Three from County Shoot for Western Mass Titles on Saturday
AMHERST, Mass. -- The 2018 edition of the Monument Mountain boys basketball team already has left its mark on the program.
But there’s one mark it really wants to make.
“We’ve got blank space in our gym,” Spartans coach Mike Saporito said on Tuesday after his team’s Western Mass semi-final win. “We look at it all the time. We’re dreaming of filling that space. Now, it’s closer to a reality. We just have to stay focused and be as diligent with our focused intensity at the end of the race as we’ve been at the beginning of the race.
“Psychologically, we’ll be ready. Hopefully, we’ll shoot well. That always helps.”
Saporito’s team Saturday afternoon plays in Monument Mountain’s first sectional final since 1999 and will look to win the school’s first Western Mass title since 1979 when it takes on Easthampton at Curry Hicks Cage at the University of Massachusetts.
It will be the fourth sectional final of the day at the Cage and the second of three involving Berkshire County teams.
In the Division 3 girls final at 2:15, sixth-seeded Wahconah looks to complete a run of upsets to claim that program’s first title in 16 years. Wahconah (20-3) previously has knocked off No. 3 Hoosac Valley and No. 2 South Hadley; next up is top-seeded Hampshire (20-2).
Championship Saturday will end with another upset-minded county team taking the floor. The No. 6 Taconic boys, like the Wahconah girls, went on the road to win in the quarter-finals and beat the tournament’s No. 2 in the semis. At 7:30, Taconic (15-7) tips off against No. 1 Northampton (15-6).
In between is the D3 boys final, completing a bracket that went pretty much according to form, with Monument (19-3) the No. 1 seed, facing No. 2 Easthampton (17-5).
Going into the tournament, Saporito was confident his team was prepared for the pressure of being the top seed in the 12-team field. And that confidence has been borne out.
“They’re great guys. And they’ve played together and played unselfishly,” he said on Tuesday. “We’ve had good teams in the past, but I haven’t had a team who’s cared as much for each other and who are playing for each other. We’re all playing for each other right now, and we realize we have something special, so we’re moving the ball around. No one’s trying to be a hero. Everyone’s just trying to do their job the best they can, and everyone’s pretty good at their job.”
Tickets to Saturday’s games are $10 or $7 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade (children 5 and under admitted free).