Boston High School: Mike Lofton

ESPNBoston's MIAA All-State Boys Basketball Team

March, 25, 2011

Guard – Samir McDaniels, Sr., New Mission
The 6-foot-3 McDaniels was the steady hand that rocked the Titans' Division 2 state championship season. He averaged 18.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.1 steals as the Titans became the first team in MIAA history to win the Division 4 and Division 2 titles in back to back seasons. McDaniels recently committed to the University of New Haven for next fall.

Guard – Pat Connaughton, Sr., St. John’s Prep
The Notre Dame-bound Connaughton, currently ranked No. 96 in the ESPNU 100, once again saved his best performances for the postseason as the Eagles won the Division 1 state championship for the first time in school history. Connaughton averaged 21.8 points, 17 rebounds and 6.5 assists and took home the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year award. Connaughton, who will play both baseball and basketball for the Fighting Irish next year, is ranked No. 77 in Baseball America's list of Top 100 high school prospects.

Forward – Richard Rodgers, Sr., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Considered one of the best athletes to come out of Central Mass in the last two decades, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rodgers was a monster in all facets of the game as the Pioneers made their fourth straight appearance in the Division 1 state final. The senior, who will continue his football career next fall at Cal as a tight end, averaged 17.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, 4.1 steals and 3.4 assists in his final season in Shrewsbury. He is also the son of Holy Cross defensive coordinator and former Cal great Richard Rodgers, and the cousin of Buffalo Bills cornerback Jairus Byrd.

Forward – Jake Layman, Jr., King Philip
The 6-foot-7 Layman lived up to his potential high-major billing in his junior season with the Warriors, helping them end a 15-year postseason drought and set a school single-season record for wins (17) before bowing out in the Division 2 South finals. Layman averaged 24.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, 3.1 steals and 2.3 assists; he also took home Hockomock League MVP honors. Layman's 1,196 points at KP are the most by any boy in school history. He currently holds offers from UMass, Providence, Boston College, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Brigham Young.

Center – Jimmy Zenevitch, Sr., Central Catholic
A force in the middle the last three seasons for the Raiders, the 6-foot-7 Zenevitch lived up to the hype headed into his senior season. He closed out his career with a strong finish, averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, and stretched many a defense with his ability to post up and shoot from long distance. He earned Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star nods, and his Raiders went 39-1 in MVC play the last two seasons. Zenevitch, whose older sister Kate is a freshman forward for Boston College, will continue his career next fall at Division 2 Assumption College.


Jaylen Alicea, Sr., Lawrence
Few had as explosive a postseason as the 5-foot-8 Alicea, who averaged 30.4 points in five playoff games as the Lancers became the first No. 15 seed since 1998 to advance to the Division 1 North final. The run included a 35-point effort in a shocking first round upset of No. 2 seed Cambridge, followed up the next game with 38 on Westford. For the season, Alicea averaged 19.3 points, four assists and three steals and earned a Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star nod.

Travonne Berry-Rogers, Sr., Lynn English
The 6-foot-1 Berry-Rogers made a name for himself as one of the North Shore's best finishers in his senior campaign, which ended in a D1 North semifinal loss to Lawrence but with some Northeastern Conference recognition. The senior, who was also an NEC All-Star in football, averaged 23.5 points, five assists and five rebounds to lead the 21-3 Bulldogs. He plans on pursuing basketball at the next level, and is considering several Division 2 and Division 3 colleges.

Joe Bramanti, Sr., Andover
The 6-foot-2 Bramanti was the Golden Warriors' prized horse in 2010-11, and they rode him to a 15-5 record and an appearance in the Division 1 North tournament. Bramanti averaged 22.3 points, six rebounds and four assists in his senior season, in which he took the Merrimack Valley Conference's MVP honors by an almost unanimous decision. Bramanti is currently looking into pursuing a post-graduate season at a prep school.

Grant Cooper, Sr., Northampton
Cooper, a 6-foot-3 forward, played an instrumental role in the Blue Devils' Division 1 Western Mass championship season, and established himself as one of the premier forwards in the western part of the state. He finished his career at Hamp on a high note, averaging 11 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 assists this season while also posting a field goal percentage of .550.

