WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock boys basketball team is giving its fans their money's worth.
Not only are the Mounties 3-0 in three home games to open the year. Those three wins have been by a combined 11 points — the latest a 55-53 win over Wahconah.
"Last year, we came up a couple of games short of the playoffs, and we looked at our schedule and we saw one-point loss, three-point loss," Mount Greylock senior Eric Hirsch said. "We didn't win those close games last year. We're starting to do that this year, which is a real confidence booster."
Hirsch hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Mounties into overtime in a win over Hoosac Valley last week. On Monday, he scored a team-high 14, but it was fellow senior Emmett Shepard who made the big shot — a 3-pointer from the corner on the right wing with just more than a minute left to give the Mounties a 52-50 lead.
"We were trying to run corners because they triple teamed [Jake Benzinger] every time we put it in," Shepard said. "We threw it in to Jake, and of course they just collapsed, and I was wide open. I was so wide open that I couldn't even imagine how wide open I was. So I took a ‘one one thousand,' I breathed and shot. And it went in."
Benzinger finished with three assists to go along with 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
"We have to get [Benzinger] the ball more, and we have to do a better job of passing into the post," Mount Greylock coach Bob Thistle said. "But it only works if we dump it in if we're able to pass it out. And I thought he was able to feel the double. We can call ‘double' all day, but unless he feels it, sees it, has that peripheral vision going, it won't work. I thought he did a great job there."
Wahconah (3-2) was led by Ryan McMahon with 20 points — 18 on 3-pointers — on a night when it was hampered by the absences of Kevin Boino and Cole Morrison.
Wahconah still had enough to rally from a five-point deficit going to the fourth quarter and take a 50-46 lead midway through the period.
Matt Schneider, Collin Parrott and Luke Steinman each put back an offensive rebound, and Marco Anastasio set up Parrott for a triple during Wahconah's 17-8 run, which ended with a Steinman bucket in transition.
Zach Ronnow stopped a string of seven straight Wahconah points when he was fouled grabbing a defensive rebound and hit the front end of a one-and-one to make it 50-47 with 3 minutes, 2 seconds on the clock.
Two trips later, Taylor Carlough set up Benzinger in the post for a basket to get Mount Greylock within one.
After Benzinger grabbed a carrom at the other end, he helped set up Shepard's third 3 of the game to give the Mounties the lead, 52-50. Then it was Benzinger again, blocking a shot with just less than a minute left and grabbing a defensive rebound with less than 30 seconds to go and the Mounties up two.
Wahconah was forced to foul, and Ian Brink converted one of two to make it a three-point game. Wahconah got a runner from the foul line with 6 seconds left, but it rimmed out, and Michael McCormack grabbed the rebound.
He was fouled and made two shots to push the lead to 5 before McMahon hit a 3 at the buzzer to provide the final points.
Shepard finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Patrick Storie had six and five while drawing the tough defensive assignment of marking Parrott (eight points, three assists).
Seven different Mounties finished with at least five points, and seven different players had at least a point or an assist in the pivotal fourth quarter.
"That's what I love about our team is that up and down the lineup, we have guys who can score," Brink said. "Every night it changes. You just never know with our team."
And you can't count out the Mounties in close games.
"It really says something about these kids, these young men," Thistle said. "We have a more experienced team this year. We have seven seniors. I'm proud of the three seniors we graduated last year because even though we came up short — we won eight games — we went through a lot together. … People don't just wave a magic wand and you're experienced. You have to go through the highs and the lows.
"Whereas we lost some of these close games last year, I think the kids have learned to play together, and you can see the confidence growing. This is a great team we beat tonight."