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Pioneer Valley Pulls Away Late to Stop Drury

By Stephen Dravis
iBerkshires Sports - Print
06:03PM / Saturday, March 09, 2024


NORTHFIELD, Mass. – The Pioneer Valley boys basketball team Saturday scored eight points at the foul line in the final 1 minute, 20 seconds, to pull away for a 54-44 win over Drury in the quarter-finals of the Division 5 State Tournament.
 
The third-seeded Panthers (18-5) went just 8-for-14 at the stripe down the stretch, but it was enough to break open a one-possession game and advance to the semi-finals against Boston’s New Mission High School.
 
Brayden Thayer scored 16 points, and Hugh Cyhowski finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds for Pioneer Valley, which won round three against the Blue Devils after dropping a pair of meetings in the Hampshire South Division schedule this winter.
 
“It’s a tough place to play, and they shot the ball better in their gym from the previous couple of times,” Drury coach Jack Racette said. “I thought they really wanted to get Thayer going, which they did.
 
“But they just outwilled us in the third and fourth quarters. They beat us to too many loose balls.”
 
After matching the Panthers in rebounding in the first half, the Blue Devils were outrebounded, 19-13, in the second half. And a couple of offensive rebounds in the final minute allowed PIoneer Valley to run valuable time off the clock with Drury scrambling to cut into its deficit.
 
Drury senior Dante Dillard had a team-high 15 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists in his last game in a Blue Devil uniform. Sam Moorman scored 14 points, and Myles Beauchamp had nine in the loss.
 
Beauchamp knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, when both teams were finding success on the offensive end.
 
Pioneer Valley had two four-point leads in the first eight minutes, but each time, Drury came back. Beauchamp’s second triple of the game made it 17-17 going into the second quarter.
 
Both teams tightened up at the defensive end in quarter No. 2, but Drury used a 7-0 spurt to go up, 26-22. First, Moorman hit a jumper from the baseline, then Beauchamp connected from behind the arc and, finally, Moorman scored in the post for his eighth point in the half and a four-point Drury lead with 3:10 left in the half.
 
Pioneer Valley’s Alex McClelland scored the only points the rest of the way to let Drury take a 26-24 lead into the locker room.
 
After making four 3s as a team in the first half, Drury could not get anything going from the perimeter after the break. All the Blue Devils’s second half points came from Dillard and Moorman.
 
“They really got out and started getting into Myles and into Jorge [Bond],” Racette said. “So we tried to get the ball down low to Sammy.
 
“They’re a good team. They’re not ranked third for no reason. To come into their gym is a tough, tough place to play. This gym’s a big gym, too. I really believe we ran out of gas.”
 
Cyhowski scored seven for the Panthers in the third quarter to help them erase the slight half-time deficit and take a 36-33 lead into the third.
 
But Moorman hit a free throw, and Dillard scored in transition with a pass from Bond to tie it, 36-36, with 5:13 on the clock.
 
Pioneer Valley then went on a 9-2 run to go up by seven. But Dillard hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to make it 45-40, and after he grabbed a defensive rebound at the other end, the senior drove the left wing for a basket to make it a one-possession game with about two minutes left.
 
Drury managed just one more basket the rest of the way. And Pioneer Valley scored the rest of its points at the free throw line as it gradually stretched its advantage, taking the game's only double-digit lead with a pair of Josh Wood free throws with five seconds on the clock.
 
The Blue Devils finish the season with a record of 15-7, two wins better and two rounds deeper in the state tournament than they went a year ago, despite graduating five seniors, including 1,000-point scorer Lous Guillotte, and returning just one 12th-grader from that 2022-23 squad.
 
“I’m proud of them,” Racette said. “I don’t think anybody thought we were gonna win the number of games we won or be a six seed in the state. And all these guys really worked. We got better every game.
 
“We went a stretch near the end of the year when we weren’t playing well. We’re not deep, we’ve got young kids. I think their legs were starting to go. And that’s what happened at the end of the year. Before we went into the state tournament, we had 10 days. We played two games in 10 days. … We got an extra day [before the quarter-final], playing on Saturday, but we exerted a lot of energy in the Rockport game, and I think it really wore on us.”
 

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