Marco Coppola, Sr., Watertown
The 6-foot-1 Coppola was instrumental to the Raiders' run to their third Division 3 state title game in six seasons, and also pitched in tremendously on the defensive end -- before losing to Whitinsville Christian in the state championship, they held their previous four opponents in the 30's. Coppola was Eastern Mass' leading scorer, averaging 25.1 points per game, and finishes fourth all-time on the school's scoring list, behind his older brother Anthony, Max Kerman and Kyle Stockmal. Coppola is currently undecided on college plans, but is leaning heavily towards Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Mark Cornelius, Sr., Westford
The 6-foot-2 Cornelius was a scoring machine this season for the Grey Ghosts, winning the Dual County League scoring title with an average of 21.1 points per game, and was co-MVP of the league. He saved arguably his best performance for last, getting 33 points and 23 rebounds in a loss to Lawrence in a Division 1 North quarterfinal. Also a standout wide receiver for the football team, Cornelius is undecided on college plans.

Alex Gartska, Sr., Westfield
One of the state's sharpest shooters, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 19.7 points, three rebounds and two assists per game as the Bombers marched to a 20-3 record and an appearance in the Division 1 Western Mass final against Northampton. Gartska, who was recently named the MassLive/Basketball Hall of Fame's inaugural Western Mass Player of the Year, finished his career at Westfield with 1,172 career points. He is currently undecided on college plans.

Steve Haladyna, Jr., St. John’s Prep
The 6-foot-3 junior was the Pippen to Pat Connaughton's Jordan on this year's squad, but that proved to be a pivotal role in the Eagles' first basketball state championship season. In 2010-11, he averaged 19.7 points and seven rebounds as the Eagles battled through the toughest Division 1 North bracket in recent memory.

John Henault, Sr., St. Bernard’s
The Bernardians ended their season on a sour note with a shocking upset by Oxford in the Division 2 Central tournament, but the 6-foot-2 Henault ends his career on Harvard Street on a positively high one. He leaves St. B's as the school's all-time leading scorer (1,682 points) and led the state in scoring average (27.8 points) this season. He also racked up over 600 rebounds, 200 assists and 170 steals in his four-year career with the Bernardians. Henault is currently considering several Division 2 and 3 colleges.

Mike Lofton, Sr., Mansfield
With such a unique skill set, the 6-foot-4 senior played anywhere from point guard to power forward this year for the Hockomock League champions, and excelled in every role. Lofton averaged 13.5 points, 11 rebounds. 4.5 assists and 2.7 steals this season for the 24-3 Hornets, who won a wide-open Division 1 South before falling to eventual state champ St. John's Prep on the TD Garden floor. Lofton is currently considering several Division 2 and 3 schools.

Akosa Maduegbunam, Jr., Charlestown
In 25 games this season for the Townies, the 6-foot-4 slasher averaged 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals as they captured their first Boston City title since 2006. in his two seasons at Charlestown, he has averaged 20.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists. A two-time City all-star, Maduegbunam was also named the City tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Hans Miersma, Sr., Whitinsville Christian
Few teams in the state could match up with the Crusaders' size this season, and none was more pivotal than the 6-foot-9 Miersma. He averaged 14.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks as the Crusaders captured their first Division 3 state title since 2005. The first team All-Dual Valley Conference center will continue his playing career next fall at Gordon College.

Joe Mussachia, Sr., Manchester-Essex
The 6-foot-6, Amherst College-bound forward excelled in a multitude of roles for the Hornets, who won the Cape Ann League and advanced all the way to the Division 4 North semifinals. Mussachia averaged 25.2 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks, and finishes as the school's all-time leading scorer (1,714 points). For his career at M-E, he averaged 20.9 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Jarrod Neumann, Jr., Northampton
The 6-foot-3 guard/forward helped to form Western Mass's most intimidating, swarming defenses, as the Blue Devils marched all the way to a 21-3 record and the Division 1 Central/West Final, where they lost to state runner-up St. John's of Shrewsbury. For the season, Neumann averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds. Barring the unexpected, Neumann should return next fall as one of the MIAA's top 2012 prospects.

