The Mansfield High boys’ basketball team used a fourth quarter come-from-behind rally, outscoring Stoughton 28-8 in the final frame, to hand the their first loss of the season, 73-66, Tuesday in Stoughton.
Mansfield improves to 5-3 on the season and extends their Hockomock League winning streak to 26 games. Stoughton, meanwhile, falls to 6-1.
Senior captain Brian Hershman led the way for the Hornets with 18 points, while freshman Brendan Hill had 16 points off the bench.
“One possession at a time,” Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughn said of his team’s fourth quarter comeback. “I told my guys ‘we aren’t going down without a fight.’ [Stoughton’s] a great team. We had to play outstanding for a lot of time just to get ourselves back in the game.”
Trailing 58-45 entering the final quarter, Mansfield was able to prevent Stoughton from scoring until just 1:42 was left in the game.
Hershman, Hill, and sophomore Michael Hershman helped the Hornets inch closer in the fourt quarter, which set up the elder Hershman to tie the game halfway through the quarter. After another miss from Stoughton, Brian Hershman found junior Greg Romanko (9 points) on the baseline for the go-ahead basket.
“I saw a cutter,” Brian Hershman said. “My eyes are always looking and I was looking to make a play.”
From there, the Mansfield defense continued to clamp down – only allowing two field goals for the quarter.
“We gave in, in a lot of different ways, to pressure, both mentally and physically,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said. “We just kind of had an internal collapse across the board. We didn’t want to do the things we normally do. We missed some shots we should have hit. You can’t do that against a Mansfield team.”
Stoughton junior Aaron Calixte led all scorers with a season-high 28 points, as well as 8 assists and 3 steals. It was clear that he was the focus of the Mansfield defense.
“Calixte’s special,” Vaughn said. “He’s tremendous. He’s fun to watch. I get caught up watching him on the sideline. [We] threw the house at him; the house, the garage, the cars, everything. We did everything we could to try to neutralize him. He’s special. He made big play after big play.”
As has been the case with different players all season for the Hornets, someone stepped up just when the situation called for it. This time it was the freshman Hill, who was able to beat Stoughton with his size and speed.
“He’s going to be a special player,” Vaughn said of Hill. “He’s still learning varsity basketball and what it takes to play at this level.”
The senior captain echoed his coach’s praise of Hill.
“He’s going to be the real deal,” Hershman added. “Give him another two years and he’s going to be one of the best players in the state. He sees the floor tremendously. No-look passes; he finishes down low; he does it all.”
Stoughton jumped out to an early 11-2 lead and maintained a 19-18 edge after one. With the Black Knights leading 41-30 in the closing minutes of the second quarter, Mansfield hit back-to-back threes to cut their deficit to five, 41-36, heading into the half.
But Stoughton responded with a 17-9 third quarter to take a 13-point lead into the final eight minutes of play. However, Mansfield wasn’t done, taking over the game in the fourth and earning a 7-point win.
Gallivan hopes his team can learn from their first loss as they go deeper into the season.
“Hopefully, as we move forward, there is maybe a little more attention to detail in practice,” said Gallivan. “Preparation on game day doesn’t start in the middle of the fourth quarter, when you haven’t scored in your last six possessions, but it starts on Sunday morning practice or Monday afternoon practice.”
Mansfield will host on Friday while Stoughton will travel to North Attleboro. Both games start at 6:30 p.m.