Mansfield posted a 23-win season in 2016-17 that saw the Lions win nine straight games before falling to Summit Conference rival Hartville 53-42 in the district championship game.
“The district championship game loss was very difficult loss for our team. We had played well and controlled the game until the last couple of minutes and things fell apart,” Mansfield head coach Terry Writer said. “Our returning players are determined to get back to that level this season and be prepared to finish the deal. Hard work and preparation for success are the team goals.”
Leading scorer and first-team all-conference performer Mason Roy graduated from that team along with Jonah Williamson and Sean Neal. Roy averaged 16.9 points and 4.2 assists per game in his senior season.
“His (Roy’s) experience and quickness will be very hard to replace,” Writer said. “Our success as a team will be how the new players step up and accept the roles that Mason performed for the team.”
Junior Payton Watterson will look to step into Roy’s shoes at the point after averaging 9.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals per game last year.
One role the Lions will not have to replace is that of a low-post presence with 6’9 junior Dylan Caruso returning to patrol the paint. He averaged 12.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game as a sophomore. The latter two numbers led the team.
“Dylan has matured both on and off the court and has added some strength to his game. Being a two-year all-conference and all-district player, his experience and athletic talent should be a big plus for our team,” Writer said. “I expect him to continue to improve his total game and become one the best big men in the state in Class 2.”
Senior forwards Michael Tate (6’6) and Spencer Greene (6’0) are both returning starters. Tate averaged 5.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game with Greene chipping in six points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Fellow senior Jacob Gray and junior Kebron Baker will be two more guards that the Lions will look to this season.
Senior Trenton Emerick (6’4 Center), juniors Bret Berry (6’2 guard/forward) and Britt Keith (5’10 guard/forward) along with sophomores Arly Miller (5’11 forward) and Preston Johnson (6’0 guard) will all see roles on varsity. That group was a part of a junior varsity team that finished 21-0 last season.
Mansfield’s junior and senior-laden team is ready for its experience to pay off in the form of a deep playoff run.
“We expect to be very good and compete in every game on our schedule. We have been very young the past two seasons and how our team is mostly juniors and seniors and we think that experience is ready to pay in success,” Writer said.
Mansfield opens the season on Nov. 21 at home against Richland.