Good Sports: No. 2 Mansfield 53, Franklin 50

BOSTON -- No field goals in the fourth quarter? No problem for Mansfield -- sort of.

The Hornets were held without a field goal in the entire fourth quarter but Franklin's buzzer-beating three pointer at the end of the game rimmed out and Mansfield held on for a 53-50 win.

Mansfield led by as much as 18 in the third quarter after opening the second half on an 8-0 run, but once the lead reached as much, Franklin turned up their defensive pressure and made it a six point game, 46-40, heading into the final quarter.

"When we went on that run, they had one of two choices to either roll over and let the game end or come out in fight and in typical Franklin fashion they were going to fight to the last second and they did so," said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. "I thought our guys were resilient and battled through a few missed free throws and taking care of the ball and getting a few key possessions."

With both teams trading misses in the fourth quarter, Franklin senior Chris Rodgers hit a three to make it a two-point game at 50-48. Rocky DeAndrade (17 points) hit two free throws to extend the lead to four, but Rodgers darted up the court and his layup brought Franklin within two at 52-50 with 5.5 seconds left.

The Hornets then sent Michael Boen (seven points) to the line, who hit the second of his two chances to give Mansfield a 53-50 lead with 4.5 seconds left. On the final play, Franklin senior Pat O'Reilly tossed a pinpoint pass three-quarters of the court to 6-foot-7 Marcus Giese, who turned and laid it off to Rodgers. Rodgers' shot looked destined to go down but just rimmed out.

"Defense, guys started digging in," said Franklin head coach Dean O'Connor of what brought his team back into the game. "Someone just told me [Mansfield] only had four baskets in the second half. They missed a couple free throws and kept us in it but we just really dug in defensively. We were down 16 or something in the third and it looked like it was going to be a tough night. These guys just kept battling and we started making some shots and we were in the game."

Mansfield shot just 7-for-13 from the charity strike in the fourth quarter but it proved to be enough to sweep the season series against their rival.

"Whenever you play Franklin and you get out of the game with a victory, you're fortunate," said Vaughan. "They're a very good team, well coached and execute great. You throw in the factor for three and a half quarters we played very good basketball and then kind of went cold. We experienced that the other night with Attleboro when we weren't making shots it kind of came back."

The Hornets jumped out to a 9-2 led at the start of the game behind a strong start from Kyle Wisnieski (8 points in the first quarter, 12 total), but Franklin finished the opening frame on a 7-3 run to trail 12-9 after one. The second quarter is when Mansfield was able to being their separation, doubling up on the Panthers 22-11 in the quarter, sparking by nine points from Rocky DeAndrade and back to back three's from freshmen Matt Elrich and Max Boen.

"I think Rocky making some consistent plays throughout the game on both ends of the floor, including some tough drives in the first half, was a big difference," Vaughan said.

One of the Hornets' top scoring threats, Ryan Boutler, was held to just five points in the game after getting full attention of the Panther defense. But Vaughan said it was important they were able to pull out a win without his scoring.

"I think it shows we have other players that can step up and make big plays," he said. "We had the two freshmen hit two big threes that were kind of backbreakers for them, they had defensive possessions yet we were able to get points out of it."

The Panthers received offensive contributions from multiple players in their third quarter comeback. Giese scored five of his 13 points, O'Reilly netted four of his 10, and Rodgers, Tim Prunier and Danny McDermott all scored to close the gap.

"I'm proud of the way the guys battled the whole way," said O'Connor. "It would have been nice to pull it out but going forward its going to help us out a lot as a team to be able to play that kind of defense and stop a team like Mansfield."

Mansfield (13-1) will be back in action on Tuesday when they look to make it two wins in a row with a trip to King Philip. Franklin (8-5) will look to bounce back when they look to avenge an early season loss to Taunton.