SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Sam Morelli scored 35 points, and the Hopedale boys basketball team used its advantage on the boards to earn a 74-65 win over Drury in the Division 4 state semi-finals on Tuesday night.
Drury got 33 points and 10 rebounds from senior Scott McGuire Jr., the program's all-time leading scorer, in his final game in a Blue Devils uniform.
But Hopedale knocked down four 3-pointers in the third quarter to open up an 11-point lead and never looked back in earning a date Saturday against Eastern Mass champ Abington in the state title game.
Drury coach Jack Racette was focused less on Hopedale's perimeter game and more on its interior play as
the difference in that pivotal third quarter.
"They were more physical than us," Racette said. "That was the bottom line.
"We didn't play teams that physical in the [Western Mass] tournament. Baystate wasn't physical. We knew this team was going to be physical, and two days to get ready really didn't help us, I don't think because we don't have any depth.
"Scott McGuire played 32 minutes four straight games. We don't have depth. We just don't. It just is what it is. We lived like that all year. It's nice when we get a little break. But you play when they tell you to play."
The teams came out running and gunning in the early going, setting the kind of pace that Racette was looking for in his team's second straight trip to the state's Final Four.
It was 23-21, Hopedale, after the first quarter, a period that saw McGuire score 10 and Keegan Vidal score six of his 12 points.
Drury ended the first half by going 7-for-7 at the foul line in the last two minutes of the second quarter. McGuire hit five in a row, and Vidal knocked down a pair with 21 seconds on the clock to send the Blue Devils into the locker room down by three, 39-36.
Hopedale started the second half with triples by Dan Liberatore (23 points) on back-to-back possessions to push its lead to eight points, and it was a 10-point margin by the midway point of the quarter after a Morelli 3 to make it 52-42.
Drury kept it to a nine-point margin early in the fourth and was within seven when McGuire converted two free throws with 49 seconds left in the game.
But Liberatore went 3-for-4 at the free throw line in Hopedale's next two possessions to get the margin back to 10, 73-63, with 20 seconds left. And the Blue Devils soon were pulling their starters.
Hunter Sarkis finished with 11 points -- eight in the fourth quarter -- in his last game for Drury.
Although Tuesday's loss stung, the accomplishment of a 16-8 season and back-to-back Western Mass championships was nice ensures that this year's Drury team won't soon be forgotten.
"They'll enjoy it," Racette said. "We came out of our district again. We competed. I don't think teams want to play us. They know we're going to compete every night.
"They beat us tonight. That's what happens in basketball. Two teams play. One team wins, the other team goes home. That's why tournaments are fun. We were fortunate enough to win our district. It's a great season. They have nothing to hang their heads about."