While the final score may give the impression that the Mansfield Hornets were not in danger of losing last night's game, the Stoughton Black Knights were simply the team that wouldn’t go away.
Despite trailing for most of the game, several runs by the Black Knights made the game a little harder for the Hornets to put away.
“This league is too good to take anything lightly. You show up and you’re playing .500 teams and they can beat you,” Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughan said. “That’s how this league is.”
Earning a 70-57 win, the Hornets improve to 9-1 while Stoughton is now 4-5.
Stoughton took an 8-7 lead early in the first quarter but a three pointer by Michael Boen gave Mansfield the lead and the first points of a 12-0 run for the Hornets. A pair of free throws and a basket from Zachary Wisnieski helped expand the lead to 10 but a three pointer from Andrew Valle and an Eddie Grant basket late in the first quarter cut the deficit to seven going into the second quarter.
Trying to avoid the Mansfield defense, the Black Knights ran a fast break offense off of defensive rebounds to help cut into the lead early in the first quarter.
“That's a lot of their (Stoughton) game plan and a lot of our game plan so when you get two similar teams trying you play similar styles the game gets up and down,” Vaughan said.
A shot from beyond the arc by Andrew Valle cut the lead to one with a fast break bucket by Marcus Middleton giving the Black Knights the lead midway though the second quarter.
Brendan Hill's basket late in the quarter gave the Hornets a 34-32 lead going into the half but with nothing to lose, Stoughton was throwing everything they had at Mansfield and it was keeping them in the game.
Setting the tone for the start of the second half, the Hornets jumped out to a 44-32 lead behind six points from Kevin Conner. Later in the fourth, the Black Knights once again started to chip away at the lead. Middleton’s fast break layup with about 5:30 to play cut the Mansfield lead to three but that would be as close as Stoughton would get.
The Hornets responded with a pair of baskets from Ryan DeAndrade that put the game out of reach and five more points from Boen locked up the Mansfield win.
Romanko led the way for the Hornets with a game high 18 points. Able to play down low and up high, Romanko was a consistent threat for the evening no matter where he was on the court.
“He’s (Romanko) getting some open looks, making them when he gets some open looks so it makes it a little easier when you have guys who can do that,” Vaughan said.
Boen had 13 points; Conner and Hill had 10 points each.
Grant and Vallie both had 11 points for Stoughton.
With four players reaching double digits in scoring, Mansfield simply had too many threats for the Black Knights to handle. Even if one or two Hornets had an off night, there were still plenty of players prepared to step up and give Stoughton trouble.
“We can play really good defense with one scorer and two scorers is OK, but it reaches a point where it’s ‘watch him, now watch him, now watch everybody,”’ Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said.
The Hornets will host North Attleboro on Jan. 18 as part of a double-header with the girls’ team while Stoughton will play Oliver Ames.