Hornets secured a spot in the state final with an impressive win over Everett (73-65) at the TD Garden. In the D1 State Championship, the Hornets capped a terrific postseason run by taking down rival Franklin (67-54); the matchup marked the first time a pair of teams from the same league met in the D1 final.

2017 Franklin Boys Basketball

Record: 22-5
Division 1 State Finalists

This Franklin boys team might not have won it all, but it packed some of the most memorable games into its great postseason run. The Panthers were good throughout the regular season, and they certainly had their fair share of impressive wins including one over league champ Mansfield, one over a very good Cardinal Spellman team, and concluded the regular season with arguably its best win, a 70-53 decision over a good Tech Boston team. But there were five losses too, including on the road at Canton, and early season tilts against Malden Catholic and Catholic Memorial.

The wins over Spellman and Tech Boston to finish the regular season were a clear sign to head coach CJ Neely that this squad was ready to make some noise in the state tournament. Junior Jalen Samuels helped the hosts knock off upset-minded Acton Boxboro in the opening round and senior Connor Goldstein gave Franklin a needed spark in its semifinal win over St. Peter Marian. In the Central final against perennial power St. John’s Shrewsbury, freshman Chris Edgehill sank a huge three with just over a minute left in overtime and then hit two from the free throw line in the final seconds to help secure Franklin’s first sectional title. In the state semifinal against Springfield Central, the Panthers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with an improbable 8-0 run in the final 20 seconds to force overtime. Four minutes later, Franklin was on its way to its first state championship. Although the Panthers ran into a juggernaut in Cambridge, the run that the Panthers had leading up to that point was a very memorable one.

2018 North Attleboro Baseball

Record: 22-2
Division 2 State Champions

North Attleboro rolled through the regular season, finishing 14-2 in the league and 18-2 overall. Big Red ended a 12-year wait for a league title and took the top seed in Div. 2 South. North’s run to a first-ever state title was hardly a surprise, but the way that the Rocketeers rolled through the South bracket was more than impressive. North scored at will over the first three games of the tournament, out-scoring its opponents 41-4, including a 20-2 win against Dartmouth in the semifinal and a 19-2 win against Oliver Ames in the final.

Behind the pitching of Nick Sinacola and the clutch bat of Zach DeMattio, the Rocketeers were unstoppable heading into the final against Beverly and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the state championship game (all four runs driven in by DeMattio). The Panthers got to Sinacola for three runs in the fifth to cut the lead to just one run, but he settled down, with the help of his defense, to get through a scoreless sixth and seventh inning and becoming the second Hockomock League baseball team in a week to win a state title.

2018 Taunton Softball

Record: 26-2
Division 1 State Champions

Taunton had lost in the first round in each of the past two postseasons, both times on its home field and both times to league opponents (King Philip in 2016 and North Attleboro in 2017), but the Tigers put it all together in 2018 to erase those playoff struggles. Always one of the most feared lineups in the state, the Taunton offense exploded for 44 runs in six playoff games. The Tigers, under the guidance of legendary coach Dave Lewry, scored nine runs against Dartmouth and Bishop Feehan, six against Newton North, and 13 in the state final against previously unbeaten Wachusett.

The toughest, and arguably most memorable, game of the playoff run was the Div. 1 South final against KP. The Warriors won the league title and had also scored 21 runs in three games to get to the final. After rallying to tie the game in the fifth, Taunton scored the game-winning runs on a single down the third base line by surprise starter and No. 9 hitter Rylie Murphy. KP got the tying runs on base in the seventh, but freshman starter Kelsey White escaped the jam and the Tigers went on to win their first state title in 11 years in blowout fashion (13-2 over Wachusett).

2016 King Philip Softball

Record: 24-4
Division 1 State Champions

There is nothing unusual about King Philip softball going on a playoff run, after all this was the program’s third state title in seven seasons, but the Warriors entered the season as the No. 7 seed in Div. 1 South, had lost the Kelley-Rex title to Taunton, ending a run of nine straight league championships, and lost four times during the regular season. Once the playoffs began, the Warriors flipped a switch. Thanks in large part to a dominant run of games from starting pitcher Kali Magane, KP allowed only two runs in six playoff games and outscored opponents 29-2.

