By Karl Capen (@Capen316)
BROCKTON, Mass. – It may be a cliché, but the idea that “defense wins championships” is the best way to describe what makes the top-seeded Mansfield boys' basketball team so tough to beat.
On Monday night, the Hornets again exerted a stunning defense effort like they have all season in a victory over No. 4 Bridgewater-Raynham, 43-39, in the Division 1 South semifinals.
Mansfield (23-2) kept the Trojans under 25 percent shooting from the floor, and in a game where its offense wasn't the greatest. The ability of the Hornets to move their feet and draw a handful of offensive fouls was also key in keeping their opponent off the scoreboard.
“This was a game that every defensive possession mattered and I don't think we gave up one that I wasn't saying 'okay, we did what we had to to try and minimize their opportunities,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughn.
Bridgewater-Raynham (17-6) early on run into foul trouble with both their senior forwards Bobby Long and Griffin Perry. Missing their presence in the paint might have been what contributed to the Trojans lack of identity on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite going 1 for 17 in the first half from three-point range, the Hornets were able to control the boards and held a 15-14 advantage on the scoreboard entering the half.
Coming out into the second half, Mansfield and Vaughn changed things up a bit to try and get more penetration to the hoop. The Hornets stayed in their drive and kick offensive style, but began looking for my backdoor cuts.
This was key in getting them to the foul line and keeping Bridgewater-Raynham at a two possession distance.
Finally though, an offensive spark came in the form of senior E.J. Dambreville for the Trojans. He led the team with 18 points, and his 3-point play trimmed the lead to two points, 35-33, with four minutes remaining.
The game would be tied up by senior John Tesson a minute later and it seemed the momentum had swung in the favor of Bridgewater-Raynham.
But Mansfield's first three-pointer of the second half ended up being the most crucial shot of the game. Senior Max Boen stroked home the trifecta – giving the Hornets the lead for good.
“That was just a huge basket for us,” said Vaughn. “[Boen] missed a couple [of threes] in the first half and he was kind of bummed out at himself in the locker room. I reiterated to him, 'just shoot like yourself.'”
Mansfield shot only around 30 percent for the game, but their patience offensively to break down a great defensive effort from the Trojans helped secure the victory. Each possession the Hornets had took the entirety of the 30 second shot clock.
Hockomock League MVP Sam Goldberg was held in check for most the night, but was the Hornets' leading scorer with 9 points and 11 rebounds. Most of the senior forward's baskets came in the second half when he became more aggressive.