As a new member of the Hockomock League, the Taunton Tigers were an unknown factor going into the basketball season. With some preseason hype surrounding the team, few were sure what to expect once league play started.
“We just knew they were a tough physical team. We just needed to take their punches when they had it, throw some their way,” Mansfield forward Brendan Hill said.
Going back and forth for most of the game, a series of stops in the fourth quarter was the key for Mansfield as they picked up a pivotal 68-82 win over the Tigers.
With the three-pointer working early for the Tigers, Taunton jumped out to a 10-6 lead early in the first but a couple of quick baskets including a steal that led to a three-point play by Ryan DeAndrade (16 points) gave the Hornets a 14-10 lead after the first quarter.
With one to two posessings acting as the difference between leading and trailing for most of a the game, another drive by DeAndrade gave the Hornets a bit more breathing room with a six-point lead with less than four minutes in the half.
The Taunton deficit however, would be erased as a pair of free throws from Gerald Cortijo-Pamilla and a jump shot by Fawaz Mass tied the game at 27. Shaquille Davis’ free throw gave the Tigers a 28-27 lead at the half.
Back to back layups from Davis and Anthony Parker extended the Tigers’ lead to five midway though the third quarter but Hill (24 points) quickly responded with two baskets off a putback and a slam-dunk to lowered the lead to one.
After cutting into the lead, Cole Cummings’ putback basket and steal that led to a layup once again put the Hornets ahead. Ryan Boulter’s (11 points) back-to-back three pointers helped the Hornets keep the 47-44 lead after three quarters.
Despite the Tigers tying the game at 47 at the start of the fourth quarter off of a three-point play from Davis, the Hornets quickly jumped out to a seven-point lead after some key stops and a few baskets to expand the lead.
"At halftime I told the guys ‘if we could string a couple of stops together and go on one run, we’ll create that separation we’re going to need to absorb their next punch,’” Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughan said. “I think that was probably the difference in the game that we strung together three stops together and three baskets together and created enough separation that when they threw their last punch at us, we were able to absorb it.”
Taunton’s full court press left DeAndrade with an opportunity to drive to the hoop and a three pointer from Michael Boen gave the Hornets a five-point lead with less than five minutes in the game. A bucket from Hill expanded the Mansfield lead to seven.
While the Tigers were able to chip into the lead, Mansfield built the lead back up to nine with 2:10 left in the game.
With less than 40 seconds to play, a shot from Davis cut the lead to five. After DeAndrade made one of two free throws, a three pointer from Corey Green made it a four-point game with less than 30 seconds to play.
After Boulter made a pair of free throws, the Tigers were able to make it a one possession game after Fawaz Mass’ 3-pointer with 17 seconds to play.
After Hill went 1-2 from the free throw line, the Tigers quickly tried to push the offence forward but an errant pass out of bounds gave Mansfield the ball back and the win to take soul possession of the top spot in the Kelley-Rex Division.
The win improves Mansfield’s record to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the Hockomock League.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Hornets in the near future as they host Franklin on January 11 while Taunton will play Attleboro on the same evening.