After a scintillating victory over Lawrence in the North Sectional final when a perfectly executed defensive game plan paid off, the Everett High basketball team met its match in the state semifinal, losing a hard-fought 73-65 decision to Mansfield Monday night at the TD Garden.
Everett was looking to bring home a Division 1 state title in coach John DiBiaso’s final year as coach and the cards seemed to be in place after the Tide’s 68-56 win over Lawrence in which senior guard Ghared Boyce led all scorers with 28 points and the defense shut down the high-scoring Lancers and their 6-foot-5-inch junior, Luis Reynoso.
But South champion Mansfield (25-2), with one additional day of preparation, proved to be better than advertised, using a 24-5 surge in the first half to force Everett in to a game-long, uphill struggle against the marvelously patient and perimeter-passing Hornets’ offense.
Everett, who was led by Ghared Boyce (22 points), Caleb Jacobs (14), Isaiah Likely (nine) and Monte Campbell (eight), made things interesting in the second half, but couldn’t net the key hoop to make it a one-possession game.
Jacobs, who had a solid tournament, keyed a late, first-half surge that helped Everett close a 15-point deficit (34-19) to eight (38-30) at the break.
Boyce’s three-point play cut the margin to 45-39 with 3:03 left in the third quarter. But at the other end of the court, Mansfield maintained its composure, using a number of quick passes to produce good looks that were converted.
Boyce kept the comeback going when he started the fourth quarter with another three-point play. A nifty layup by Shooby Beldor and a three-point play by Jacobs with 59 seconds left carried the Tide to within six (66-60).
But Everett was unable to get over the hurdle as Mansfield’s John McCoy and Damani Scott-Hankerson combined for three successful free throws.
Nathaniel Mehu gave Everett a last hope with a basket with 19 seconds left to slice the lead to 68-64, but Mansfield responded to hold off the Tide’s late charge.
John DiBiaso, who eclipsed the 300-win mark in his career and was as successful in two sports as any Massachusetts coach ever, felt his team didn’t have its ‘A’ game against Mansfield.
“I thought we battled to the end but we didn’t play our best game,” said DiBiaso. “I thought we played tough, but we couldn’t get over the that second-quarter deficit. We kind of dug ourselves a hole there. I thought the difference, along with the free throws, was the glass, especially the defensive glass. We didn’t rebound well. But Mansfield is a very good team and I wish them all the luck in the world.”