The Warriors beat Taunton in the quarterfinal, winning the season series against the Tigers, and avenged an extra-inning loss from 2015 by beating defending South champion Silver Lake in the final. Magane saved the best for last, striking out 13 and tossing a one-hit shutout in the state title game against Doherty. Magane finished the season by striking out the side in the seventh and closing out an unlikely championship campaign.

Lynn English Ends Mansfield’s Playoff Run In State Semis

Mansfield boys basketball Sam Stevens
Mansfield senior Sam Stevens shoots over the defense of Lynn English’s Jack Rodriguez in the first half at the TD Garden. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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BOSTON, Mass. – It’s the patented fourth-quarter run that the Mansfield boys basketball team has put so many opponents away with.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Mansfield Rolls Past Brockton To Earn D1 South Title

Mansfield boys basketball Matt Boen
Mansfield junior Matt Boen goes up for a layup in the second half against Brockton in the D1 South Sectional Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Dominant Third Quarter Lifts Mansfield Past Needham

Mansfield Boys Basketball
Sam Stevens scored a game-high 20 points, as Mansfield rolled to a 73-52 win against Needham in the D1 South semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield Rallies To Edge Attleboro In Quarterfinals

Mansfield boys basketball TJ Guy
Mansfield junior TJ Guy (4) goes up for a shot against Attleboro’s Qualeem Charles and Bryant Ciccio in the third quarter. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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MANSFIELD, Mass. – Just minutes after a thrilling high school game between Hockomock League rivals Mansfield and Attleboro, Hornet head coach Mike Vaughan summed it up perfectly.

“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.

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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.

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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 Downs Needham to Reach Roundball Final

Mansfield Boys Basketball
Sam Stevens knocks down a big fourth quarter three-pointer in front of the Mansfield fans, as the Hornets took down D1 South contender Needham in the semifinal of the Roundball Classic. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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Hornets Hang On To Split Season Series With Panthers

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Mansfield junior Matt Boen goes up for a layup in the second half against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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MANSFIELD, Mass. – After reviewing film of the first meeting between the Franklin and Mansfield boys basketball teams, Hornet head coach Mike Vaughan came away with two main focus points for the second installment.

“Our whole game plan was to run them off the three-point line and no easy layups, and offensively, pound the ball into the post and play out of it,” Vaughan said.

It turned out to be the recipe for success for the Hornets, using the size of forwards TJ Guy (6’5) and Sam Stevens (6’4) to their advantage in the paint while halving the Panthers’ success rate from three-point range, resulting in a 56-48 win to split the season series.

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The first time out, a meeting at Franklin High in early January, the Panthers shot 47% from three-point range and its defense held the Hornets under 50 points, the lone time that’s happened this season.

This time around, Mansfield’s strong closeouts saw the Panthers shoot 27% from the three-point line. And a heavy emphasis in paint touches resulted in a 50% success rate from two-point range plus more free throw attempts, where the Hornets went 13-for-17.

“Once every 15 years we throw the ball in the post.,” Vaughan joked of how rare it is the Hornets make that the focus of their offense. “Our style of play can sometimes hold a player back and I thought throughout the year there’s been times we’ve held TJ back in terms of what he can be good at. Watching film, I saw an opportunity with his size against whoever is going to play him. And in the first game, [Jack] Rudolph did such a good job covering Sammy the first time on the perimeter, so if we got that again, we got [Stevens] inside the post and make them defend inside and out. That created some opportunities for us.

“They are so good defensively, you have to do something to break them down a little bit and I thought that was our best chance.”

The Panthers had the most success from three-point range in the opening quarter of the game with Steven Karayan, Chris Edgehill, and Thomas Gasbarro connecting from downtown, but the Hornets stuck with the game plan and the visitors made just four more threes the rest of the way.

One of those threes came on the first possession of the second quarter when Andrew Byfield (seven points, six rebounds) hit from deep and followed with an easy layup for a 20-15 lead. But the Hornets hit on a 10-0 run over the final 4:30 of the half, a surge the put the hosts ahead for good.

