MEDFORD, Mass. –- Mansfield senior guard Rocky DeAndrade had been struggling to find his shot for most of the first three quarters of the Hornets’ battle with Cardinal Spellman, in the third annual Shooting Touch Shootout. But when it came around, it put the feisty Cardinals away for good.
DeAndrade, who was 1-for-9 from the field headed into the fourth, orchestrated a 10-3 run to start the frame, giving the Hornets a double-digit cushion over Spellman (4-2) that they would not relinquish over the final five minutes. The Hornets won, 60-47, to sweep both of their Shooting Touch contests this weekend at Tufts University’s Cousens Gymnasium.
“He’s one of those kids, he just keeps coming at you,” Mansfield (3-0) head coach Mike Vaughan said of DeAndrade. “He’s not forcing it, he’s not turning the ball over a lot, [and] he’s not giving up baskets out of turnovers if he does. He’s playing really solid basketball right now, I’m very happy with him.”
Holding a 40-37 lead to start the fourth, Mansfield freshman Matt Ehrlich knocked down a three-pointer to make it a six-point lead, only to watch Stonehill-bound Spellman point guard Ryan Roach (12 points) fire back immediately with a trey of his own.
That’s when DeAndrade got going.
With a 43-40 lead, DeAndrade came down the lane in transition with a hesitation move on a Spellman defender, then floated the ball over him. Two trips later, DeAndrade gathered behind the arc along the left wing, then reset and dribbled to the elbow for a 15-footer.
The next trip down, DeAndrade made it 50-40 with a nifty sequence of events, grabbing a loose ball rolling along the floor in his own end, pushing the ball up in transition, then driving and kicking out to junior Ryan Boulter (24 points, 11 rebounds) at the left wing for an open three.
A few moments later, Boulter took a handoff from DeAndrade and swung to the right corner, beating the shot clock buzzer with a high-arching three that made it 54-43 with four minutes to go.
“We knew we had to pull away, so we had to find the best way possible,” DeAndrade said. “Ryan’s three was huge, and Matt [Ehrlich] had some huge rebounds for us.”
Something they thought they could take advantage of in the second half?
“We started to cut, and then we came back to the middle to cut and find the ball,” DeAndrade said. “In the first half, we were just cutting to cut, and then we missed a lot of guys on open looks. “Second half, we focused on cutting with a purpose.”
Rory Donovan led Spellman with 14 points and six rebounds, while Joey Crane added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Rocky vs. Roach: One of the most anticipated individual matchups was between the two points guards, DeAndrade and Roach. DeAndrade was a catalyst for the Hornets’ run to the Division 1 State Championship last season, and returns as one of the state’s top point guards on a squad that is once again a D1 favorite. Roach, meanwhile, signed with Division 2 Stonehill College during the early signing period last month, and leads a Spellman squad that is among the favorites in D3 across the state.
DeAndrade had just five points, but it was his distribution that keyed the Hornets, finishing with six assists. Roach had 12 points, but was 5-for-12 from the field.
“He’s shifty, he’s quick,” DeAndrade said of Roach. “He can handle, he can score. It was tough guarding him as a player.”
No posts? No problem: Much has been made of the fact Mansfield is without three of its starters –- forwards Brendan Hill (knee) and Kevin Conner (hip), and guard Mike Hershman (sports hernia) –- as they begin their Division 1 Eastern Mass title defense. They’ll likely be snakebitten for most of the season’s first half, as the 6-foot-5 Hill –- a junior, and the reigning Hockomock League MVP -– could be out another month as he rehabs from the knee injury suffered late in football season.
With all that considered, it’s fair to question how well the Hornets would rebound in their absence. But not only have Boulter and Michael Boen slid into the forward positions seamlessly, they’ve thrived in it. They have out-rebounded opponents in all three of their games so far; tonight, the Hornets out-rebounded Spellman 38-24, including an 11-2 mark in the fourth.
“Coming into the season if you had asked me my biggest concern about this team, knowing what we’re missing, I would have said rebounding. And ironically, I don’t think we’ve had an opponent out-rebound us yet,” Vaughan said. “To me, that’s a good sign, primarily because of Boulter and Boen. Boulter has had double-digit rebounds every game. He’s going after the ball, he’s diving to the floor, keeping balls alive.
“We’re doing a good job of team rebounding, too…I think they’ve made a commitment, knowing that that was going to be a weakness going forward that we were going to have to overcome.”
Said Boulter, “Coach [Vaughan] told us over the summer, and during the preseason, that we were going to have to step it up, because Brendan and Kevin were hurt. But we just follow their roles and play great basketball.”