FRANKLIN, Mass. -- After an overtime loss in the regular season last year and a playoff loss the year before, Mansfield hasn't exactly had the greatest success inside Franklin High's Woodrow Abbott Field House recently.
But in the Hornets' last-ever trip to the hallowed court, the Hornets made sure it was a memorable one, downing the Panthers, 68-47, behind a balanced scoring attack.
Mansfield had a big effort offensively from different players in different quarters and turned an eight point halftime lead into a 15-point lead after three and then increased it more so in the fourth on their way to a 21-point margin of victory.
"I thought the first half, we had to adjust," Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan said. "This was the first team we were going to see that applied that much defensive pressure. You could see early on it bothered us, but the second half we rebounded the ball much, much better and I think that was difference from making this a dog fight at the end or us being able to close it out."
Franklin picked up nine offensive rebounds in the first half and trailed 32-24, but Mansfield limited the Panthers to just three offensive boards in the second. After not picking up a rebound in the first quarter, junior Michael Boen -- who was in foul trouble throughout the first half -- picked up at least five rebounds in each of the last three quarters to finish with 19 boards. He also chipped in with 14 points.
"I pushed for all of the guys to get on the boards, but obviously Boen is a kid that takes a lot of things to heart," Vaughan said. "He got that second foul, and he was sitting on the bench and a lot of the first half was going to be shot for him. He gets emotional and you like that. He's that type of kid, we've talked about it before. He's stepped in and taken the role of a rebounder and he's rebounding in different ways -- he goes and gets it off the rim, he's battling and he doesn't turn it over when he does get it."
Kyle Wisnieski was a huge spark for Mansfield in the first quarter, picking up two steals on Franklin's first two possessions and turning them into points. He finished with nine of his 14 points in the first quarter. It was a balanced scoring second quarter but it was two others that stepped up in the third and fourth quarter. Boen scored 11 of his 14 points in the third quarter.
"I thought that the third quarter was the key for the entire game because we had to weather the storm and weather their run and handle anything they were going to do to put themselves back in the game," Vaughan said. "I thought they had some good important possessions, but we were still able to outscore them in the quarter or it was fairly close. That eight point lead didn't turn into a four-point lead and when you do that against any good team, obviously that fourth quarter becomes different."
Rocky DeAndrade became the Hornet that took control in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his game-high 20 points in the final frame.
"I didn't think he played outstanding for three quarters, I thought he played just good enough, but in the fourth quarter he had a couple of key drives and he makes a good play and it makes a big difference," said Vaughan. "He just makes that big play after big play as the game unwinds. He knows he didn't play that well through three quarters but when we needed a few big possessions and baskets, he went and did it."
Franklin finished 18-of-61 from the field and just 7-of-32 (22 percent) in the second half, something Franklin coach Dean O'Connor knows his team can't do if they want to beat a team like Mansfield.
"I think the story for me was that we played really hard and we did a lot of good things, but when you miss 17 point blank shots around the hoop -- and they were contested and Mansfield played good defense -- but they come down and hit a three, it's a backbreaker," said O'Connor. "Our guys kept fighting and coming back, but you're not going to beat them scoring 47 points."
Senior Chris Rodgers had a team-high 16 points for Franklin, and junior Marcus Giese added 13 points.
"We cranked up our effort level tonight and going forward, whoever we're playing is Mansfield," O'Connor said. "We just have to play that hard and we'll beat a lot of teams if we do that. We're going to keep getting better. We have some guys that are improving and I like the pieces that we have and we'll keeping getting better."
As for the Field House, Vaughan made it clear whether or not he's going to miss having to play there.
"No, not at all," Vaughan said with a laugh. "I just went in and chanted tear down the field house. I mean it's a great place, I coached here for three years so I understand the advantage you get here. They come out with a great student body and it's a fun place to play. The new place isn't going to be any different in terms of the atmosphere but you're not going to be playing where they should be pulling airplanes into."
The two teams will meet again, and the venue will be one of the few places that are bigger than the Field House -- the TD Garden. The two rivals will conclude their 2013-2014 series on January 25th at 5:30.