As far as weeks go in the regular season go, it’s been a good one for the Mansfield Hornets boys’ basketball team. After being ranked number 1 in the Boston Herald’s and ESPN Boston’s top 25, the Hornets beat the Davenport’s best in Milford. Then in a game that got moved up a day due to the expected arrival of up to two feet of snow, the Hornets beat Taunton 45-41 in a defensive struggle to clinch the Kelley-Rex Division title.
The win represents Mansfield’s third league championship in four years.
Early on, Taunton jumped out to a 6-3 lead but a basket from Kevin Connor and then a steal under the basket for a quick two points by Michael Boen gave Mansfield a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
Creating opportunities for his teammates, Brendan Hill found Greg Romanko open beyond the arch to extend the lead to six after a quarter of play.
“He (Hill) just sets people up, it’s like having another point guard on the floor. I think what he brings to the table is outstanding,” Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughan said.
Despite Mansfield going on a 13-2 run, the Tigers quickly regain lost ground as a three pointer from Anthony Parker just beat the shot clock with less that 4:00 to play in the half.
An easy layup off a turnover from Hill and a quick bucket from Rocky DeAndrade got the lead back up to eight with less than 1:30 to play in the half but Parker would once again close the deficit and get the Tigers to within four at halftime.
With baskets rare in the third quarter, strong defense was the key as Taunton slowly climbed back to tie the game at 29-29. Late in the quarter, a 3-point play from Connor helped the Hornets get out of the quarter with a three point lead and eight minutes away from a league title.
“I think a lot of that had to do with the defensive teams that we are,” Vaughan said of the low scoring offenses. “We’re two of the better teams in the league defensively and when we play good defense it makes the offense look sloppy.”
The Hornets built their lead up in the fourth quarter with a hook shot from Hill with five minutes to play and then a huge three from Ryan Boulter increased the Hornets’ lead to 10.
Unable to get the timely baskets, the Tigers were unable to stop the Hornets as Mansfield found themselves cutting down the net in celebration of their league title.
Hill and DeAndrade led the way for the Hornets with 12 points each. Kevin Conner had 11 points off the bench.
The win improves Mansfield to 17-1 overall and 14-0 in league play.
Next up for the Hornets will be a road game at Franklin on February 13.