Turning close contests into blowouts is becoming a habit for the Mansfield Hornets boys’ basketball team. The story was nothing new in the first round of the Roundball Classic as the Hornets found themselves in a close match against a strong Wakefield Warriors team. Like many other squads this season, the Warriors struggled to keep up with the Hornets when firing on all cylinders as Mansfield picked up a 69-46 win.
The win improves Mansfield's record to 19-2 with one game left in the regular season.
A strong first half performance from Senior Captain Greg Romanko (15 points) kept the Hornets in the game when it seemed liked the Warriors could do no wrong. A pair of shots early on including a turnaround jumper helped the Hornets jump out to a 7-2 lead early in the first quarter.
“I thought Greg played exceptional tonight, especially early on when we were having a hard time finding shots,” Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughan said. “He was able to knock down a few big ones, instead of being down 5-6 you’re only down by one.”
Ryan Boulter’s (14 points) three pointer from the top of the key kept the Hornets in the lead 10-6 but Kendall Hamilton’s play inside the paint and from beyond the arch gave Wakefield a 14-13 lead after a quarter of play.
The Warriors continued to have the better of the Hornets after a three from Chad Martin-Jenkins with the shot clock expiring pushed the Wakefield lead to four. Wakefield would take their largest lead of the game when Bruce Brown’s fast break pass across the paint to Martin-Jenkins led to two more points and a six point lead.
The Hornet comeback began with 5:30 to play in the half after Brendan Hill’s (11 points, 9 assists) drive to the basket cut the lead to four. The possession, followed up by a three pointer by Romanko, made it a one-possession game again.
With less than 45 seconds to play in the half, a quick jumper by Rocky DeAndrade kept the Hornets in striking distance as Wakefield held a slim 26-25 lead at the break.
With the three point shots starting to open up for Mansfield, Boulter was able to bring give the Honets some energy off the bench, hitting three clutch shots from the outside. The first shot gave the Hornets a 38-37 lead with less than three minutes in the third quarter, but then two more big shots put Mansfield up by five.
“He’s (Ryan) gives us a little spark off the bench and he’s a tough cover because he’s got such a quick release,” Vaughan said.
Hurling the ball from one end to the other, Hill was able to find Michael Hershman at the receiving end to put the Hornets up by seven with a quarter to play.
With Wakefield now struggling to find shots, the Hornets proceeded to put away the game, as the Warriors' play became the opposite of their first half display. DeAndrade’s ally-oop to Hill with less than five minutes to play put the Hornets up by 12 and Michael Boen’s three with 2:35 to play gave the Hornets a 16-point lead. Romanko’s dunk with a little over two minutes to play all but sealed up an impressive win against one of the better teams in Division 2.
Mansfield will be back in action as they face Dighton-Rehoboth in the Roundball Classic Finals on February 20.