MANSFIELD, Mass. -- Brockton pulled it off, barely.
With 2.5 seconds left in the game, Brockton junior forward Jamal Reuben pulled down a rebound off of a Mansfield missed free throw and sunk one of his own to secure the No. 13 Boxers’ second half lead, just squeaking by No. 10 Mansfield, 53-51.
“Jamal’s a very strong player,” said Brockton coach Robert Boen. “So I was very glad to see it come his way. I knew that once he got it that they weren’t going to get it away from him.”
Brockton (4-2) was up by eight points, 48-40, with 5:50 left in the game when Mansfield (3-2) coach Mike Vaughan called a timeout. Mansfield managed to close to gap to 49-46 at 2:33 after Mike Hershman (18 points) hit two free throws. The momentum seemed to be going in the Hornets’ favor after Reuben (six points, 8 rebounds) traveled with 2:30 left, but a Mansfield missed opportunity to score gave Brockton’s Jaylen Blakely (18 points, 10 rebounds) the break to plop in a floater at 1:50 to put the Boxers back up by 5 at 51-46.
Hershman, never one to sit on his laurels for long, came down the other end of the court and drained a three to bring the Hornets within two at 51-49. Blakeley was only able to sink one free throw after being fouled at the one minute mark, giving the Boxers a three point lead and the ball.
Scoring ceased until 20.4 seconds remained and Mansfield senior captain Michael Lofton, Jr. (14 points, 10 rebounds) sunk two free throws to close the gap to one.
Blakely missed two free throws at 16.3 seconds left, and Mansfield got the ball back with the chance to take the lead with a score, but a pass went through the hands of a waiting player in the right hand corner, giving Brockton the ball back. Shane Sims was fouled with 7.7 seconds left, but missed both free throws. He admitted that he did not have a great game, and said it was partly due to Mansfield’s sixth man.
“The crowd got to me,” said Sims, who ended up with 14 points and 10 rebounds. “I felt like they were right in my ear when I was at the free throw line,” commenting on his 1 for 6 from the line performance.
“Shane was 9 out of 10 two games ago,” said Boen. “Everyone we missed was like, ‘When is the nightmare going to end?’”
Lofton was able to get the rebound off of the miss. Senior Leonard Richardson got the ball and was driving towards the basket but was stopped when a Brockton defender fouled him with 2.5 seconds left.
One for the tie, two to pull ahead.
“No matter how many times you tell them in practice,” said Vaughan, “‘You could be the one at the line with the game on the line’, they’re kids, and they don’t take it serious until they’re at that line. I can tell you that tomorrow, during free throws, the drill will be a lot quieter and more focused.”