Mansfield Neutralizes Nashoba To Earn Spot In D2 Final
WORCESTER, Mass. — The stage keeps getting bigger and the Mansfield boys basketball team keeps delivering.
Junior Eddie McCoy poured in a game-high 28 points as he continued a terrific postseason run and the Hornets put together another defensive masterpiece to pass their latest test with flying colors, a convincing 65-45 win over #6 Nashoba in the state semifinals.
The win sets up #2 Mansfield with its biggest and final test of the season: a date with top-seeded Malden Catholic in the Division 2 State Championship.
“It speaks volumes about where we are at,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “We were saying at the end of the game, this is just how Mansfield does things. For years we’ve used that ‘next up’ mentality, and we have guys playing close to 30 minutes trying to fill the voids with two guys out. Defensively we were awesome all night and offensively we found our opportunities to be effective, took care of the basketball, and did everything I thought we needed to do to win the game. We kind of just kept grinding throughout games.”
McCoy has been a star for far in the playoffs and wasted little time providing a spark on the offensive end for the Hornets. He knocked down an early triple and scored nine points in the opening quarter as the Hornets built a 17-8 lead. He added seven more in the second quarter while senior JT Veiking (16 points, six rebounds, four blocks) had eight points by halftime to help secure a 29-22 lead at the break.
“Not having Trevor [Foley] and Davon [Sanders] hurts us but I’m proud of this group for how we’ve handled losing them and how we’ve kept going,” McCoy said. “I think with Trevor being out, I feel like I’ve had to step up and be more of ‘the guy’ kind of role. I’m feeling confident out there.
“Now we have one more.”
The Hornets only forced five turnovers in the first half but played tough on-ball defense and held the Wolves to under 28% shooting from the field, including just two points off nine offensive rebounds.
“I thought defensively we were the one team that could match up with them,” Vaughan said. “We don’t get a lot of credit for our size because we play a lot of perimeter basketball but JT is 6’7, Chris is 6’5, and Eddie is 6’3 or 6’4. I thought all of our matchups worked and I thought if we could rebound the ball, which they were really good at, and we did that really well early. We got better at that in the third quarter and that helped us get that separation.”
Mansfield really created separation in the third quarter as it limited the Wolves to just 10 points — holding Nashoba to just two offensive boards while coming up with three forced turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Hornets’ offense just continued to break down Nashoba’s defense, both its man-to-man and 3-2 zone. Multiple passes, constant movement off the ball, backdoor cuts, and effective shooting — all key traits to Mansfield’s offense — kept Nashoba guessing.
Senior Chris Hill (10 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals) asserted himself right away, taking the first three shots of the half (after just two in the first half) and making back-to-back layups. Nashoba answered with two buckets of its own, but over the final four minutes of the quarter. Mansfield outscored the Wolves 16-6 to create its largest lead of the game.
Veiking had a traditional three-point play to start the run, and McCoy had consecutive strong takes to the rim before sinking a pair of free throws. Junior Brandon Jackman hooked up with Hill (who had eight of his 10 points in the quarter) and then Hill set up Veiking for a triple. A late layup from Hill capped the run and Mansfield staked a 49-32 lead going into the fourth.
“When we came out of the locker room, you make eye contact with a senior [Hill] that’s played with you so long…sometimes you don’t have to say anything, they just know,” Vaughan said of Hill’s big third period. “We needed a second or a third guy, we knew they’d try to take some stuff away with Eddie and that’s when Chris asserted himself which I thought were three critical possessions coming out of the half.”
McCoy hit three free throws in the first couple of minutes of the fourth and Caden Colby (five points, three rebounds) added two of his own from the line. McCoy read a Nashoba pass perfectly, picked it off, and went in for the layup as Mansfield’s lead inflated to 56-38 with just under five minutes to go.
“Newton North coach Paul Connolly once said to me about the playoffs that you need a couple of things: you need to get lucky, have talent, and then you need a guy that comes out and plays at a different level,” Vaughan said. “Eddie’s been showing little glimpses all year but he’s taking over games and doing it in the flow. He’s not forcing action, he’s not trying to do it all, he’s allowing his teammates to contribute. He’s stepped in and made big plays over and over the last couple of weeks.”
Nashoba had five straight points to get the deficit down to 16 points (56-40) but that would be the closest they’d get the rest of the way. Sophomore Nate Creedon had success at the line to keep the Hornets ahead, Veiking tacked on one final bucket, and freshman Gabe McIntyre capped the scoring with a free throw.