Kachi Nzerem, Sr., New Mission
As one part of the Titans' three-headed monster of a backcourt, the 6-foot-5 Nzerem was a physical force around the rim. He averaged 17.1 points and 6.1 rebounds as the Titans became the first MIAA squad in history to win the Division 4 and Division 2 titles in back to back seasons. Nzerem is considering pursuing a post-graduate season at several prep schools.

Keandre Stanton, Jr., Lynn English
It was quite the breakout season for the 6-foot-6 Stanton, a Northeastern Conference All-Star who turned in a monster junior campaign to establish himself as one of the state's best pure athletes on the blocks. He averaged 19.5 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks and achieved 10 triple-doubles on the season for the 21-3 Bulldogs, who advanced all the way to the D1 North semifinals before bowing out to Lawrence.

Jacquil Taylor, Soph., Cambridge
At 6-foot-8, the sophomore was one of the state's most imposing forces in the paint. He has started every game in his two years on the Falcons' varsity, and has only blossomed under head coach Lance Dottin; after averaging nearly a double-double as a freshman (nine points, 10 rebounds), he turned in an even more impressive sophomore season, with 13.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.8 blocks as the Falcons won the Greater Boston League outright for the second year in a row. He has already amassed 166 blocks in his young career (including over 100 this year), and is a two-time GBL All-Star.

Noah Vonleh, Soph., Haverhill
Ranked the No. 23 overall player nationally in the Class of 2013 by ESPN, the 6-foot-7 Vonleh came into the season with a load of hype, and lived up to it in spite of the Hillies' struggles to a 7-13 record this season. Vonleh averaged 18.4 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks and earned Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star recognition. Kansas, Pitt and Boston College are among the early offers for Vonleh, but expect that list to get quite lengthy over the next six months.

Yes, one of the North Shore's all-time schoolboy greats has had one of New England's top senior talents to work with the last three seasons. But this season, which culminated in the program's first state championship, was all about the role players. And between Steve Haladyna, Freddy Shove, Isaiah Robinson, Mike Carbone and Owen Marchetti, this season was about a different player stepping up every night to ease the load off superstar Pat Connaughton. For that, and to survive one of the most loaded Division 1 North brackets in recent history, Connolly deserves some credit.

1. Paul Neal, Lawrence
2. Cory McCarthy, New Mission

Bill Daley, Westfield
Paul DiGeronimo, Fitchburg
Rey Harp, Northampton
Rick Kilpatrick, Acton-Boxborough
Sean McInnis, King Philip
Duane Sigsbury, Manchester-Essex
Malcolm Smith, East Boston

G – Joe Bramanti, Sr., Andover
G – Luis Puello, Jr., Central Catholic
G – Akosa Maduegbunam, Jr., Charlestown
F/C – Jacquil Taylor, Soph., Cambridge
C – John Swords, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury

Pat Connaughton, Sr., St. John's Prep
Marco Coppola, Sr., Watertown
Alex Gartska, Sr., Westfield
John Henault, Sr., St. Bernard's
Jake Laga, Sr., Northampton

G – Jonathan Joseph, Brockton
G – Tyler Nelson, Central Catholic
G – Damion Smith, West Roxbury
F – Drew Shea, Medfield
F – Aaron Falzon, Newton North

1. Northampton
2. St. John's (Shrewsbury)
3. Newton North
4. Central Catholic
5. St. John's Prep

(NOTE: Some headshots were provided by ESPN's Adam Finkelstein, courtesy of his New England Recruiting Report)

Prep finishes strong, punches ticket to D1 final

March, 16, 2011

BOSTON -- Mansfield scored seven points in the first quarter, all by senior Jeff Hill. In the second quarter when the St. John’s Prep Eagles’ section in the TD Garden chanted “sin-gle dig-it!”, there is a chance that may have been in response to Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan being quoted this week as saying that defense could be deemed a “weakness” of the Prep.

Although they were able to avoid a total thrashing, the St. John’s Prep defense put on a clinic and stunned the Hornets who were unable to score consistently, finally dropping in a 64-55 decision that put the Eastern Mass Division 1 title on a course to the Spring Street campus.

“I guess I misspoke a little,” said Vaughan. “I meant if they had a weakness, that was where it was at.”

