Hornets Rally In Final Minutes to Escape With Victory

Mansfield girls basketball
Mansfield senior Mady Bendanillo (11) scored seven of her game-high 18 points in the final four minutes to bring the Hornets back from seven points down to pull out a 45-41 win against Whitman-Hanson in the opening round of the playoffs. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was one of those nights when the ball just wouldn’t go through the hoop. Right from the start, with several missed layups in the opening quarter, it was clear that offense was going to be a struggle for Mansfield in its Div. 1 South opening round game against Whitman-Hanson at the Albertini Gym.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Panthers led 41-34 midway through the fourth quarter and it seemed like Mansfield’s run of four straight semifinal appearances was going to come to an abrupt end, but then senior guard Mady Bendanillo knocked down a three from the left wing and there was a sudden burst of energy in what had been a largely quiet gym for this early evening tip.

Erin Daniel missed a three, but stepped in to grab the offensive rebound and finish to cut the Whitman-Hanson lead to just two. On the next defensive possession, Kara Bendanillo grabbed a defensive rebound and threw an outlet to Emily Vigeant for a breakaway layup that tied the game at 41-41 with 3:12 on the clock.

The game stayed deadlocked until the final minute. Mady Bendanillo (game-high 18 points) knocked down the front end of a one-and-one to put the Hornets ahead for the first time since early in the third quarter and she proceeded to knock down three more at the line while the Mansfield defense clamped down to escape with a 45-41 win.

“I don’t really know what the spark was but once we got going everyone fed off it and we got some fast break points,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “Mady started taking over off the dribble. We just kind of hung in there, hung in there, and hung in there and were finally able to get some stops and rebounds.”

When asked what turned the game around for the Hornets, Bendanillo replied, “I don’t even know. We thought Erin had the and-one on the rebound and then Emily got free for a wide open layup and our defense came alive and I don’t think they scored again.”

The win was sealed at the line, but early in the game it was only free throws that were keeping the Hornets afloat. There were only four made field goals combined between the two teams in the first quarter, but Mansfield’s aggressiveness going to basket was rewarded with 10 trips to the line. The Hornets made seven, including 3-of-4 from Sydney Mulkern (her only points of the game), to take an 11-8 lead after one.

Whitman-Hanson started to find an offensive rhythm in the second, scoring 17 points and knocking down three from beyond the arc, including a pair from Anna O’Neill off the bench. Steph Kemp scored her lone points on a drive and Mady Bendanillo drilled her first three of the night, but an 8-2 run to close out the half put the Panthers ahead 25-22 at the break.

“We defended well but just didn’t rebound well and gave them too many second chances,” Redding said. “They were aggressive defensively and we never got into a rhythm on offense.”

Mansfield came out of the locker room with urgency and four straight points by Maggie Danehy (15 points) put the Hornets ahead 26-25. It would be their last lead until the final minute of the game.

The Panthers again found the range from deep, with Olivia Martin nailing a pair and Brittany Gacica (13 points) hitting one as well. Mady Bendanillo answered with one of her own, off an assist by her sister, but it was the visitors that headed into the fourth quarter with momentum and a 37-32 lead.

Bendanillo got a steal and an assist on a layup for Danehy that gave the Hornets a spark to start the final quarter but again the offense stalled and the Panthers stayed in control. Mansfield’s defense (and its ability to rebound) improved in the fourth quarter, precipitated by a switch from a trapping zone to man-to-man. Mansfield held the Panthers to just four points in the fourth.

“At least man-to-man you know who you’re boxing out and we did a good job of closing out on people and we got Maggie on [Gacicia], so she wasn’t getting any rebounds and they weren’t getting the second chance points they did in the first half.

“I think a lot of the seniors stepped up,” Bendanillo said. “We definitely didn’t want this to be our last game. We wanted to face Braintree again. They’ve crushed us twice, so we want another shot at them.”

In the end, Mansfield (15-5) had just enough to get through the first round and will make its sixth straight trip to the quarterfinal. The Hornets will square off with third-seed Braintree on Friday night. It is the third straight year that these two teams will meet, having played in the South semifinal last season and the South final in 2017, both won by the Wamps.

“They were outplaying us and we kind of stole this one, but we’ll take it and move on,” Redding admitted.