Guy (13 points, 11 rebounds) converted an offensive rebound, Jason See knocked down a three off an offensive board from Guy, who then scored with a nice move in the post for a 22-20 lead.

“They know what we do, we know what they do, what they’re trying to do,” Guy said of the familiarity. “They try to get a lot of shots up, we were trying to get in the post but we both defend each other really well. We felt like we had mismatches inside, and these are the games I like, physical type games. They really shut us down the first game so we knew we had to come in, lock in and get this ‘W.’”

The Panthers took a three before the buzzer and the Hornets cashed in as junior Matt Boen (15 points, five steals, four rebounds) hauled in the defensive rebound with five seconds left, sprinted to half court and unleashed a buzzer-beater that put the Hornets ahead 25-20 at the break.

“After we played them last time where it felt like they bombed threes and everything went in, our focus was to run them off the three-point line and don’t let them blow by for uncontested layups,” Vaughan said. “Make them make plays in the intermediate part of the game and I thought we did a really good job of doing that.

“We kind of settled in, they missed a couple [after making their first couple of shots], I thought we did a really good job of minimizing their opportunities over the final 28 minutes of the game and I thought that was the difference. I thought we did a good job switching everything, keeping everyone in check. We didn’t let them get into a rhythm and everything was contested and difficult.”

Mansfield put Stevens (17 points, seven rebounds) on the block on its first possession of the second half and he scored on a feed from Boen. After Declan Walmsley (17 points) answered with a triple for the Panthers, the Hornets went on a 13-3 surge.

Boen had a steal and layup, Brendan Foley drained a three off the bench, Boen converted a traditional three-point play, Guy scored from the block, and Drew Rooney picked up a steal and went in for a layup to put the hosts ahead 40-26.

“Having a different look, and I really think getting the ball into the post was definitely a different look,” Vaughan said. “And we even had a zone ready, we just didn’t feel there was a time to use it. I know those two things would have thrown a wrinkle because those are two things we don’t typically do that we had prepared, that we thought could give us an advantage from the first time we played them.

“We practiced it for two days, we practice it in individual drills so it’s not foreign throwing the ball in the post but we really stressed it the last couple of days. We haven’t really had them sit down there before but if we were going to gain an advantage today, we felt like it was there. And I even think we had some opportunities to get out of it but we weren’t completely used to being in it.”










Franklin senior Brayden Sullivan finished through contact, Gasbarro hit a free throw, and Walmsley drained a late three for a late surge that put the Panthers in striking distance down 40-32 after three quarters.

“We talked about being something they’d probably do, and for the most part, I didn’t think we did a terrible job, I don’t know what they shot in there,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely on Mansfield’s emphasis on the post game. “They have some big bodies, [Guy] is a Division 1 football player and we don’t have that kind of guy to match up. We did our best, I thought at times we did a good job. Just a couple plays down the stretch here and there, we just didn’t close the deal on some of the defensive possessions and they’ll make you play.”

Stevens hit his lone three of the game and one of Mansfield’s five total triples to open the final quarter and Cincere Gill cut to the basket hard, taking a pass from Stevens as he posted up, for an easy two. Two possessions later, Guy once again put his back to the basket and converted on a feed from Boen for a 47-34 lead with 6:25 to play.

But Franklin refused to go away with Edgehill finding Walmsley on the break for two, Byfield making a nice extra pass for a three from Walmsley, and then four straight free throws from Rudolph made it 49-43.

Rudolph made a nice play for a steal after a Hornet entry pass to the post and sprinted down the court before dishing it off for Byfield for an easy two. Stevens answered with a tough take through traffic but Sullivan scored quickly down the other end as the Panthers got within four, 51-47.

Franklin got three straight stops and Edgehill hit a free throw to make it a one-possession game with two minutes to go. Mansfield missed a three and came up empty on the offensive rebound before the teams traded quick turnovers, and Franklin had the tying three go just long.

Boen hit two free throws with a minute to go to extend the lead back to 53-48 and the Hornets went on to get stops and hit their free throws to earn the 56-48 win.

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“They were doing a good job switching a lot of screens and gave us trouble for a significant portion of that second quarter and some of the second half,” Neely said. “I thought when we moved the ball, did what we talked about doing, and got some cutters, I thought we opened them up a little bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t think we had enough patience on the offensive end, we started forcing some stuff early.