Mansfield’s usual offensive leader scorer, Michael Lofton, was kept to 10 points, five of those coming in the fourth quarter.

“Coach prepared [us] for them, but he didn’t really talk about them being that good at defense, just offensive wise,” said Lofton. “He knew that our defense would be able to beat their offense, but unfortunately their defense was pretty good tonight.”

St. John’s Prep (24-1) coach Sean Connolly prescribes to the "Understanding by Design" method used by teachers: choose your desired outcome first, and then implement the necessary exercises to produce the desired result.

“We wanted to work him (Lofton) the full court all day and pressure him… try to wear him out a little bit,” said Connolly. “Connor Macomber did a very good job on him throughout the game.”

The leading scorer for Mansfield (24-3) was Hill with 20 points. In the fourth, with 5:59 left, Hill scored off of a Joseph Gracia assist to cut the Prep's lead to 44-41. Connolly called a timeout, but the Prep players had internal conversations before he addressed the huddle, according to Notre Dame-bound senior forward Pat Connaughton (23 rebounds, 15 points, five steals, five assists).

“Before coach started talking, everyone paused and I think everyone thought the same thought,” said Connaughton. “That was really like a time check. ‘We got here, are we satisfied with just getting here or are we trying to do what we’ve been saying we’re going to try to do all season?’”

Although Lofton got another steal and Hill scored on a drive to the hoop off of the outlet pass to make the game 44-43 with just over five minutes to go, the score slowly spaced out from that point. With 2:45 to go, Steve Haladayna (20 points, six rebounds) scored on a Connaughton assist to make the game 52-47. On the next trip to the basket, Connaughton drained two free throws to spread the lead out to 7.

Mansfield would come closer, within six on a Lofton score with 1:03 left to make it 57-51, but sophomore Kevin Conner and senior Daniel Dion would be the sole Hornets to score in the last minute; the rest of the team was stifled by the Prep’s swarming defense. Connaughton felt that although Mansfield worked their way back into the game, his team was not sticking to their game and that contributed to the potential comeback.

“We were just trying to hold the lead, but that’s not how we play,” said Connaughton. “We play to try to extend the lead, we play aggressively and that’s how we built the lead in the first place, so why not go back to that?”

Sophomore Isiah Robinson had eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block for the Prep. He was not a staple in the lineup in the beginning of the season, but as time has passed, so he has grown.

“He’s getting better and better everyday,” Connolly said. “He’s a big body, he rebounds well, got good post moves, so it’s just a matter of him finding his rhythm. We’ll probably be running a lot of offense through him next year.

“I felt like I should step up and make some plays out there,” said Robinson. “I know that I am a sophomore, but I felt I could go out there and do it; coach believes in me and the team believes in me.”

Freddy Shove also scored seven points and had three steals for the Eagles.

“He’s just all over the place,” said Connolly. “He works hard, he sprints after rebounds, he defends, he boxes out, he’s a very physical kid. He does all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet a lot.”

“They’re deep, they’re talented and they give you a lot of different options,” added Vaughan, saying that there is a good reason why the Eagles were predicted to win the state title during the preseason. “They don’t sub to weaken, they sub to reload and tonight was no different.”

Lofton lobs up winning play in D1 South

March, 11, 2011

BOSTON, Mass. -- Why play hard when you can play smart?

With three seconds left in the game, Mansfield’s Michael Lofton was being contested for the potential go ahead point after battling back to break even after being down as many as eight points in the fourth quarter. Instead of scoring point 18, he dumped off to his teammate Chris Johnson, who had scored earlier in the fourth, for the go ahead win, sending the Hornets (24-2) into the Eastern Mass Division 1 finals against St. John’s Prep on Tuesday night.

“Michael’s been our best player all year long,” Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughn said. “But the staple of our team has been our ability to pass the basketball and share. I really think if Michael goes up with that, now it’s a challenged shot, the result might have been a little bit different, but just playing the way we’ve been playing all year, he throws the extra pass to an uncontested (player).”

“It feels good that I know that I have other scorers that can score like CJ,” said Lofton (16 points, 12 rebounds, three steals). “He’s a great scorer. He’s one of those 50/50 winners that can get the ball and score in the paint… He came through for us.”

