WRENTHAM, Mass. -- Mansfield entered last night's showdown against Hockomock League Kelley-Rex Division rival King Philip with a clear focus -- control the boards, or else.
The Hornets did precisely that, executing coach Mike Vaughan's gameplan to near perfection. The margin wasn't huge but eight offensive boards helped a ton as No. 14 Mansfield held off the sixth-ranked Warriors for a 59-50 victory Tuesday night.
"We came into the game and said the one focus point was rebounding," said Vaughan. "If we didn’t rebound we were going to lose the game. I thought early on we set a huge tone that we were going to rebound the basketball."
That rebounding played a major role in the first half. Mansfield (2-0, 2-0 Hockomock Kelley-Rex) struggled to an 0-for-8 shooting start and watched the Warriors (1-1, 1-1) build a quick 6-0 lead before Greg Romanko knocked down a 3-pointer to get the Hornets on the board.
KP would extend its lead to 12-6 before the Hornets' board work sparked a 12-0 run, highlighted by three-pointers from senior captains Terence O'Mara (12 points, nine rebounds) and Brian Hershman (12 points, seven boards). The Warriors fought back, retaking the lead at 21-20 on a triple by Maryland-bound senior Jake Layman (game high 28 points, 10 rebounds). But sophomore Michael Hershman (nine points) answered with a three of his own, and Mansfield scored the final eight points of the half to go into the break with a 28-21 advantage.
With a talented player such as the 6-foot-8 Layman on the floor, Mansfield figured they were going to have to withstand a run at some point; and the future Terrapin found his stroke in the third. He scored all 14 of the Warriors' points in the frame, on a pair of three's, three more buckets and two free throws. The last foul shot cut the gap to one point (36-35) and the Hornets appeared to be in trouble.
"We just have to keep playing hard and sticking with our game," O'Mara said when asked about weathering the storm. "If that's what gets us in the lead then thats whats going to keep us there."
About dealing with Layman when he's in a rhythm, O'Mara added, "You just have to try and do the best you can. He's going to win some of the battles so you have to try to win the ones you can, instead of outplaying him."
Mansfield indeed held firm against what Vaughan referred to as "The Layman Show," regained its composure, and closed out the third with hoops by Brendan Hill and O'Mara sandwiched around a big 3-pointer from Brian Hershman.
"I thought in the third quarter when we got a little tired and a little foul trouble, I thought that they might get over the hump and we were going to have to fight from behind a little bit just because at that point it was the Layman show," admitted Vaughan. "We stuck with the gameplan and got a few defensive stops and that was the difference.
KP got no closer than four points from that point on as the Hornets hit most of their free throws and forced several bad possessions to walk away victorious.
"I think they outworked us. I think it's plain and simple," surmised KP coach Sean McInnis. "They just play good hardnosed basketball and they outworked us. Some of our bigs took a beating from little guards tonight. They did a nice job We had a little bit of a problem matching up here and there with them but I just think, give Mansfield all the credit on this one."