Mansfield boys basketball (25-2) will finish its season against the top-seeded Lancers of Malden Catholic (22-2), who is looking for its second straight state title. The game is currently scheduled for Friday at 5:30 at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
Quick Start, Strong Finish Paces Canton Past Nashoba
CANTON, Mass. — Buoyed by a blistering start, a strong defensive effort, and a key insurance goal midway through the second half, the Canton boys soccer team opened tournament play with a win over Nashoba.
The 14th-seeded Bulldogs, who made a historic run to the Division 2 final last year, started this year’s playoff run in grand fashion. Canton scored just over two minutes in and doubled its advantage 10 minutes later. Senior Jake McCabe sealed the deal with a goal in the 59th minute for a 3-1 win over the 19th-seeded Wolves.
Just moments after the opening whistle, Canton was on the attack. Just seconds into the third minute of the game, McCabe found space down the left flank and hit a low service that found its way to the back post. The clearance from the defender went back into the area where senior Drew Garrett took a touch to control and quickly deposited a shot from in close into the back of the net for an instant lead.
The Bulldogs kept the pressure on and had two good chances in the following minutes. A deflected pass slipped behind the defense that sophomore Owen Morrissey latched onto but the Nashoba keeper was well off his line and closed down the angle.
But six minutes later, Morrissey had his goal with a tap in just inches out from the goal line. A set play on a corner kick saw McCabe drive a low, hard service through the six-yard box and a dummy at the near post from Carson Eagles froze the defense. The ball made it all the way through to the far post where Morrissey tapped it in for a 2-0 lead in the 13th minute.
“It was a tremendous start,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “Drew [stepping up and getting that goal for us early really loosened up our team I think. And we put in a new corner kick at practice yesterday and we saw it was there, the boys executed it awesome to get the second one. That put us in a really good place against a really good team. I thought [Nashoba] was excellent, that was a great high school soccer game. Hats off to Nashoba, they were an exceptionally organized team.”
Meanwhile, in-between Canton’s strong start and insurance tally, the Bulldogs’ defense took center stage in withstanding high, and at times, constant pressure from the visitors.
Although Nashoba cashed in once in the 34th minute, the back four of Matt DeVito, Liam Shea, Ashton Cetoute, and Chris Hamilton — with the help of defensive midfielder Caden Mirliani — didn’t let the Wolves capitalize on that momentum, and denied the visitors time and time again in the second half.
Nashoba took control of the game for the final 15 minutes of the first half. Constant and consistent long balls into the area had to be dealt with by Shea and Cetoute, and junior goalie Nick Ruggeri was up to the task on at least a half dozen good Nashoba chances in the first half.
The visitors cut the deficit in half in the 34th minute after a corner kick went uncleared and Lucas Messier was first to pounce on the loose ball in a scrum in front.
“We were fortunate to get into halftime at 2-1, they were all over us late in the first half,” Erickson said.”Nicky made some great saves for us late in the half. But I thought our second half was really convincing. They were on the ball a ton but they were going to be, they are very organized and a talented group. I just thought we made things difficult for them, and in doing that, we’re pretty dangerous on the counter, especially with Jake.”
The Wolves came out of halftime with a lot of energy and again launched balls forward to put the Canton defense under pressure. But it seemed as though each time the visitors were denied by Canton’s back line, the balance in the game evened out again.
Nashoba earned a throw in deep in the attacking third but it was Eagles that was able to get the first touch to the bouncing ball, deflecting it around a Nashoba player. He then tracked it down, won the battle, quickly looked up the field, and launched a ball into space.
McCabe tracked the ball down and quickly went forward. He went right at the defender, faked a shot to cut past the last man, and rifled a left-footed blast past the keeper to make it 3-1 in the 59th minute.
“They came out on the front foot in the second half but I just thought out back four, the whole bend don’t break, kind of like the Patriots giving up field goals and not touchdowns, it was a little like that,” Erickson said. “We weren’t getting the ball back quickly but we didn’t give them much. We gave them very little in the second half because our backs were really solid.
“When you play a team like North Attleboro, they have a lot of guys behind the ball and can be hard to score against. [Nashoba] was an attacking team that can be very dangerous but leaving that space for Jake, that’s something teams have to respect. And when you leave it, he can make you pay.”
After the insurance goal, Canton once again found itself with control of the game and the Wolves were unable to really test Ruggeri over the final 20 minutes.
Canton boys soccer (9-6-4) advances to the Round of 16 and will play the winner of #3 Bedford and #30 Silver Lake, who play on Monday.