With 1:50 left in the game, after Lofton got one of his three steals on the day, Jeff Hill made the layup in transition to tie the game at 42.

“The shot clock was running down and I just took it to the hoop, which was open so I took the layup,” said Hill (6 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals)

Luke Westman made the return basket for Newton North (19-7) on as assist by Avi Adler-Cohen to put the Tigers up 44-42. Lofton got an offensive rebound off of a miss on the next possession and tied the game up again, at 44. Playing tenacious defense, the Hornets had the Tigers on their heels, and as Adler-Cohen dove out of bounds near the scorers’ table to keep the wayward ball in play, Lofton intercepted the save, zoomed half the distance of the court to the basket and flushed the ball with :35 left, sending the Mansfield pride soaring behind the same basket that he had just kissed with the ball, putting his team up 46-44.

“I was getting a little tired,” added Lofton. “But the drive to keep me going, keep me on my feet was that this is my senior year, and we had to put it all out there to win this game. Not many people get this opportunity to play at The Garden twice.”

After a Newton North timeout, Tevin Falzon (14 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks) drained another two free throws after being fouled on a rebound to tie the game up at 46. Coming down the court, the Tiger defense was expecting for Lofton to take the last second shot, but he found the rolling Johnson down low who put it in without opposition, putting the Hornets up 48-46 with three seconds left.

“He had great court vision looking for me and finding me under the basket wide open,” said Johsnon. “I’m just glad that I finished it.”

The ensuing inbounds pass was deflected by Johnson (12 points, five rebounds, four steals), sending the ball up in the air and the Mansfield boys into each other’s arms, celebrating their comeback victory, as Newton North held the lead since 4:25 in the second quarter, when a Brian Santana layup pushed the Tigers past the Hornets 18-17.

“I think that’s how our whole team has been made up all year,” added Vaughan of Johnson, who had three steals in the first quarter, but didn’t make another standout defensive stop until the last seconds of the game. “Guys like Johnson who come up with big plays when we need them.”

No. 9 Mansfield stays perfect in the Hock

February, 16, 2011
FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Franklin boys basketball coach Dean O’Connor, livid over a non-call under the basket on a blocked shot by Mansfield’s Michael Lofton Tuesday night, turned his attention away from the officials and he and Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan exchanged a loud, bitter shouting match from their respective coaching boxes.

After the handshake line, O’Connor, still upset over the officiating, told Vaughan, “The free throws must have been 30 to 10 (in Mansfield’s favor).”

Replied Vaughan: “Oh, yeah?”

Translation: “Neat stat. I like the one on the scoreboard better though.” That one read Mansfield 64, Franklin 57, as the Hornets (16-2) remained perfect in the Hockomock League with a 13-0 mark and Franklin dropped to 12-7 overall and 7-6 in the league.

In O’Connor’s defense, his estimates weren’t far off, as Mansfield shot 24 free throws to Franklin’s 10, and he absolutely had a case on the non-call in question that set off the argument around the scorer’s table.

But on a night when Franklin senior Kyle Gibson became the school’s 11th 1,000-point scorer and just the fifth boy to do so -- on Senior Night, no less -- it was the unselfish play of the Hornets’ upperclassmen that staved off a Panther run to start the fourth quarter and finish off a dogged effort by the hosts.

“You come over here, it’s a great atmosphere,” Vaughan said. “It’s a good crowd; it’s Senior Night. You’ve got to kind of battle through a lot of tough possessions. They’re well-coached and they play hard. And this is the hardest place to play in the league I think.”

Leading the way for Mansfield was Lofton, a senior captain who poured in 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Also reaching double-figures in scoring were senior Christopher Johnson (11 points, seven rebounds, two assists) and junior Brian Hershman (15 points), while senior Joseph Gracia had nine points on a trio of 3-pointers.

Perhaps the player most indicative of the Hornets’ play was co-captain Jeff Hill, who only had four points, but made five assists and four blocks, including two big ones down the stretch that helped secure the win. Mansfield routinely made the extra pass to get open looks and assisted on 14 of their 20 made field goals.