“I’m proud of the guys, no question. They aren’t going to give up, they are a great group of kids that have worked hard all season. They aren’t going to roll over and get blown out so I’m proud of them.”

Mansfield boys basketball (12-1 Hockomock, 16-2 overall) holds a one-game lead over Attleboro in the division race with three games to go, starting with a visit from Oliver Ames on Friday. Franklin (10-3, 13-3) falls two games back and will host Taunton on Friday.

Mansfield Shoots Into First With Win at Attleboro

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Matt Boen scored a game-high 25 points to power Mansfield to a win at Attleboro and back into first place in the Kelley-Rex division. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Sam Stevens swung the ball around to the corner, making the extra pass to get an open look, and Andrew Rooney lined up a three-pointer. The shot hit the front of the rim, the back of the rim, bounced high up into the air, and then scraped the rim on its way through the net.

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It was a moment that epitomized Mansfield’s 77-65 victory at Attleboro. The Hornets hit seven three-pointers in the second half (10 for the game) and seemed to knock down every open look and had a response every time that the Bombardiers threatened to get back into the game.

“Rooney’s shot cost me about five years off my life just hitting the rim 17 times,” joked Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan, whose team moved a game ahead of the Bombardiers in the Kelley-Rex standings. “We made the ones we had to. We really stepped up, Sammy did a good job, Matty hit a couple of tough ones, and then Rooney’s ultimately put the icing on the cake.”

Attleboro coach Mark Houle added, “We had some really good opportunities to play good defense but then they would hit a tough shot. Those are backbreakers, those are momentum busters, and they did it a few times tonight. I like our toughness, but at the end of the day they played better for 32 minutes.”

The Bombardiers, spurred on by a loud home crowd, got off to the perfect start, riding their two senior stars. Bryant Ciccio scored 10 of his 23 points in the opening quarter and Qualeem Charles (11 rebounds) scored eight of his team-high 24. Attleboro led 11-3 and 20-12, but Rooney (11 points) beat the buzzer at the end of the first to cut the lead to 20-15 after one.

After a dominant start to the game, Charles picked up his second foul of the half on a reach-in. Once the Attleboro center went to the bench, Mansfield was able to take advantage and eventually extended its run to 18-5 to grab the lead for good.

Matt Boen caught fire in the second and spearheaded the Mansfield attack. He started the second with a three. Following baskets by Brendan Foley and TJ Guy (13 points), Boen stole a pass at midcourt and raced in for a layup and then he grabbed a defensive rebound and beat the Bombardiers up the court for another layup.

“When we become a perimeter team,” Vaughan explained, “we struggle to grind out possessions, but when Matty is getting to the rim it opens up TJ a little bit and Chris Hill can get more comfortable inside and then it opens up Sammy a little bit more, it allows us be way more efficient.”

Nick McMahon kept Attleboro close in the second. He drilled a three to make it 26-25 and then he hit a wild, shot clock-beating jumper while being fouled to pull the Bombardier within 30-28 at the break. After his big first quarter, Ciccio was held to just two points in the second.

“They’re a very good defensive team,” Houle said. “Whether they’re face-guarding him or playing team defense, they knew where Bryant was at all times on the court.”

Vaughan noted, “After about the six-minute mark of the first quarter, I thought we played with great energy. I thought we did a lot of the things we practiced for the last two days to prepare for this team and having two special players like Q and Ciccio to go against. I thought after that point Ciccio really had to earn everything he got.”

Boen started the third with a triple, as Mansfield went on an 8-2 run and started to get some separation. Guy scored on a feed from Boen and then Stevens (16 points) hit a three on an assist from Cincere Gill (five assists).

Attleboro needed a spark and turned to Charles in the post. He scored nine points in the third quarter, twice finishing at the rim on assists from McMahon. Ciccio continued to find it difficult to get going against the Mansfield defense, but Justin Daniels stepped up off the bench with eight points, including a pair of threes, to keep Attleboro within three points.

Boen (10 points in the third) stretched the lead to six with a late three-pointer and then Mansfield started the fourth with eight straight points over the first 90 seconds of the quarter and pushed the lead to 14.

