Shooting Touch: No. 2 Mansfield 79, No. 24 Cathedral 45

MEDFORD, Mass. -– Mansfield knocked down 13 three-pointers and out-rebounded Springfield Cathedral, 44-27, to dominate its Shooting Touch Shootout matchup, 79-45, on Friday afternoon at Tufts University. Senior point guard Rocky DeAndrade paced four Hornets in double-figures to lead all scorers with 21 points.

The dominance on the boards was surprising for the Hornets, who are missing two of their key post players in junior Brendan Hill and senior Kevin Conner. Head coach Mike Vaughan credited the rest of the team for recognizing the importance of stepping up on the glass.

“Surprisingly we’ve been pretty good on the boards all year. I think we realize that with Brendan going down and Kevin going down in the first few days of practice, we had to have a mindset that we have to rebound the ball with all five guys.”

Mansfield trailed early 5-4 but then went on a 23-6 run to close out the first quarter. DeAndrade, Ryan Boulter (19 points), Michael Boen (15), and Kyle Wisnieski (14) all hit shots from beyond the arc during the run. Boen, who finished with 15 points, also added six of his game-high 14 rebounds in the opening quarter.

“He’s had double digits in the last couple of games and he’s really picked up the slack,” said Vaughan about Boen’s improvement from last season. “He’s playing tremendous. Right now, he’s our best overall player. He’s doing all the little things that don’t show up on the score sheet but he’s the difference between us being very good.”

The Hornets controlled Cathedral point guard Darrick Boyd, limiting him to just seven first half points (five of them from the free throw line), and kept senior forward Edens Jean-Baptiste off the boards. One of the keys to that was the defense of Ryan Boulter on the post.

Vaughan spoke highly of the leap that Boulter and Boen have made from their sophomore to junior seasons.

He remarked. “I think last year was their first full year of varsity so they were very passive and just wanted to fit in. This year, they’re playing like seniors. They’re making big plays. Boulter is still shooting the ball well but he’s added the dimension of going to the basket.”

According to DeAndrade there is confidence running up and down the Mansfield roster and the familiarity of last season’s run to the Division 1 state championship game has helped with ball movement.

“It’s all about being unselfish and getting the best look possible,” he explained. “We trust in each other to make the right plays. We have four guys that can get to the basket at any time and on top of that we have guys that can shoot the ball for us. It’s an inside-out game for us and it works.”

With a commanding 44-25 lead at halftime, the Hornets came out of the break a little sluggish and Cathedral took advantage. Boyd (13 points) knocked down a pair of threes and Jean-Baptiste (8) started to find room for layups. A floater by Brian McCrae had the Mansfield lead to as low as 15 but a three by DeAndrade and a step-back, corner three by Boen pushed it back to 21 going into the fourth.

Despite the sizeable lead, Vaughan laid into his team in between quarters. He wanted a stronger effort on the defensive side of the floor and, after a McCrae free throw, the Hornets responded with a 13-0 run to push the lead up to 33.

“You can never catch a break with Coach Vaughan; he always wants the best,” said DeAndrade with a smile after the game. “Once we do one thing very well then we need to do another thing and in this case it was defense.”

Vaughan explained, “Your bread and butter has to be defense. If you can’t defend teams, then when you go periods where you can’t score then you lose those games. If we want to play at the level that we want to play at then you have to defend and I thought we got really passive...In high school you can’t do that because, at some point, you’re going to get beat because of it.”

Mansfield will play again on Saturday night in the Shooting Touch Shootout against No. 16 Cardinal Spellman.