“That’s the way we’ve been able to play the last couple of years,” Vaughan said. “We’ve got a lot of different guys that can score, a lot of different guys that can play. Tonight’s no different: different guys making different plays on different nights. And that’s why we like to throw extra passes and get extra guys (involved). We feel an unchallenged shot from a little less shooter is better than a challenged shot from our best scorer.”

“We like to have everyone get touches and get everyone involved in the game early so we can have a good start and finish the game out with a win,” Lofton said.

With his team trailing by 10 points, Gibson (22 points, 15 rebounds) laid in a baby hook and was fouled, leaving him at 999 points with a chance to hit the milestone on the charity stripe. He swished it, and the game was stopped for a moment to acknowledge the accomplishment, and it seemed to give life to the Panthers, who were able to slice the deficit down to three points going into the fourth quarter.

“It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m very lucky to play with these teammates,” Gibson said, although noting that losing the game was a “buzz-kill” to surpassing the mark. “They’ve been great all three years I’ve been on the team. It was great. So it was very deserving to get it on Senior Night.”

The momentum carried into the fourth quarter, where sophomore point guard Sam Bohmiller (10 points) had six points in an 8-2 run that had the Panthers ahead, 47-44.

But the Hornets quickly wrested the lead right back on a Gracia triple off a Johnson assist, who then made a steal and layup to push the lead to 50-47. Gracia then found Lofton inside, who laid it in and cashed in on the foul on the shot.

The Panthers were able to slice the deficit down to two and three points but never tied or led the rest of the way, as Mansfield made 9-of-11 from the line in the fourth quarter and Lofton flushed a one-handed jam off an inbounds pass to punctuate the win.

“We just had to gut this one out,” Lofton said. “It was a good win.”

No. 11 Mansfield stays hot, cools No. 19 Franklin

January, 30, 2011
MANSFIELD, Mass. -- The highly-anticipated matchup between two top-20 teams in this week’s poll went No. 11 Mansfield High’s way, as the Hornets remained red hot with a 71-66 win over No. 19 Franklin Sunday evening at James Albertini Memorial Gym.

The victory was the eighth straight for the Hornets, who had already secured a spot in the MIAA Division I South Sectional Tournament after a 62-34 win over Sharon Friday night.

“Our defense has been the best since I got here,” said Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughn, whose team has yielded an average of just 44 points per game during the win streak. “Early on [this season] you couldn’t have said that. But the team has worked hard and gets rebounds and gets blocked shots when they need to.”

The effort was almost for naught, as the Hornets (12-2, 9-0) had to hold off a rally by the Panthers in the closing minutes, mainly because of some dismal foul shooting. With a chance to put the game away, Mansfield (who shot 19-for-34 from the foul line for the game) instead allowed Franklin to hang around because of a 3-for-10 effort at the line down the stretch.

“I thought we played to not lose instead of to win,” said Vaughn. “You can’t go up by 14 points and then shoot like that at the line down the stretch. I don’t know if we froze there at the end and let them hit a couple of 3’s, but we knew Franklin wouldn’t go away.”

Mansfield was paced by Chris Johnson’s 16 points, but it was senior Michael Lofton who controlled the game, posting a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Terrence O’Mara (11 points), Brian Hershman (10) and Joe Gracia (9) rounded out a balanced scoring attack that saw eight players score at least six points.

“They were mentally exhausted at the end,” Vaughn said. “They executed the game plan and competed out there. Some things didn’t go the way we wanted at the end, and it almost came back to cost us.”

Franklin (11-3, 7-2) lost for the third time in five games. The Panthers did break a two-game losing streak with a pair of wins over Sharon (76-49) and Canton (71-51) earlier this week, but couldn’t crack the Mansfield defense. Kyle Gibson led the way with 21 points, Tyler Kessler added 11 and Tim Garvey contributed 10. The team will have little time to think about the loss, as they face King Philip Tuesday, followed by a rematch with Stoughton Friday night. The Panthers won the first contest in overtime, 79-78, on Dec. 21.

The Hornets remained undefeated in league play with the win, and they haven’t lost since a 53-51 setback to Brockton Jan. 4. But the schedule down the stretch is tough as the team looks to complete an undefeated season in league play, including three road games and contests remaining against the big four – North Attleboro (Tuesday), at King Philip (Friday), Attleboro (Feb. 11) and at Franklin (Feb. 15).

