WEYMOUTH, Mass. --- Despite a valiant fourth quarter Weymouth comeback the visiting No. 14 seed Mansfield Hornets held on to win a hard-fought 69-66 victory in the first round of the Division 1 South sectionals.
Mansfield held a 56-36 lead over the No. 3 seed Wildcats heading into the fourth quarter. Mansfield built their lead by dominating the rebounding edge through the first three quarters and knocking down key 3-point shots in the middle quarters of the game.
“We needed every single point of that 20-point lead,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “Weymouth is senior lead group and they were not going to go down without a fight.”
The host Wildcats, playing with their backs up against the wall and down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, came out firing and applied a full-court man-to-man press that gave Mansfield problems down the stretch.
Weymouth senior guard Colyn Ahola came off the bench to score 20 points, with 10 coming in the final quarter, to help lead the comeback. Sophomore forward Ryan Jones also added a physical post presence for the Wildcats to help combat some of Mansfield’s height and rebounding advantage.
The Wildcats scored 30 fourth quarter points but it was not enough as Mansfield freshman forward Brendan Hill hit three important foul shots down the stretch to help seal the three point victory for the Hornets.
The 6-foot-3 Hill scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to go along seven rebounds, two assists and two steals on the night.
Weymouth was led by 6-foot-4 senior forward Terrance O’Mara who scored 20 points (15 in the first half), pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists to help pace the Green Hornets offense. The senior also provided a defensive post presence in Mansfield’s zone that helped keep the Wildcats out of the paint.
“I think we did a good job of clogging up the paint and neutralizing a lot of their athleticism,” said Vaughn. “It helped put us in a position that we could get the rebounding edge.”
Mansfield led 33-25 at the half and built their largest lead in third quarter as they outscored the Wildcats 43-25 during the two middle quarters. They also held an 18-8 rebounding edge during those two quarters.
“We worked real hard to get position and box out,” said O’Mara. “It is a tribute to coach and how hard we work in practice. He works us really hard and it is all for the best.”
Youthful experience: Mansfield has a balanced roster of youth and experience and they got big contributions on Thursday night from their young players in Hill, sophomore point guard Ryan DeAndrade (8 points), and sophomore guard Michael Hershman (10 points).
“They having been doing it for us all year,” said Vaughan. “Sometimes they hit the freshman and sophomore walls but at the end of the day they are very skilled and very talented basketball players and overall they came up with some real big plays for us tonight.
O’Mara echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“These young guys are so talented," said O’Mara. “They are going to have a real bright future. That being said this is the best team chemistry of any team I have ever played on.”
Lugay Goes Out Scoring: Weymouth senior guard Damian Lugay did not score until midway through the second quarter but the senior lit the basket on fire from that point on, scoring a team-high 23 points with six 3-pointers.
Lugay and his 10 senior teammates finish their careers with impressive winning resumes. They finish the 2011-2012 season with a 17-4 record after going 18-4 last season.
Next up… Franklin: It is only fitting that Franklin defeated BC High on Thursday night as the two Hockomock League rivals will meet for a third time in the D1 South sectional quarter-finals on Saturday in Franklin.
“I am friends with almost everyone on Franklin’s team,” said O’Mara after hearing of their impending re-match. “It should be real fun and we are looking forward to playing them again.”
Franklin defeated Mansfield in both of their prior match-ups this season. Franklin won their most recent contest by 18 points, 60-42, on February 14 when the teams last played in Mansfield.