Stevens knocked down a jumper, Boen turned a steal into a layup and the foul, and then Guy snagged an offensive rebound and was able to score through contact. Charles answered with an and-one on the other end, but again Stevens had the response with a straightaway three.

Attleboro cut the lead to as little as nine points, 66-57, after a basket by Charles, who scored seven in the quarter. Ciccio also found some openings again, scoring nine points in the fourth. But, the Hornets just made too many shots for the Bombardiers to overcome. Gill drilled a three, then Rooney followed with his three that bounced around for ages and essentially sealed the win by putting the Hornets back up by 13.

“We want to be playing our best in February and March,” said Vaughan. “Tomorrow’s February and we’re playing pretty good. Are we playing where we need to be to make a run in March? Absolutely not. But we’re getting there.”

Mansfield (15-2, 11-1) will have another first-place showdown on Tuesday when the Hornets try to split the season series with Franklin. Attleboro (12-3, 10-2) will try to keep the pressure on the league leaders when it hosts Oliver Ames.

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Second Half Turnaround Sends Mansfield Past Foxboro

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Mansfield junior Matt Boen drives to the basket in the second half against Foxboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FOXBORO, Mass. – What’s the best remedy for a struggling offense?

For the Mansfield boys basketball team, it started with a ramped-up defensive effort.

The Hornets, limited to less than 20 points in the first half with 10 turnovers, turned the tables on host Foxboro by using a much improved defensive effort to kick start its offense, and that combination resulted in a 50-42 victory.

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It was Foxboro’s defense that stole the show for the opening 16 minutes, frustrating a dangerous Hornet offense. The Warriors allowed just three field goals made in the second quarter and had one stretch where they forced the Hornets into five straight turnovers.

But it was truly a tale of two halves as Mansfield controlled for the final 16 minutes. While its turnover woes didn’t disappear right away, with two early second half turnovers, the Hornets’ defense kept Foxboro scoreless for nearly four minutes and without its second make of the period until the final seconds.

That defense led to some easy buckets to kickstart the visitors on the offensive end. An 8-0 run to start the third tied the game and an 8-2 run to close the third put the visitors in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.

“We were significantly more locked defensively in the second half,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “To hold them to a five-point third quarter obviously made a huge difference for us, that probably made the difference in the game. The fourth quarter was a little more even but if we don’t have that third quarter where we come out locked in. At half we said, ‘they’re good defensively and we’re going to grind out our possessions. We’ll get a basket or two throughout a good possession. But we need to defend better.’”

“With the exception of [Kevin] Gallagher hitting two 75-footers from the parking lot, I thought we did a really good job defensively. You take those six points out of the fourth quarter and now you have two back-to-back quarters where we defended well. I thought we did a better job offensively in the second half being patient, setting better screens, getting more people touching the ball and cutting, and being efficient with the ball, as opposed to standing around and watching one guy go against five good defenders.”

The Hornet defense doubled its turnover total in the second half, forcing 11 takeaways in the second half. Foxboro shot nearly 50% from the floor in the opening half but hit at just over a 30% success rate against Mansfield’s active defense in the second half.

Meanwhile, Mansfield cut its turnover number almost in half and shot almost 60% from the field in the second half.

“I thought our defensive intensity and focus was outstanding in the first half,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “We really made things difficult for them and we were really locked in on the defensive end. I think the biggest key offensively in the first half is that we did a great job of taking care of the ball and limiting our turnovers. I thought we played with a lot of poise and it was a good tempo.

“But in the second half, unfortunately, they knocked down some threes and offensively, we got a little more stagnant and got away from what made us successful in the first half, we had some costly turnovers that gave them easy scoring opportunities. Credit Mansfield, obviously they turned their defensive intensity up to another level in the second half and Mike made some really good adjustments to disrupt us, so Mansfield deserves a lot of the credit.”

Senior Sam Stevens (14 points, four rebounds) and junior Matt Boen (13 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals) knocked down early threes, and Boen hauled in a defensive rebound and found classmate TJ Guy running ahead for an easy two as Mansfield opened the second half on an 8-0 run to knot the score at 27-27.