“We have to stay focused at the job at hand and the kids can’t settle,” said Vaughn. “The league title is still on the line, and we have those big four games left. We need to take care of what is in front of us, compete every night and put ourselves in a position to win every night. The job is to get into the tournament, get a home game and see what we can do when we are playing at a high level.”

No. 13 Brockton slips by No. 10 Mansfield

January, 5, 2011
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.

Neither fell.

“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.”

BABC: Mansfield topples No. 4 New Mission

December, 30, 2010
CHELSEA, Mass. -- Mansfield's 20 points in the fourth quarter barely beat the 19 points tallied by No. 4 New Mission, but the Hornets picked up a 61-54 victory on Wednesday at the BABC Holiday Tournament.

Mansfield improves to 3-1 on the season, while the fourth-ranked Titans fall to 3-3.

A basket scored by the Hornets' senior Mike Lofton erased an early 5-5 tie, igniting a 11-2 rally that put Mansfield ahead of New Mission, 18-7, by the end of the first quarter.

Hornets freshman Kevin Connor scored three of the first six points in the second quarter, helping the Hornets to a 14-point cushion over New Mission. Trailing 25-13, the Titans' senior Darius Davis hit back-to-back shots from long range, bringing the Titans within eight points of Mansfield.

Finishing the quarter with seven points, Connor ended out the half with a pair of free throws, making the score 29-19.

Back-and-forth traffic in the third was halted by a 6-0 run by New Mission, which included four points scored by junior Leroy Hamilton. Mansfield outscored the Titans 6-4 to close out the quarter, making the score 41-35.

Despite New Mission coming within four points of the Hornets, 52-48, halfway through the fourth quarter, the game momentum stayed with Mansfield. The Hornets didn't look back, taking a 8-6 scoring advantage in the final minutes of regulation, securing its third win of the season.

Three of Mansfield's seniors finished the day in double figures, with Jeff Hill leading all scorers with 16 points, followed by Lofton with 15 and Leonard Richardson with 12 points.

Mansfield's head coach Mike Vaughn said, “[Hill] was good throughout the game; he is by far our effort leader on this team.”

“He hit some free throws, which really made a big difference in the end.”

New Mission's Davis ended the day with 14 points, while Leroy Hamilton recorded 12.

“I think both teams came out kind of sluggish, but we were able to make some plays down the stretch,” said Vaughn. “It was good to get out of here with a win.”

24 seconds.

An entire game of basketball all came down to the final 24 seconds for Everett as the Crimson Tide edged past Springfield's Putnam Vocational Technical High, 47-46.

“I'm really proud of these kids, it's been a different person [leading the team] every game,” said Everett head coach Bippy Manuel.

Everett started out with a quick 7-2 lead over the Beavers, including five points scored by by senior Andrew Brant. Putnam (3-4) was able to get within two points of the Crimson Tide, 10-8, but a 5-2 run to close out the quarter gave Everett a 15-10 lead.

The Crimson Tide defense held Putnam to just two points for the entire second quarter, while its offense was led by Brant with six points. A jump shot by sophomore Gilly DeSouza at the buzzer gave Everett a 28-12 lead at the break.

The halftime break was exactly what Putnam's offense needed, as the Beavers went a 7-0 run to open the third quarter, led by junior Jordan Almore with five points.

Putnam continued its offensive burst, cutting its deficit to two points, 34-32. A shot from beyond the arc by senior John Toledo gave the Beavers their first lead of the game, 35-34.

Everett was outscored 25-12 to end the third quarter, falling behind 37-36 lead.

Refusing to give up, the Crimson Tide quickly scored six points in the opening minutes of the four quarter to take 43-37 lead.

With two minutes remaining in the game, Putnam's seven point deficit was quickly erased by a 6-0 rally. A pair of shots from the free throw line by junior Melquan Pinkney brought the Beavers within one point, 47-46.

Everett answered back by stalling the Beavers' offensive attack in the final 24 seconds of the game, edging out a 47-46 victory.

Almore led all scorers with 17 points, while Brant finished with 16 points and Everett's senior Erno Deshommes tallied 14 points.