BOSTON -– Down by as much as 13, the Mansfield Hornets showed mettle, tying up the game at the end of the first half and squeezing an overtime win out of visiting Amityville, N.Y., 65-58 in the opening game of the Shooting Touch Shootout at Emmanuel College's Yawkey Center.
“We’ve got a lot riding on the season,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. “Our seasons have a lot of high goals and a lot of aspirations.”
Although off to a good start, Vaughan wants to ensure that his dogs are not letting up early. As in the Iditarod, the road gets colder and the stakes become higher with each check point.
“Everyone wants to talk positive about us in the press and in the news, and it is appreciated, but we’ve got to show up every night and play," he said.
Mansfield was down by as much as 11, at 19-8, in the first quarter. They closed lead down to one but went into the half down by three, at 27-24. By the end of the third quarter, they tied the game up at 38.
Rocky DeAndrade spread the Mansfield lead to five with 52 seconds remaining in regulation, but a bucket by Sean Walters and a cold three-pointer with 12.6 seconds left by Travis Dickerson to lift the Warriors into overtime. But for Amityville, overtime was a nightmare.
Mansfield took the tap and Romanko scored six quick points -- the first two off of the swat that flew his way on the jump, a rebound and a put back to, and another up two from the paint with gave the Hornets a 58-52 one minute into the four minute overtime. Aggressive play to the rim by senior Andy Laurent and Mike Alston made the game 58-56 with 1:42 left.
Senior Kavoine Green made a steal and coasted to basket for two at 1:30 making the game tied at 58. This would be the last basket for the Amityville Warriors.
Romanko hit a three after exchanged possessions then two shots from the free throw line with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game. DeAndrade got a rebound on a Amityville miss and was fouled and hit both. Romanko would make one more from the line to seal the seven point victory and add another W to Mansfield’s 2013 season scroll.
Early Struggle, Late Victory: “We just motivated ourselves,” said Romanko of his team’s progressively improving play, from staving off double digit deficit to dominating overtime. “We just weren’t motivated at first.”
Vaughan thinks that the team was motivated, but like the Amityville squad that took a 3.5 hour bus ride to arrive in the Fens, was a little rusty after the shared meals with loved one.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the one o’clock start right after the holidays," he said. "We were dragging and were tired and we showed it early in the game.”
Defense delivers: A regular in the MIAA playoffs, the Hornets that showed in the opening quarter was not akin to the team that you would usually see at the Boston Garden, and Vaughan gave his team an impassioned push to get them on track to being that team most fans and foes recognize.
“We were on pace to give up 100 points in the four minutes and we started talking," Vaughan said. "We adjusted to their team speed and their team aggressiveness and we started to play team defense which has kind of been a staple for our team the last few years."
Shoring up the boards: “Early on we were not aggressive getting the ball,” Vaughan admitted.
The Hornets were not getting second chance points and were often giving up the ball which the Warriors turned into fast breaks, forcing Mansfield to play more conservatively just to keep putting points on the board and to avoid a wide score margin that might totally discourage the team.
“Then we got our back up against the wall and realized we’ve got to go [rebound] for ourselves," Vaughan said. "When all five guys are doing it for themselves you’re going to get the ball more often.”