Foxboro countered with a triple from Will Morrison to stay ahead but Drew Rooney came up with a steal for an easy two, Boen converted a pull jump on the right wing, and then hit a deep contested three. A free throw from Cincere Gill (four points, three assists) helped Mansfield take a 35-32 lead into the fourth quarter.

Gallagher’s deep three kept the Warriors within two but Guy finished after a nice up-fake and the Mansfield defense kept Foxboro at bay for nearly four minutes.

Guy scored in low again, the Mansfield defense forced a turnover with a five-second violation, and Gill drained a three late in the shot clock for a 44-35 lead with 2:42 to play.

“I think [Cincere] gave us a boost,” Vaughan said. “We made the adjustment with Drew to shadow [Brandon] Borde a little bit more which minimized his opportunities. I thought between the two of them, and just coming out of the locker room with a new mindset. Cincere was definitely a spark coming off the bench and he hit the big three too that helped create some separation. It was really a great possession to get an open look for him.”

Stevens put a cherry on top of the comeback with a contested corner three to put the Hornets up 47-37 with two minutes to play.

“I think anytime you can defend people to a satisfactory level, your offense is a heck of a lot easier,” Vaughan said. “You’re not always going down on the defensive end looking at the scoreboard and coming back on the offensive end thinking every basket matters so much. Now you have a little bit of freedom on the offensive end to take some chances, take some risks.”

Borde (15 points, six rebounds, five assists) was a big reason for Foxboro’s strong start to the game. While Stevens, Jason See, Rooney, and Guy each scored for the visitors, Borde scored Foxboro’s first nine points. Ryan Hughes scored to tie the game and Gallagher came off the bench to sink a late triple to give Foxboro a 14-11 lead after one.

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Boen nailed a three to open the second quarter but two more from Borde and another three from Gallagher put the hosts ahead 19-14. The lead hovered at five points for a good stretch before senior Dylan Barreira hit an open three and Gallagher hit his third of the opening half to put Foxboro up 27-19 at half. Freshman Chris Hill’s three-pointer was Mansfield’s lone basket of the final five minutes of the second quarter.

“Mansfield is a great team, they are one of the best programs in the state and they don’t lose very often for a reason,” Gibbs said. “They are very, very good at what they do. We wanted to take the game on quarter at a time…you know a team like that has runs in them. You’re not going to beat Mansfield with one big knockout punch, one big home run play. It’s going to be a 32-minute grind, and in the end, they were able to make a few more plays then we did and they deserve credit for that.”

Mansfield boys basketball (3-1 Hockomock, 5-2 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it continues its road trip with a visit to Milford. Foxboro (1-3, 3-4) will try to snap its current skid when it hosts Oliver Ames on Wednesday.

Franklin Picks Up Dominant Win Over Rival Mansfield

Franklin boys basketball Declan Walmsley
Franklin junior Declan Walmsley dribbles past Mansfield’s Sam Stevens in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin’s offense was red-hot to start the game, its defense was on point from start to finish, and the Panthers rolled to a big win over rival Mansfield.

The Panthers sank their first five three-point attempts, forced the visiting Hornets into 18 turnovers and limited Mansfield to under 30% shooting from the field to pick up a 63-45 win, snapping a four-game skid to their rivals.

“[Mansfield] is arguably one of the best teams in the state every year so we know it’s going to be a ridiculous challenge every time we play them,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We were excited for it, we wanted to play a really good team. Being home obviously helps. Mansfield presents a huge challenge and I thought we were up for it tonight.

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“We know each other so well so familiarity is pretty big, I thought our scout was pretty solid and I thought our guys did a job of really executing, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I thought we limited their best guys to some really tough shots and that’s what we wanted to do. We knew what their strengths were and we wanted to do our best to take those guys away. It’s not something you can usually do with [Sam] Stevens and [Matt] Boen especially, and [TJ] Guy is such a presence in there. And down the line, their guys know how to play off of them. I thought our guys did a good job tonight against their offense.”

