MANSFIELD, Mass. -– The Mansfield Hornets worked hard to gain the lead in the first quarter. They worked harder in the second to extend their lead and in the third quarter, their work paid off, pulling away to down Sharon, 70-51.
Sophomore Ryan Boulter had a game high 19 points, including five 3-pointers -– his last two back to back at the beginning of the third that turned into the dagger.
“When we came out of the locker room our whole focus was the first four minutes –- let’s play great defense,” Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan said. “Everything was about contesting, keeping the ball in front and don’t give up easy baskets.”
Mansfield used an 11-0 run to start the third and only allowed a total of five points –- two free throws and one field goal that came with under a minute to play in the quarter. The Hornets outscored the Eagles 19-5 in the third.
“It was really ‘let’s just lock it down and be better in the half court’," Vaughan said.
The two Hockomock teams played an even first quarter with six lead changes and Mansfield ended with a two-point lead at 18-16. Mansfield used a quick 7-0 run in the middle of the second quarter to give them a little breathing room heading into the break.
Sharon’s Brian Mukasa led the Eagles with 17 points, but was faced with double teams and traps throughout the game. Mansfield focused on the junior, doing what they could to deny him the ball. Mukasa started out with two treys in the first quarter, but didn’t score more than five in each of the next three.
“He’s tremendous,” Vaughan said. “He can go off for 25 on any given night so we wanted to make sure he was in check. I think he probably still got in double figures and we threw everything at him including the kitchen sink.”
Sophomore Brendan Hill caused a match up problem for Sharon that forced the Eagles into a lot of help defense that opened up Boutler. Hill finished with 11 points, including a fast break two-handed slam in the fourth quarter.
Boutler was able to hit from range in each of the first three quarters but it’s not just his shooting that his coaches like.
“It’s his shooting that stands out,” Vaughan said. “For us as coaches its all the little things he’s doing. The box outs, the rebounds, the defensive rotations. There wasn’t one time tonight I had to pull him out because of him not doing those. That’s going to keep him on the floor.”
ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
With names like Brendan Hill, Michael Hershman, Greg Romanko, and Kevin Conner, it’s hard to stand out for the Hornets. Hill is highly touted and experienced success this past summer with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC). Hershman -– who sat out Friday’s game with a groin injury –- is a dangerous shooter. Romanko is a senior captain that is a strong two-way player and Conner has been playing minutes since his freshman year.
But if point guard Rocky DeAndrade keeps showing improvement, he could easily become one of the top names on the team. The junior dropped 12 points and added 4 assists and 3 steals.
In just one game, DeAndrade already looked more comfortable and confident than last season.
“He’s a hard worker and he’s put the time in," Vaughan said. "Now this is his opportunity to shine. He’s just a great floor general and get’s the guys in the right spots. We’ve got to get him shooting the floater a little bit in the lane because he’s a little too unselfish at times.”