Despite missing two regulars — Devon Sanders (broken leg) and Trevor Foley (fractured foot) — the second-seeded Mansfield Hornets were able to regroup to beat visiting Marblehead (15-5, 10th seed), 77-50, in a Division 2 Round of 8 state tournament game on March 10.
From the opening jump, the Hornets were all over the Magicians, leading comfortably at halftime, 39-20. While Eddie McCoy and J.T. Veiking led the home team in first half points with 14 apiece. Ryan Commoss was the top scorer for the visitors with six.
In the second half, Isaiah Makor tried to ignite his teammates with a quick layup, but Nate Creedon and McCoy nailed consecutive threes to increase the advantage to 47-22. No matter how many times coach Mike Giardi to slow down the Mansfield momentum, the Hornets had an answer after each stoppage in play.
After a Commoss turnaround layup in the lane, the Hornets stayed in their attack mode behind another three by McCoy and a bomb beyond the arc by Veiking. The lead was now 29, 55-26.
But the Magicians kept on scratching and clawing, still hoping to cut that huge deficit. Miles O’Neill followed up his own rebound for two points, and Magnus McCarthy swished another two. The deficit was back to 25, 55-30. It was 61-32 in favor of the home team after three quarters.
Marblehead allowed an average of 61 points per game this season, but in three quarters the Hornets were able to reach that total.
On the offensive end, the local quintet averaged 68 points per game. But in this game, the Marblehead offense ended up falling far from that mark.
Early in the fourth quarter, Makor fouled out of the game, a few minutes after scoring another two on a layup. He ended up with six points.
Tryone Countrymon paced the offensive attack in this game for the Magicians with 14 points. Commoss chipped in with eight. Lemmond accounted for six. Cam Comstock netted five. Scott Campbell had four. Aven Denbow, McCarthy and O’Neill scored two apiece. Adrian Barron buried one free throw.
Despite the loss, the Magicians had a memorable postseason run that included a close home win over Pembroke in a game that they were able to persevere in the end to pull out a five-point victory, 60-55. It set the stage for a thriller in Springfield against Pope Francis (see below).
Giardi’s club finished with 15 wins, which catapulted them to among the top eight teams in Division 2 this year.
Before loss, a night to remember
Miles O’Neill had one of those state tournament moments that most high school boys basketball players only dream about, and it propelled his Marblehead teammates to the Elite 8 as the 10th seed in Division 2.
O’Neill alertly rebounded a missed three-point attempt by Nick Lemmond and promptly banked it off the glass as the buzzer sounded to beat host Pope Francis in a Sweet 16 game, 59-57.
“I trusted my teammate Nick Lemmond to hit the shot, because he had an amazing game,” O’Neill said after the game. “But I stayed ready just in case I needed to make a play. The ball went up, and I crashed to the lane and luckily my good positioning led to the buzzer beater.”
In 1983, there was this Cinderella team that came out of nowhere to win the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament. Years later, ESPN documented that run by North Carolina State and its head coach Jimmy Valvano. They aptly called it “Survive and Advance,” which could sum up the 2023 version of the Marblehead basketball Magicians, led by veteran coach Mike Giardi.
The Magicians began the postseason with a 60-55 win over visiting Pembroke (12-9, 23rd seed) in a Round of 32 game before boarding the bus for the long trip down the Mass Pike to Springfield to take on Pope Francis (17-4, seventh seed), where O’Neill made sure they went home victorious.
Prior to O’Neill’s winning basket, Lemmond fired away from beyond the arc, but his three-point try fell short. However, O’Neill was in the right position at the right time to grab the rebound, banking it home as time ran out to break the 57-57 stalemate and avoid overtime.
Lemmond ended up pacing the attack with 19 points. O’Neill accounted for 10, but none so important than his final layup. Ryan Commoss was credited with 14. Tryone Countrymon netted nine. Isaiah Makor had five before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Scott Campbell contributed two points to the winning cause.
A total of only four Pope Francis players figured into the offense. Ryan Vedovelli led the Cardinals in scoring with 20 points. T.J. Reid was close behind with 18.
“Our guys played tough, but give Pope Francis credit, they kept on chipping away,” said Giardi.
The score was tied at 16 in the second quarter, then the Magicians went on a 14-3 run to take a commanding halftime lead, 30-19. They were still ahead after three, 43-35.
But the Cardinals refused to give up in front of their home fans, outscoring the Marblehead boys, 22-16. But they left too much time on the clock, and the Magicians took advantage of all 13.1 seconds to seal the deal on O’Neill’s heroics.