He added, “This is tournament basketball. It’s just survive and move on, but we’ve got to play a lot better Friday night up at Braintree. We better find a way to score some points. It’s fun. We get another chance to knock them off.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Oliver Ames Falls To Hot Shooting Whitman-Hanson

Oliver Ames boys basketball
Oliver Ames’ Carter Evin posts up against a Whitman-Hanson defender in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomocSports,com)
HANSON, Mass. – It didn’t matter if it was from deep, in the paint or at the free throw line: #3 Whitman-Hanson was impressive.

The Panthers shot nearly 70% from two-point range, connected on eight three pointers in the first half alone and connected on almost 80% of their free throws, taking a 79-66 win over #13 Oliver Ames.

It took just four minutes for the hosts to create a double-digit lead. Hitting three of their first five three pointer attempts and going a perfect 3/3 on takes to the basket, Whitman-Hanson was up 15-4 halfway through the opening quarter.

The closest Oliver Ames was able to get the rest of the way was six, at 30-24, with 3:45 left to play in the first half.

“They kind of took us out of something we’d hoped we would be able to do, something that we were doing down the stretch,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron of his defense. “Second half of the year we had fallen into that matchup and handed it pretty well…not so much tonight. We tried to withstand the barrage they had early. We were down 10 before we knew what hit us. We ended up staying in that 10-13 point range for an awful long time. We battled even for a good part of it but they had that early lead.”

After going down 10 at the end of the first quarter (23-13), Oliver Ames settled in some in the second quarter. A 7-3 run – helped along by a bucket from Dylan Mahoney (11 points, seven rebounds), a three from Nick Welch (16 points, seven assists), and a layup from Jack Spillane (12 points) – brought the Tigers within two possessions at the midway point of the second quarter.

But Whitman-Hanson responded with a three from Nikko Raftes (27 points) and a basket underneath from Jacob Hanson-Bartlett (11 points, 5 rebounds) to stretch the lead back to double figures. The Tigers finished the first half on a 5-0 run over the final minute – two free throws from Matt Muir (12 points) and a three from Welch – to stay within striking distance (38-31) at the break.

But a slow start to the second half quickly erased Oliver Ames’ chance to get close. A 6-0 run from Whitman-Hanson pushed the lead to 13 before Oliver Ames finally scored in the quarter. Welch hit a three just over two minutes in to make it a 10 point game – an advantage the Panthers held for the majority of the quarter.

It wasn’t until a wild final minute of the third quarter that the game became out of reach. Up 50-40, the Panthers managed an 8-0 run in 60 seconds to close the frame. A layup from Lucas Franklin (13 points), a jumper from Luke Tamulevich (21 points, eight rebounds), a bucket down low from Hanson-Bartlett and two free throws from Raftes made it 58-40 heading into the final quarter.

“We had to come out of ourselves a little bit, gamble a lot and foul and hope for the best,” Byron said. “And the best didn’t happen. They shot really well from the foul line, they never gave us a shot at getting it to six or seven. We could never quite get it there.”

The Tigers were forced into a full court approach. Already in the bonus, Oliver Ames attempted steals off the inbounds but often had to settle for fouls against the Panthers.

Whitman-Hanson didn’t blink – making 18 of their 24 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. The Panthers, who did have four turnovers in the final quarter, made 26/33 of their attempts from the charity stripe.

Throughout the season, Oliver Ames – as many teams do – thrived on small runs that can change the course of a game. They never got that run though, the best being either the 7-3 run to get within six in the second quarter or the 5-0 run to end the first half.

“That’s a credit to [Whitman-Hanson],” Byron said. “Their guard play is good. Lately, we’ve had pretty good success with what we do, with our matchups, to let Welch gamble a little bit and if you make a mistake he makes you play. He probably averaged five or six forced turnovers the second half of the season. But we didn’t get a ton of turnovers tonight because their guard play was solid.”

While Oliver Ames gambled and sent the Panthers to the line, their offense came to live. The Tigers scored 26 points in the final frame, with 19 coming in the final four minutes. Senior Carter Evin (seven rebounds) scored 10 of his 14 points in the final quarter.

“When we settle down and put the film online, I told the kids to watch the last four minutes of the game,” Byron said. “I was so proud of those four minutes as I was of anything we did all year. We did a lot too. There were people questioning if we could handle the jump to the big side [of the Hock]. And our non-league schedule became very difficult. People simply don’t want to play Hockomock teams. We’re a Division 2 team in name only, we’re looked at as D1 school because that’s what we play. We ended up with more Division 1 schools on the non-league schedule and the kids withstood the whole thing. They did a great job, it was a fun group that was very coachable.”

