BOSTON -— Maybe there was something about the rims, or the sightlines in the UMass-Boston gym, or some gravitational pull that was directing basketballs through the cylinder for Mansfield last night.
Maybe there isn’t a need to quantify what the Hornets did in its 68-50 victory over Brookline in the Div. 1 South semifinals with a head-scratcher like Newton’s laws on gravity. Maybe Mansfield can just shoot the heck out the ball from every position on the floor.
The Hornets were unflappable in the biggest game to date as they shot 85 percent from the field and nailed nine 3-pointers in the first half to run away from the Warriors last night. Ryan Boulter drained four 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Greg Romanko backed him up with three daggers from deep in the initial burst by the Hornets to set up a date with North Quincy in the sectional finals on Saturday.
Mike Vaughan had seen the script before with this team. The Hornets were ice cold against Franklin in the quarters with a 2-of-22 showing from beyond the arc, but the only thing cold inside UMass-Boston was the rink down the hall.
“The last time (we struggled) we hit 10 three's,” Vaughan said of his team’s ability to come back from a poor shooting performance. “I knew if we got some looks we were going to make a few tonight, especially early.”
There might not be a deeper offensive team than Mansfield left in the state tournament. If a team wants to focus on Brendan Hill, then the outside shooters like Boulter, Romanko and Michael Boen will step into shots anywhere on the floor. If a pick-and-roll game is needed, then there might not be a better combination than Ryan DeAndrade and Hill left standing in the grueling month that is the MIAA tournament.
The Hornets' ability to dictate the game certainly wreaked havoc against Brookline.
“I say in the locker room all the time to do what we want to do,” said Brookline head coach Luke Day. “Tonight I think we did what they wanted to do too many times, and that was a big difference.”
Vaughan knew the key to Brookline’s offensive production was stopping Elijah Rogers. The junior point guard for Brookline has been maturing right before our eyes in this tournament and the Hornets made sure to send several different looks his way or collapse the defense to take away his dribble penetration.
Rogers was held to nine points and five assists on the night. He was 4-of-16 in the game from the field.
“Like any team’s best player we wanted him to take equal amount of shots per points. So if he was going to score 15 then it’s going to take him 15 shots to do it,” said Vaughan. “We have to rebound off his misses and I think we did both of those. He’s a special player. He’s very unique. He’s a tough cover and he’s lightning quick. I thought we did some things early to kind of get him out of rhythm where he became more of a passer and I think that played to our advantage.”