MANSFIELD, Mass. –- It’s one thing to jump out to an early lead. But throw in an 11-0 start and hold the opposition to just two points in the first quarter, and that’s an entirely different scenario.
Such was the case Friday night as No. 5 Mansfield used a 17-2 opening frame to cruise past Hockomock League foe Franklin, 65-42.
The Hornets (8-1) defense swarmed the Panthers (4-4) from the opening tip, keeping Franklin flustered on the offensive end and off the scoreboard for the first 7:30 of the contest.
“We came out and we played defense unbelievably,” Mansfield sophomore forward Brendan Hill said. “Two points in a quarter; I mean, that’s unheard of, especially against a great shooting team like that.”
Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan didn’t expect to see Franklin’s early shooting woes, and felt the Panthers simply had an off night. But that doesn’t mean Vaughan wasn’t pleased with his squad’s effort on the defensive end.
“I thought we altered a lot of shots, played with a lot of energy and I don’t think there was an uncontested shot there,” he said.
Hill led all scorers with 18 points while also hauling in six boards. Sophomores Michael Boen and Ryan Boulter chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively, and junior Ryan DeAndrade had 10 of his own.
Franklin senior guard Sam Bohmiller was held scoreless in the first half, as the Hornets top priority was keeping him in check early on.
“Not letting him get going really helped, and I think guys around him would’ve scored more if he would’ve gotten going a little bit,” Vaughan said.
The Panthers seemed overwhelmed offensively from the get-go, never getting settled comfortably into its sets and struggling to find quality shots. Junior Chris Rodgers was the only one who could find any success in the first half, as he had all of his 10 points in the first 16 minutes.
Franklin head coach Dean O’Connor felt his team played afraid due to its inexperience and said the Hornets were “a better team than us by a long shot.”
“If you can’t put the ball in the basket against these guys, you don’t have a chance,” O’Connor said.
After the Panthers cut the deficit to 32-18 at halftime, Mansfield quickly regained control with a 9-0 spark to start the third quarter. Bohmiller finally got going with his 12 third-quarter points —- finishing with 14 for the game —- but it wasn’t enough to keep the Hornets from pulling away.
“Anytime you jump on a team 17-2, it obviously builds a little comfort, but now you gotta make sure you play with a lead, which, if you get sloppy, it’s not the easiest thing, especially with high school kids,” Vaughn said. “We’ve had really good third quarters and I think today was solid....Just coming out of the locker room and putting teams away is a big thing for us.”
Easy buckets: When Mansfield suffered its first loss of the season to No. 3 New Mission on Dec. 28, Vaughn felt his team’s offense had been exposed. Sure, the Hornets were scoring enough points prior to that, but Vaughan called them “ugly baskets.”
Since then, Mansfield has emphasized longer possessions and more ball movement, which the Hornets gashed the Panthers on in their victory Friday night.
Mansfield worked the ball around quickly and efficiently to set up open looks, which Vaughn was very pleased to see.
“We’re getting way easier baskets. That’s been our focus the last two weeks,” Vaughan said. “I was happy with our movement, and I think the same guys are getting the same looks, but there are more quality and higher percentage.”
Hill was the floor general once again, never appearing flustered but continued to put his team in the best position to score, whether it was pulling up at the elbow or throwing a back-door pass to a teammate for an easy lay-in.
Vaughan said he feels like he praises Hill’s offensive play every week, but continues to be pleased with the positive impact Hill has on the other four guys on the floor with him.
“He does a lot of the phases (of the game) very well, and he makes his teammates better,” Vaughan said. “And if you ask what symbolizes a great basketball player and it’s a guy that can put his teammates in better position and he does that.”