AMHERST, Mass. — The Pioneer Valley boys basketball team went into Tuesday’s Western Massachusetts Division 4 semi-final against Drury hoping to repeat some history.
And history was repeated — just not the kind the Panthers were hoping for.
Drury rallied from an 11-point third quarter deficit to earn a 76-72 overtime victory, earning a berth in Saturday’s sectional final and avenging a loss to Pioneer last year at Curry Hicks Cage at UMass Amherst.
Scott McGuire Jr. scored 37 points, and Reece Racette scored 19, including six in overtime, to give the Blue Devils their fourth straight win and first trip to the finals since 2009.
And that repeated history? Just like in the 2018 Western Mass semi between Pioneer and Drury, the winning team overcame a big deficit.
"We had them by 14 last year or whatever it was," Drury senior Reece Racette said. "It doesn’t mean anything. It’s tournament basketball. We’re here for a reason. It’s two good basketball teams.
"You’ve got to play 32 minutes. It’s not about who is up after one quarter. It’s not about two quarters. It’s about 32 minutes. And tonight it happened to be 36 minutes.
"We just stayed the course, and we were able to finish it. It was a huge win for us, but we have unfinished business."
The third-seeded Blue Devils (18-5) hope to tie up that loose end on Saturday afternoon when they take on No. 1 Ware (21-2), a 23-point winner over Monson in the semi-finals on Monday.
While Ware won in a laugher, the second D4 semifinal kept the large crowd on the edge of its seats.
It looked like No. 2 Pioneer (19-4) had Drury on the ropes in the third quarter when Racette, the Blue Devils’ all-time leading scorer, picked up his third and fourth personal fouls on consecutive defensive trips with the Panthers up, 43-39.
Pioneer used his absence to make a 10-3 run and open a 53-42 lead.
At that point, Reece’s coach and father, Jack Racette, reinserted the star guard. But rather than keeping him on Garrett Cote, who scored 32 on Drury last March and 29 on Tuesday, Reece got an assignment that helped keep him in the game.
"Just playing smart," he said. "It’s tough. You try to go out there and play clean. I know I had four fouls. To be quite honest, I went out and guarded their worst player and kind of was in help defense for most of it.
"I picked up the fifth trying to double-team Cote, but my teammates were able to pull through for me. And there’s nothing better than to pull out the win, even if I’m on the bench."
Racette did eventually foul out with less than a minute left in OT, after he helped the Blue Devils erase all of that 11-point deficit and build a seven-point lead in overtime.
The comeback started when McGuire drove the left wing to get his team within nine and hit a 3-pointer before the end of the third quarter to make it a six-point margin going to the fourth.
Drury opened the fourth with a 5-1 spurt to immediately get within a bucket, and the Blue Devils tied it midway through the quarter when McGuire scored in transition to make it 58-58.
Cote drove the wing at the other end moments later to put Pioneer up, 62-58.
But Obilio Rodrguez, who started the night by scoring on three of Drury’s first possessions but did not have a point since, scored in the post on back-to-back trips to tie the ballgame with 2:06 on the clock.
"He’s a senior, and I stuck with him at the end, and he did what he had to do," Jack Racette said. "We’ve got five seniors, and we’ve been here, and I think it showed a little bit tonight."
McGuire scored to give Drury a 64-62 lead. And Rodriguez was fouled getting a defensive rebound with 1:25 on the clock. He hit his second of two free throws to give the Blue Devils a three-point advantage.
But Zackary Fox (13 points) hit a free throw, and Cote drove the baseline for a pair to tie the game at 65-65 in the closing minute.
After a Drury timeout with the shot clock off and 13.8 ticks on the game clock, Pioneer’s defense stymied the Blue Devils, not allowing a good look at the basket, and the game went to overtime.
Racette, who had not score in the second half, opened OT with a 3-pointer. The next time down the court, he set up McGuire for a triple to make it 71-67.
Racette hit a free throw to stretch the lead to five and converted an assist from Hunter Sarkis to make it 74-67 with a minute left in overtime.
On Pioneer’s ensuing possession, Racette finally fouled out, and a shot clock violation by Drury gave Pioneer the ball down five with 23 seconds left.
Cote hit a 3 to get his team within two. But after the teams traded empty possessions, McGuire went to the line with 6.7 seconds left and made both his free throws to provide the final margin.
Pioneer got the ball into the front court and attempted a 3-pointer while leaning into a defender in an effort at a four-point play, but no foul was called and the shot was off the mark.