MANSFIELD, Mass. -- The Hockomock League just got very interesting..
No. 12 King Philip held No. 10 Mansfield to just 4 points in the fourth quarter to come away with a 46-35 victory. The win marks its eighth in the league, which is the same as Franklin and Mansfield atop the league's Kelley-Rex division.
Right from the start, it was evident that Mansfield (10-5) wanted to execute its offense from the outside-in. It had little interest trying to move the ball inside against the likes of Jake Layman and John Mullane.
Initially it worked, as the Hornets got out to an early first-quarter lead. Then, over the final two minutes of the quarter, the team’s shooting touch went cold, which allowed KP (12-3) to get back in the game. Mansfield was still able to end the first up 12-9.
“I think we were pressing in the first half, pressing to get some shots up,” said KP coach Sean McInnis. “We really missed some inside shots. We came out a little nervous. We wanted to bounce back so hard from that Franklin game (a 79-66 Tuesday loss) that we were all focused.”
Mansfield stuck to its gameplan though. It continued to maneuver the ball around the perimeter trying to get that open 3-pointer. When it felt it had the KP defense sufficiently committed, it would shoot. Often Layman (17 rebounds), Mullane (13 rebounds), or Christian Fair (8 rebounds) were there to secure the misses.
“They really did shoot a lot from the outside,” said Layman. “We really buckled down on D and that’s what worked for us.”
The Maryland signee made his mark offensively as well, with 23 points to go along with his 17 boards. He put the exclamation point on his night with under two minutes left in the game when he threw down an uncontested dunk. The Mansfield defense was chasing the ball in an attempt to foul and stop the clock, and his teammates found him under the basket alone for the dunk.
“For the most part, you have to assume he’s going to get his,” said Mansfield coach Michael Vaughan. “He’s special. He’s a great player. You do everything you can to make him work hard. At times you sit there in awe of the things he does, because some of the plays he makes are just at a different level. We try to make it as hard as possible on him. His teammates rallied around him and we didn’t get many easy baskets because of it.”
The teams battled in the third quarter, with KP taking a 33-31 lead into the final frame. It was there that the combination of cold shooting and increased defensive intensity kept Mansfield at bay. KP kept them off the board for 8 minutes of gameplay while it stretched its lead.
“We came out and missed some shots early, and they had a real good gameplan,” said Vaughan. “They took away the three and they were more aggressive. They definitely didn’t let us win the rebound battle. When we’re not missing shots and not rebounding the ball, it made for a long night for us.”
Aside from the bump up in the league standings, the win had extra meaning for Layman and the other seniors.
“It’s been four long years since we beat them, so this win means a lot,” he said.
In the zone: In the second quarter, KP went to a 1-3-1 zone defense to try and control the perimeter. Layman was in the center of the defense, flanked by teammates determined to stop the likes of Michael Hershman, who had 11 points, including two 3-pointers, as well as 7 rebounds.
“Shooting from the outside is really Mansfield’s M.O.,” said McInnis. “We really studied that. We really wanted to make sure that we bounced back from that Franklin game. We regrouped, and without Tykei (Hallman) tonight, we really wanted to do some different things, like get back to our basic-type defense. When you hold a team like that to 14 second-half points, and only 4 in the fourth quarter, that’s tremendous.”
“This game needed to be below 50 points for us to win,” he added. “We wrote on our board if it was a 50-point game, we stood a good chance. But under 40? With our defense we wanted to show them different looks so they couldn’t get into a flow.”
Hockomock shuffle: With three teams now sitting atop the Kelley-Rex division of the Hockomock with eight wins, the league is still very much up for grabs. Stoughton leads the Davenport division with nine wins. That fact was not lost on either teams’ coach after the game.
“We have Brockton next, a non-league game, so we want to go over there and make a statement because that’s an important Division 1 game,” said Vaughan. “It’s an away game over there, so it’s going to be a battle. Then we go back to league games with Attleboro and Franklin in the league where we will hopefully close this out.”
“There’s nothing better than it being in your own hands,” he added. “We’re not looking for anyone else to lose, we don’t need help from anyone. If we win two, we win the league. If we don’t win two, we don’t. Hopefully we can take care of Brockton, and then Attleboro. Then it’s the big one on a Tuesday night (against Franklin). But Attleboro can beat us. If we play like we did tonight, Attleboro can give us a run for our money.
McInnis isn’t concerned with the factors he can’t control or looking too far in the future as the regular season comes to a close.
“We have to worry about ourselves,” he said. “We have to worry about improving on defense, and we just have to make sure we do a better job of getting into a flow offensively.”