TAUNTON – When top-seeded Mansfield needed to reach another level in Sunday's Division 1 South semifinal against No. 4 Needham, the Hornets relied on their well-oiled offensive machine predicated on ball movement to get them there.
And the result was eye-popping.
Mansfield had 20 assists on its 29 made field goals and outscored the Rockets 24-4 in the third quarter to run away with a 73-52 win at the Rabouin Field House as the Hornets advance to their fourth consecutive South final and eighth in the last 11 years Friday versus No. 2 Brockton (7:30 p.m.).
* I thought Needham did a good job of closing out and contesting and the only way you can play against that is move the basketball so the ball is moving faster than the defenders can move,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan. * Once we did that in the third quarter, we looked like an all-star team. … It's the way we want to play. We want assists on baskets. We want guys to feel comfortable, get into a rhythm and share the basketball.”
The pristine passing – each of the Hornets' starters registered at least three assists – from Mansfield (21-3) led to strong performances from senior forward Sam Stevens, who netted a game-high 20 points, along with junior forward TJ Guy (17 points, five assists) and junior guard Matt Boen (15 points, 12 rebounds).
The trio played an integral part in Mansfield's game-altering 16-0 third-quarter run that put the Hornets in complete control.
Leading 33-31 just a minute into the frame, Boen and Guy combined for the first 10 points of the tear as Guy finished through contact for a traditional 3-point play while Boen knocked down a trey and went coast-to-coast for another bucket.
Stevens then factored in by drilling back-to-back 3-pointers, the second one he connected on came courtesy of a cross-court feed from Boen to cap the monumental spurt. Mansfield wasn't done in the stanza as Stevens and Andrew Rooney scored on drives to the hoop while Jack Colby sank a pair of free throws to take a 55-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
* It's got to be up there in one of the better quarters that we've had,” Vaughan said. * We just did everything right. There were very few mistakes in that quarter.”
Will Dorion scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the final frame for Needham (18-5), but it only put a dent in the deficit as the Hornets, who finished 9-of-15 from beyond the arc, kept the Rockets at a distance.
Mansfield also got off to a torrid shooting start, hitting four first-quarter 3-pointers with Stevens knocking down two of those and the strong offensive showing with the ball flying across the court picked up again in the second half after Needham forced eight second-quarter turnovers to get within 31-29 at halftime.
* (Coach Vaughan) makes sure to keep us in check if a couple guys stray away from what we're trying to do as a team,” Stevens said. * If someone is dribbling too much or trying to take it to the rim too much, he makes sure to get us back, work the ball around, make sure everyone touches the ball.”