The Mansfield boys’ basketball team is extremely tough to catch once it has a lead.
On Monday night at TD Garden, the Hornets jumped ahead of North champion Everett in the second quarter then played fundamental team basketball down the stretch to earn a 73-65 victory in the Division 1 EMass final.
Mansfield (25-2) will face familiar foe Franklin in an all-Hockomock League state championship game in Springfield this Saturday.
The Hornets have won 19 straight since falling, 67-52, at Franklin on Jan. 12. Mansfield returned the favor with a 59-47 win over Franklin on Feb. 9.
“This is going to be one for the ages. There’s going to be no secrets,” Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan said of meeting Franklin in the title game.
“If this isn’t Duke-UNC at its finest, I don’t know what it is. This is the ultimate rubber match and emotions are going to be high.”
Everett (23-2) found ways to free up leading scorer Ghared Boyce (game-high 22 points) early en route to a 17-14 lead, but Mansfield closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by a Sam Hyland layup at the buzzer.
The Hornets expanded that to a 24-5 run, as senior John McCoy (13 points) buried a 3-pointer to give Mansfield its biggest lead at 34-19 late in the second quarter.
With Everett scrambling to fight back, the Hornets were patient and used the Tide’s aggressive defensive style against them.
Mansfield committed just three turnovers in the second half while keeping Everett at arm’s length.
“That’s just kind of who we are,” said Vaughan. “We know that this is 32 minutes. We’ve been through a gauntlet [this state tournament]. We have not had an easy night, but we still find a way to get out and play for 32 minutes. I liked our poise down the stretch. We do what we need to do to sustain the lead.
Senior Tyler Boulter (14 points, 6 rebounds) knocked down big 3-pointers, junior Damani Scott (17 points) kept possessions alive with offensive rebounds, and Hyland did an excellent job containing Boyce.
“When we have a lead, we don’t make stupid mistakes. We’re good at keeping the lead because we’re smart players. We get deep in the offense, we make good decision and find the open man.”
Everett trimmed the deficit to as few as 4 points (68-64) in the final minute, but ran out of time to catch the Hornets.
“I thought we battled to the end, we just couldn’t get over that second-quarter deficit,” said Everett coach John DiBiaso. “[Mansfield] is a very good team and when you give them second or third shots, that was the difference”