After an innocuous start from both sides that had the hosts ahead 8-6, the Panthers caught fire from deep. Senior Brayden Sullivan (seven points, seven rebounds) his first triple of the game and senior Steven Karayan followed with one of his own on the next possession. Chris Edgehill (16 points, five rebounds, five assists) battled through contact for two and on the next possession, senior Jack Rudolph (13 points) connected from deep for the second time in the frame for a 19-6 advantage.

Meanwhile, the Hornets struggled to get much going on the offensive end with just one make on seven three-point attempts to go along with five turnovers.

While Mansfield was able to keep pace in the second quarter, it was never able to orchestrate a run to cut into the deficit. An early three from Makhi Baskin was canceled out by five straight points from Declan Walmsley, who scored a career-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds.

Guy (11 points, nine rebounds, four assists) completed a traditional three-point play on one end but Edgehill did the same for Franklin on the ensuing possession. Edgehill drained a triple after Boen (10 points) drove to the basket for two, and even after freshman Chris Hill drained a late three to make it a single-digit deficit, Edgehill scored at the rim to make it 36-25 at the break.

“[Franklin] showed up with a purpose and wanted to prove something,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “And we showed up like we’ve been here before. It wasn’t about doing the little things, it wasn’t about micromanaging ourselves…we felt that since we wore the jersey, we’re Mansfield and we’re going to win. You can’t do that…Franklin is too good talent-wise, they are good offensively, they are one of the best if not the best team defensively in the league.

“I’m not sure there was one aspect of the game we did well. We didn’t shoot well, we had 18 turnovers, we didn’t dominate the glass, we were sluggish on our rotations…I can’t name one thing that I thought we could take a positive from other than we have more games to play.”

The third quarter played out similarly to the second with Franklin going toe-to-toe with the Hornets, coming up with counter punch after counter punch anytime Mansfield made a move.

Senior Drew Rooney drilled a three a minute into the third and the Hornets got the first stop on defense but Edgehill cashed in on an offensive board. Sam Stevens scored and the Hornets came up with a steal on the defensive end but gave it right back on a turnover. Sullivan cashed in with two to keep the advantage in double figures.

After Boen sank a pair of free throws, Rudolph came back down and finished through contact for a three-point play, hit a pair of free throws after a technical foul on Mansfield, and Walmsley scored underneath as the Panthers hit a quick 7-0 run that seemed to put the game out of reach.

“They are so disciplined and good at what they do [defensively],” Vaughan said. “It’s kind of like us on offense where we tend to be very disciplined, very good, and that’s how they are on defense. They take things away…kind of like the Belichick of high school basketball where they take away the best players and take away what you do best. Hats off to CJ for them to be able to do that. They are athletic, they are quick, not having a big actually helps them against us.”

After hitting seven threes in the first half, the Panthers attacked the basket with more frequency in the third quarter. Despite not hitting from distance, Franklin still scored 17 points in the quarter and extended their lead by five points.

“We were making a lot of shots but we knew it was bound to come back to normal [percentages],” Neely said. “We knew we just couldn’t settle for that first look, we had to make them work on every single possession. I thought, to their credit, they made an adjustment and got out on the shooters a little more so you have to take what they give you and I thought we did a good job.”

Mansfield added four more points in the quarter, but all from the free throw line. The Hornets then went scoreless for the first 6:12 of the fourth quarter. In that span, Franklin had an 8-0 burst that featured free throws from Edgehill, Matt Lazarek, and five points from Walmsley.

“By far the best game of his career, no question about it,” Neely said of Walmsley. “We know he can shoot it but he’s really been able to bother guys defensively, has a lot of length and athleticism. He can block some shots, slides his feet pretty well, and can bother people with his close out because his arms are so long.”

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Mansfield snapped its scoreless stretch as Cincere Gill drove to the basket for two and followed with back-to-back three-pointers in the final two minutes.

“When you get to a situation where you aren’t scoring, your better players are starting to force action,” Vaughan said. “And then you’re getting outside of what you do, and then it’s a snowball effect and gets worse and worse. And a lot of that goes to how Franklin defended. We came out of character, I didn’t like our mindset.”

Franklin boys basketball (4-0 Hockomock, 7-0 overall) moves atop the Kelley-Rex division with the win and will visit Stoughton on Tuesday. Mansfield (2-1, 4-2) is back in action on Monday when it visits Foxboro.