In the end, no team could come close to matching the skill and size of the Mansfield High boys’ basketball squad. The Hornets (18-2) finished the season a perfect 13-0 in the Hockomock League and beat the Stoughton boys, 75-59, Thursday night at North Attleboro High School on their way to the first ever Hockomock League Classic Cup Championship.
“We played great,” Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughn said. “I think we’ve played tremendous all year. We’re a team that’s made up of a lot of quality players and tonight was no different. I thought we shot the ball well.”
Stoughton falls to 10-8 with the loss.
Mansfield sank 16 three pointers throughout the game, nine of which came from junior Brian Hershman, who finished with 28 points.
“He shot the ball tremendous, that’s the type of player he is,” Vaughn said. “Tonight he played with a different attitude because he was one of the kids who didn’t get the right recognition he deserves. He’s capable of that every night and I think this will be a nice little wake up for him to continue to play this way and prove himself as one of the significant players in this league.”
Both teams earned the top seed in this crossover classic, where teams from the Davenport Division (small schools) and the Kelly Rex Division (large schools) that finished in the same place in the standings face off. Stoughton and Oliver Ames were co-champions of the Davenport, but Stoughton earned the first seed based on their 2-0 head to head record vs. OA this season.
In the inaugural Hockomock Classic Cup game, Stoughton was just unable to slow Mansfield down.
“I was pleased with the second half,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said. “[In] the first half everything we talked about, we didn’t do. We talked about competing, we talked about being aggressive on every possession and we just didn’t do it.”
Mansfield’s senior captain Jeffrey Hill hit a three to open the game and the Hornets never trailed the rest of the way. The closest point of the game was after Stoughton made an 8-0 run to start the second quarter, closing the deficit to 24-21, but Mansfield closed out the half on a 17-4 run of their own.
“The thing we separate ourselves from is that we’re undefeated in the league,” Vaughn said. “We haven’t lost in 23 league games. This is a great team that wins every night as a team. I’m disappointed that we don’t have more kids get recognized in this league, but at the end of the day we’ll take the wins over that because we know our quality wins are better than everyone else’s.”
Stoughton’s leading scorer Aaron Calixte, a sophomore captain, was held to just six points in the teams’ prior meeting this year but was able to triple that total on his way to 18 points in the rematch.
“I thought he was strong with the ball,” Gallivan said. “He had some good moves to the basket [and] hit some timely threes.”
Stoughton senior captain Kris Joyce chipped in with 18 points, 14 of which came in the second half.
“He played like he’s capable of in the second half: taking it strong to the basket and elevating,” Gallivan said. “You’re not going to get all the way there against that size but stop at the dots and elevate and that’s a big part of his game.”
Mansfield got another strong performance from senior captain Michael Lofton Jr. Lofton Jr. had 13 points while forcing Stoughton to focus on his presence down low.
“Lofton is a special player,” Vaughn said. “He’s leading our team in almost every category. Tonight wasn’t even his best effort. He needs to bottle up and show a little bit better effort night in and night out. He’s a scary player.”
Though Stoughton almost doubled their offensive numbers from the first game against Mansfield, they were unable to fight through the Hornets’ screens, which led to their plethora of threes.
“We do a great job setting screens, doing a good job moving, we do a good job if teams overplay or cheat, then we do a good job of getting the right guy in the right spot,” Vaughn said.
“We actually missed some shots, easy layups tonight that we haven’t missed. I think Stoughton’s athleticism bothered us a little bit; they did a good job of rotating. But we do such a good job of passing the ball and sharing the ball and getting guys in the right position and tonight was no different.”
Stoughton received a strong performance from senior Atticus Rentsch. Despite only having two points, Rentsch constantly battled for the ball and came away with numerous offensive rebounds.
“Atticus had a very strong game tonight,” Gallivan said. “If he can bottle that and take that forward, he’s going to be in a good place the next couple of games because we’re going to go up against some big teams this weekend in Walpole. You never know in the tournament, but he played very well tonight.”
“They’re well coached,” Vaughn said of Stoughton. “They battle through. They’re undersized and they have to come out and play against bigger players and yet they seem to do it night in and night out.”