After a third quarter barrage sparked a runaway victory for Mansfield in the Division 1 South boys’ basketball semifinals, the top-seeded Hornets erupted even earlier Friday, using a 29-6 outburst in the first half to facilitate a 78-65 sectional final victory over Brockton at Taunton High.
Mansfield (22-3) will face the winner of Saturday’s D1 North final between Lynn English and Lowell next Tuesday (7:15 p.m.) at TD Garden.
Brockton (18-5) could not contain Mansfield’s well-oiled offense. The Boxers were victimized by backdoor cuts for layups before the Hornets caught fire from deep, connecting on 7 of 10 attempts from 3-point range in the second quarter to take a 50-27 halftime lead.
“That second quarter it seemed like we were staying one step ahead,” said Mansfield coach Michael Vaughan. “No matter what [Brockton] did to try and stop us, it seemed like we had an answer for it, and the ball movement was tremendous.”
Sam Stevens led the way with 29 points, including four of his five 3-pointers in the second quarter. The day before his 17th birthday, junior forward T.J. Guy (7 points, six rebounds, eight assists) orchestrated the attack from the high post and helped contain Brockton’s sizable front line on defense.
“It’s about feeling it out to see how they defend each individual guy,” Stevens said. “[The Boxers] were face-guarding Matty and I, so that opens up back cuts, and once then they play off a bit, we can come off curls or pops to get open shots, and T.J. does it all.”
The second-seeded Boxers got within 11 (71-60) in the final minutes, but Matt Boen (19 points, eight rebounds, six assists) provided a 3-point play to put the game beyond doubt.
“You see a team [in Brockton] with that length and athleticism and guys seem to back up,” said Vaughan. “But my thing is, go at them. Find opportunities to score. Use the ball as your friend to move and that seemed to get them on their heels.”
Division 1 Central
St. John’s Shrewsbury 56, Franklin 55 — T.J. Power’s first taste of one of the state’s more intense postseason rivalries was an exercise in Zen.
“You’ve got to zone out all the craziness in the arena — it’s just you and the rim," the St. John’s sophomore star said of his go-ahead free throws with 4.9 seconds left in Worcester, delivering the Pioneers the program’s first Division 1 Central crown since 2016, and their 21st overall.
“Our emotions were just crazy.”
Coming off a brilliant semifinal round performance in which he scored 23 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter to rally St. John’s past Leominster, the 6-foot-7 Power (14 points, 8 rebounds) met his match in a Franklin defense that doubled and tripled him on the interior.
Eventually, he made the Panthers pay.
First, he sank a feathery 18-foot turnaround from the right baseline with 1:53 to go for a 54-52 lead. Franklin’s Brayden Sullivan answered with a corner 3 to take the lead back, then the Panthers (18-6) got the ball back a few seconds later courtesy to a backcourt violation. They weren’t able to capitalize, though.
And when the Pioneers (23-2) got the ball back, Power found his way to the left wing and drew a foul as he went up for an attempt that was ruled a long two. Power sank both free throws, and the Panthers missed a desperation heave from the volleyball line at the buzzer.
“Franklin’s got a heck of a team. They’re well coached, but we’re not bad either," said St. John’s coach Bob Foley, who notched career win No. 947 with the Central title. "Our kids hung in there. Every time TJ touched the ball, they [Franklin] are well-coached, they had three guys on him. He pounded away til he found his place.”
This marks St. John’s fourth win over Franklin in the Division 1 Central tournament in five tries since MIAA realignment brought the Panthers into the district in 2014. Franklin beat the Pioneers in their previous meeting for their first sectional title as a program in 2017.
St. John’s will play Springfield Central, a 70-60 winner over Putnam in the Division 1 West final, in a state semifinal.
Division 4 North
Snowden 60, Austin Prep 51 — Lansana Kaba texted his Snowden teammates at 6:25 a.m. Friday morning with a simple message. “Be ready. We aren’t losing today.”
On Friday night, when top-seeded Austin Prep seized momentum in the fourth quarter, trimming a 35-16 halftime deficit to 46-43 with four minutes left, it was fitting that Kaba rattled off eight of his team-high 22 points at Tewksbury High, helping the second seeds capture their first sectional title in program history.
Snowden (18-4) will play the winner of Saturday’s South final between Cape Cod Academy and Abington at TD Garden on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.
“As a captain on the team, I always have to show I’m always going to be there for them, and that’s what I wanted to do this morning,” Kaba said, as the Snowden faithful chanted his name. “It doesn’t matter what division you’re at. All it takes is practice.”
Snowden dominated the first half behind 14 points from Kaba, and opened up a 30-8 lead midway through the second quarter.
But Austin Prep slowly chipped away before a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter. Senior Mike Gizzi (11 points) came up with three straight steals, which led to fast-break layups and trimmed the lead to 44-41, electrifying the pro-Austin Prep crowd.
Snowden scored its first points since 3:52 of the third quarter when Javier Ellis (12 points, 5 rebounds) converted a layup with 5:05 left in the fourth. Kaba took over from there, hitting a pair of jumpers inside the arc and capping the win with four free throws.
“All year he’s done that,” said Snowden coach Paul Rogers, who led the Cougars to a 2013 sectional final appearance in his first year. “He’s a tough-minded kid, so he takes a lot of pride coming to play every day. This team is a brotherhood.”
Junior Lence Altenor led Austin Prep (16-5) with a game-high 23 points.
Brendan Hall reported from Worcester, and Matt Doherty from Tewksbury.