By Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7)
MANSFIELD, Mass. - With his team up by 13 points in the second half of a rivalry game on the road, Franklin junior Connor Peterson rose up to meet Mansfield’s star forward Sam Goldberg on a drive.
The 6-foot-5 Peterson out-jumped the 6-foot-4 Goldberg, pinned his shot attempt against the rim, and ripped the ball down to start a fast break. While it was just one play, the message was clear from the Panthers leader: We are not going to give anything away.
No. 9 Franklin jumped out to an 11-1 lead in the early going and never looked back on the way to a 52-40 win at No. 4 Mansfield for the right to sit alone atop the Hockomock League standings.
This marks the second consecutive win for the Panthers at Mansfield High, as head coach CJ Neely led his team to a road win at Mansfield last season.
“It feels great,” Neely said after the game. “The guys obviously bought into our game plan, especially defensively, and any time you’re able to hold a team like [Mansfield] to 40 in their own gym, you have to be happy. This is a hard place to win and we’ll take it any way we can get it.”
Along with Peterson (12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks), senior Josh Macchi (9 points, 6 rebounds) led the Panthers attack down low. Junior captain Paul Mahon (11 points, 3 assists) made several key plays in the second half to maintain the lead, while freshman point guard Chris Edgehill (11 points, 3 assists) kept the offense in position to succeed in the face of Mansfield’s consistent pressure.
Yet it was the Panthers defense that clearly won the day.
Franklin (7-2; 5-0) held Mansfield (7-2; 5-1) to a season-low 40 points and allowed the Hornets to score just 10 points during a dominant first half. Franklin won the rebounding battle, 19-10, over the first two quarters and held the Hornets to 1-of-9 shooting from downtown to take a 24-10 lead into the break.
“We’ve really been priding ourselves on the defensive end of the floor,” Neely explained. “That’s really what our program is about and we kind of let the offense take care of itself.”
He continued, “We felt like we had a really good scouting report and knew [The Hornets] really well. A lot of these guys know each other and play on the same AAU team, so we had a lot of familiarity and we were able to use that to lock people up.”
Mansfield created havoc with a full-court press during the second half and forced Franklin into 10 turnovers over the final two periods, but simply couldn’t muster enough offense to close the gap.
With Peterson owning the paint and guards such as Edgehill, Mahon, Connor Goldstein and Matt Elias maintaining their poise against the press, the Panthers refused to give this road win away.
“This was a total team win,” Neely confirmed. “I told the players that this isn’t thanks to any one guy; it was everyone together on this one. It got a little sloppy down the stretch but luckily we were able to get out of here with a win.”