TAUNTON, Mass. - The forecast outside was clear skies, but inside the Taunton High field house it was pouring — raining three's to be exact.
Mansfield and Taunton combined for 23 three-pointers, but 14 of them in favor of the Hornets, who hit half of those in the third quarter, expanding a nine point halftime lead in a 73-57 rout of Taunton.
With the win, Mansfield (18-1) claims the Hockomock's Kelley-Rex Division title outright for the second straight year.
After converting just three three-pointers in the first half, Mansfield came out and hit seven shots from beyond the arc in the third quarter alone, outscoring Taunton 25-16 and expanding their 32-23 halftime lead into a 57-39 lead headed into the final quarter.
"We wanted to win the third quarter, call it a 0-0 ball game and win the third quarter," said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. "I told the guys the only way Taunton is getting back into this game is if they come out and play straight up man to man with no help, so we have to get three or four passes. If we can get them, we'll get uncontested shots. I thought we did a great job getting into that third or fourth pass in a possession and it was really the big difference for us."
Mansfield junior Michael Boen hit the Hornet's first three of the third frame to expand their lead to 10 at 37-27 before classmate Ryan Boulter hit one of his own. After Taunton's Shaq Davis drained a three of his own, Hornet seniors Kyle Wisnieski and Rocky DeAndrade hit consecutive three's. Taunton scored a field goal but on their rebuttal, DeAndrade hit two more threes.
"That's kind of been the key to our season," Vaughan said. "On any given night, different guys step up. In the third, Boutler hit a couple early, then Rocky hit a couple and then Boen comes and finishes up and then Kyle sprinkles in two in the middle that were kind of daggers. It's just kind of been the way we've been playing all year.
The Hornets didn't let up on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, hitting four three's on their first six scoring players. Boulter opened the fourth by draining a three and a couple of plays later, Boen hit back-to-back threes before DeAndrade's final three made it 73-44 before Mansfield's starters exited.
"When you play defense like that and encourage the three, you better do something to take it away from them," said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. "We didn't do much to take it away from them. Any scouting report in the state says that they can shoot. Our inability to find the shooters and close our properly killed us. It's not like we don't work on it every single day because we do. I don't know where our minds were in too many minutes in this game. Mansfield was at a different level then us tonight."
The first quarter was a back and forth affair, with the largest lead five points in favor of the Hornets but ended with Mansfield up 18-14. Mansfield opened the second frame on a 6-0 run to extend the lead to 10, but Taunton responded with a 7-0 run to bring it within three, but Mansfield closed the quarter outscoring the Tigers 6-2 to go into halftime up 32-23, having hit just three three-pointers but out rebounded Taunton 8-3 on the offensive boards.
"We missed some early and I was little worried the depth perception was going to get to us," said Vaughan. "I thought defensively they did a good job of closing out but I thought we did a good job rebounding the ball early, especially on the offensive glass, keeping it alive and almost getting free shots."
The Mansfield defense - which entered the game allowing the least points against in the Hockomock - was stout again, forcing 20 turnovers and made it very difficult to score against the Hornets when they were in their set.
"I thought we did a good job blocking out and rebounding and neutralizing their size," Vaughan said. "We spread the floor so well so size doesn't bother us a lot of the time I thought our perimeter defense was pretty solid. A kid like Boen helps because he can play Shaq and his length neutralizes Shaq's size. Shaq is a special player, he's a veteran. He plays the game like an old man when it comes to being crafty and getting touches inside and then he can hit the three. He just lets the game to him and that's why he's one of the better players in the league."
Boen finished with a game-high 21 points while DeAndrade added 19 points, Boulter finished with 16 points and Wisnieski chipped in with 14 points. Taunton junior Matt Midouin led the Tigers with 14 points, Davis added 13 points and freshman Jordan Galloway scored 10 points, all in the fourth quarter.
For Dacey, there really wasn't much to say in terms of how the game went.
"I don't have much to offer other than that was a very poor defensive performance obviously," he said. "There's no sugar coating it. We certainly were prepared physically to do it but mentally just way too many mistakes. You make a mistake and they score."
Mansfield will wrap up their league schedule with a trip to North Attleborough on Tuesday while Taunton (14-4) will look to bounce back on Sunday when they host North Attleborough.