Oliver Ames boys basketball finishes the season 13-11.

Foxboro Goes Cold in Semifinal Defeat

Foxboro boys basketball
Jason Procaccini takes a jumper in front of the Foxboro cheering section in Wednesday night’s semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FALL RIVER, Mass. – Sometimes the reason behind a win or a loss is complicated. There are a number of factors that could turn the tide from one side to the other over the course of a basketball game .

Sometimes the explanation for the final result is much easier to deduce.

On Wednesday night in the Luke Urban Field House at Durfee High, Foxboro shot nearly 30 three-pointers in its Div. 2 South semifinal against No. 2 seed Whitman-Hanson but made only five. Meanwhile, the Panthers knocked down eight shots from beyond the arc in the first three quarters, six of them by senior Brenndan Rogers.

The Warriors cold shooting allowed Whitman-Hanson to pull out a 64-50 victory and advance to the South final to face Randolph.

“That’s basketball,” said Foxboro coach Jon Gibbs. “I thought we moved the ball well at times and got some good looks and they just didn’t fall.”

“It’s a tough pill to swallow because you hate to lose at the stage and see the season come to a close but the bottom line is they made more shots than we did.”

The Warriors jumped all over Whitman-Hanson in the first quarter. Foxboro’s press was forcing turnovers and leading to shots at the rim. Foxboro led 12-4 out of the gate behind four points from Jason Procaccini, a three from Mark Clagg and a three-point play from Alex DuBrow.

DuBrow then set up Andrew Block for a corner three that made it 15-7, one of his seven assist in the game, and scored on a layup that ended a 5-0 Panthers run. To start the second quarter, DuBrow (nine points) again found Block (six points) in the corner for a three that made it 20-12.

The Panthers turned the game on its head with an 18-4 run to close out the first half. That run continued in the third quarter and stretched to 30-8 after the Block three and gave Whitman-Hanson a 14-point cushion.

The main reason for the turnaround was Rogers, who scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second and buried four threes – many with a hand in his face.

“The No. 1 emphasis tonight was on defending the three-point line, that’s been Whitman-Hanson’s game all year,” said Gibbs.

“I don’t know how many he ended up with, six, seven threes but give credit to the kid Rogers for an incredible shooting night and he really put the team on his back.”

The Warriors struggled to stem the tide because their own shots were not falling, which meant that they could not get back into the full-court press that seemed to really bother the Panthers in the first quarter.

Gibbs explained, “We really wanted to pressure them and if you can’t score then you can’t press.”

He continued, “It kind of became a situation that snowballed a little bit because I thought our press was very effective early and then for long stretches we couldn’t get into it and they were able to come down and run their offense, which is exactly what we didn’t want them to be able to do.”

The Block three was the lone made field goal in the second quarter for Foxboro but going into halftime it was only a six-point deficit.

The third started with a lob from DuBrow to Procaccini (team-high 16 points) for a layup but that was answered by a layup on the other end from Cole Manning (13 points, 11 rebounds) and then a three by Rogers with Procaccini right in his face.Nick Smith (10 points) hit one from straightaway and Roger buried another and the game started slipping away from the Warriors.

Down by 19, Foxboro put together a quick 7-0 spurt that gave the Warriors fans life. Joe Morrison scored off a backdoor cut and was fouled. He missed the shot from the line but DuBrow grabbed the board and laid it in. Procaccini hit a three from straightaway and the lead was down to 12.

The momentum did not stay on Foxboro’s side although the Warriors continued to battle in the fourth quarter, twice cutting the deficit to single digits.

“I was so proud of the way we played in the fourth quarter, we didn’t quit,” said Gibbs.

One of the sparks that kept Foxboro going was Morrison. The sophomore guard scored six points in the fourth and at times looked like a one-man full-court press. He picked his man’s pocket and scored on a layup then scored again in transition and then again stole an inbounds pass for a layup that made the score 54-45.

“That’s obviously what he was out there for was to spearhead that press,” Gibbs said. “To see him do it on the biggest stage was so impressive and he was a big reason why we were able to hang around.”

The Panthers would not allow the Warriors to get too close, shooting 10-12 from the line down the stretch to seal the win.

Gibbs said, “We were down double digits the whole fourth quarter, our backs were against the wall and we could easily have quit, but we just kept fighting. I thought we showed a lot of heart and character.”

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.