Tale of the Tape: Mansfield vs. Putnam

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
11:24
PM ET
MassLive.com online sports producer Jay King and I break down each of the three MIAA boys basketball State Championships taking place Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. I'll be providing Eastern Mass. perspective, while Jay handles Western Mass.

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DIVISION 1: MANSFIELD VS. SPRINGFIELD PUTNAM

School: Mansfield
Record: 25-2
Region: South

How efficient is Mansfield? During Saturday’s Division 1 South Final, one North Quincy fan mused that the Hornets might as well be the Illuminati –- and the humorous observation has since taken on a life of its own, with fans printing up "Illuminati" shirts in preparation for Saturday’s state final. The Hornets have become one of Massachusetts’ most consistent programs under Mike Vaughan, and a big component of that is their perimeter play.

Led by an array of marksmen, the Hornets are one of the state’s best shooting teams. The piece de resistance may have been on March 6, when they shot 77 percent from the floor in the first half of their D1 South semifinal with Brookline – including an unreal 9-for-11 from three-point range. Sophomore forward Brendan Hill, the Hockomock League MVP, is the player with the most upside, beginning to build scholarship interest for both football and basketball.

-- Brendan Hall

Key Players
Brendan Hill, 6-5 Soph. F (13.4 points per game) – Fleet-footed point forward is the Hornets’ leading rebounder, the MVP of the competitive Hockomock League, and at times demonstrates Zen-like vision in the open court.
Rocky DeAndrade, 5-10 Jr. G (10.8 points) – Even-keeled point guard has been the unsung hero of the tournament, keeping the offense flowing cleanly and providing some nice on-ball defense. Averaging 10.8 points per game.
Michael Boen, 6-2 Soph. F – Nephew of Brockton head coach Bob Boen has made some big shots in this postseason run.
Kevin Conner, 6-3 Jr. F – Promising wing could finally be realizing his potential late in these playoffs, after leading the Hornets in scoring in the Eastern Mass. Final.
Greg Romanko, 6-3 Sr. F (10.4 points) – The lone senior in the starting lineup, and one of several skilled outside shooters.
Kyle Wisniewski, 6-0 Jr. G – Also the quarterback during football season, has been one of the most reliable defenders, marking Central Catholic superstar Tyler Nelson in the EMass Final and holding him to zero first-half points.
Ryan Boulter, 6-3 Soph. F (11.2 points) – One of several marksmen providing spark off the bench.

Road through the playoffs
South First Round: beat Newton South, 72-56
South Quarterfinal: beat Franklin, 57-48 (OT)
South Semifinal: beat Brookline, 68-50
South Final: beat North Quincy, 57-45
Eastern Mass. Final: beat Central Catholic, 55-50

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School: Putnam
Record: 23-1
Region: West

At full strength, the only time Putnam has been anything but No. 1 in Western Mass this season came when the sectional tournament seedings were announced. The Beavers were given No. 2 behind Central, which said more about Central’s strength of schedule than anything else. Based on play, nobody’s been close to Putnam all season long.

Sure, West Springfield ruined Putnam’s quest for an undefeated season on Feb. 12. But that came with athletic wing Dizel Wright injured and out of the lineup. At full strength, the Beavers have blitzed everybody. Twenty-one of their 23 wins have come by double figures. The other two were by nine points apiece. They’ve won four postseason games by an average of 17.3 points, meaning they have now outscored their opponents by 23.1 points per game (including the regular season). Putnam trounced Division II state finalist South Hadley by 23 points in early January and smashed defending state champion Central by 16 points in the Western Mass. final.

How has Putnam been so dominant en route to their first sectional title and appearance in the state championship game? Defense, togetherness, unselfishness and a starting five that calls itself a brotherhood. The Beavers aren’t tall, but they always seem to win the rebounding battle. They aren’t the best shooting team, but they can make shots. They’ve never advanced so far into the state tournament, but they certainly act like they’ve been there before.

One major key to beating Putnam: taking care of the basketball. The Beavers aren’t a half-court juggernaut, but they force turnovers and use a team-wide passing ability to quickly turn small leads into huge ones.

-- Jay King

Key players:
KayJuan Bynum, 6-3 Sr. F (16.2 points) – Both Putnam’s glue and its best scorer, Bynum looks older than the average senior and plays the same way. He leads the team with 39 made 3-pointers, but also uses his strength to deal inside. After scoring 15 points in the state semifinals, he said he felt he played one of his worst games. As good as he’s been all season, he might even have been right.
David Murrell, 6-3 Jr. F (15 points) – An inside-outside threat like Bynum, Murrell uses heart and know-how to add a few inches to his game. The junior was quiet with only nine points in the state semifinals, but had 16 second-half points to down Central in the Western Mass. final.
Dizel Wright, 6-1 Jr. G (12.6 points) – One of the better athletes in Western Mass., with length and quickness to go with a defensive tenacity. Great in transition and tough on the glass, Wright had an unfathomable eight offensive rebounds in the state semifinal win against Milford. “Dizel basically – every assignment we’ve given him this year, he’s come close to meeting the task or he has met the task. He’s exceptional at his assignment,” said Putnam coach William Shepard. “He just thrives defensively. He loves when we put him on another team’s best man.”
Jonathan Garcia, 6-0 Soph. G (8.5 points) – Garcia’s understated elegance on the court might go unseen by the casual observer, but he’s as big a reason for Putnam’s strong defense as any. The king of deflected passes, the wiry guard seems to be involved in every play, in one fashion or another. Like everyone else in the Putnam starting five, Garcia’s a plus-passer.

Road through the playoffs:
West Round 2: beat Cathedral, 71-53
West Semifinals: beat West Springfield, 64-42
West Final: beat Central, 61-45
State Semifinals: beat Milford, 52-39

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