MANSFIELD, Mass –- Last year when non-league top dogs Brockton and Mansfield met, the Boxers basically scored a KO with an 18-2 start on their way to a 69-48 win.
This year, the Hornets (13-1) avoided any such blow with great defense, pulling away in the second half to beat Brockton 66-41.
Mansfield saw how dangerous the Boxers (8-4) could be on the offensive glass after they pulled down 21 of them Thursday against Wachusett. They practiced on it in the last couple of days, and it paid off.
“We knew we had to rebound the basketball, and I thought we did that fantastic tonight,” Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan said. “I thought we did a good job of maintaining the boards which gave us the ability to kind of grind away the first half. In the third quarter, we were able to come out and make a couple of adjustments and create a little separation.”
Sophomore Brendan Hill scored a game-high 23 points a grabbed 9 boards in the win. Senior Greg Romanko and sophomore Ryan Boulter both added 12 for the Hornets.
Brockton jumped out to a first quarter lead, but unlike last year, Mansfield kept pace. With two seconds left in the first, sophomore Michael Boen found Boulter in the corner for a three that gave Mansfield a 13-12 lead. The Hornets never surrendered that lead.
Mansfield stretched their lead to seven at half behind Hill’s six second-quarter points. Not only was Hill able to get to the basket, he added two dimes when the defense focused too much on him.
“He’s special,” Vaughan said. “The fact that he’s a sophomore and that he’ll be wearing a Hornet uniform for the next couple of years brings a smile to a lot of our faces. He has a lot of growing to do still, which is the best part.”
Mansfield sealed the game when they went on a 12-3 run to open the second half, thanks to baskets from Hill, Romanko, Boen, and junior Kevin Conner.
“They ran some very nice offensive sets,” Brockton coach Bob Boen said. “They beat us on a lot of back door cuts. They rebounded the ball well and got some rebound baskets on us. They did everything right in the second half.”
The Hornets outscored Brockton in the third 19-11 to give Mansfield a 45-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Hill’s nine points in the pivotal third were a big reason that Mansfield pulled away.
“Brendan is a very good player,” Boen said. “He can do everything. He can pass it, he can rebound it, he can shoot it. They run a lot of plays through him. They have a nice team, they’ve got seven or eight real good players there.”
Mansfield used balance scoring in the final frame, with six different players helping to extend the margin to 25. During the quarter, both Hill and Connor wowed the crowd with two-handed jams.
Junior Nisre Zouzoua led Brockton offensively with 10 points while seniors Israel Thorpe and Jaylen Blakely each had 9.
Mansfield will look to continue their winning ways when they host King Philip on Tuesday while Brockton will look to bounce back against Big Three rival Durfee on Friday.
For Brockton coach Bob Boen, this just wasn’t his second straight year going against a top Division 1 team like Mansfield, it was his second going against his nephew, Michael Boen, a sophomore guard for the Hornets.
“It was very hard coaching,” Boen said. “It was hard to set up and tell my guys to shut him down and not let him get the ball.”
Michael played against his uncle last year when the teams met, but played limited minutes with a small role.
This year, Boen has been a vital part to Mansfield’s success, and helped Sunday with six points and eight boards. Bob Boen didn’t feel Michael had one of his better games.
“It was kind of funny because I don’t think Michael had a very good game,” Coach Boen said. “He might have been nervous playing against me.
“I didn’t have a good game coaching and he didn’t have a good game playing, probably because of the family conflict,” he said.
THE RICH GETTING RICHER
Mansfield sits atop the Hockomock with a 13-1 record and has made statement wins against Amityville (N.Y.) and Brockton, and their lone loss was a six-point loss to New Mission.
Now, they might be getting even better.
Vaughan said that they are targeting Friday as a return date for junior guard Michael Hershman. Hershman has been out the entire season with an injury he sustained early in the football season.
Now Hershman, who led the team in scoring last year alongside his older brother Brian (who graduated), could be returning to an already-potent Mansfield line up.
“He had a good work out yesterday and had another good one today,” Vaughan said. “It’s been a great motivational factor the last couple of practices. I try and keep reminding the kids, ‘what are you going to do when someone who’s going to average 20 plus minutes comes back.’ It’s interesting how quickly practices turn back to be a positive.
“We're excited to have him back and I know he’s been itching to get back.”