Four Carry County Banner into State Basketball Semi-Finals
Berkshire County taking home four sectional titles in the six games at Curry Hicks Cage on Saturday was a remarkable achievement for the county.
But it was unsurprising to someone who knows the area as well as anyone.
"Springfield teams, they just don't have a lot of respect for the Berkshire County teams, they really don't," Drury boys coach Jack Racette said after his team won its second straight Western Massachusetts Division 4 title.
"Then when we get to this tournament and we look, and there are six Berkshire County teams down here, and they'll bring probably three or four champions. I tell you, Berkshire County basketball is pretty good."
The county had teams in five of the six sectional finals played on Saturday at the University of Massachusetts.
In addition to Racette's Blue Devils, the Taconic boys and girls each won titles, as did the Hoosac Valley girls, in an all-Berkshire final against Wahconah in Division 3.
In the Western Mass tournament, Berkshire County teams (including McCann Tech, which plays outside the county league) went 26-9 against teams from the Pioneer Valley and points east, a winning percentage of .743.
The four victors Saturday is up one from last year, when the county sent an already impressive three teams -- the Drury boys, Taconic boys and Hoosac Valley girls -- on to state semi-final play with one, the Hurricanes, taking a state title.
Despite Berkshire County's success in getting to Western Mass Championship Saturday -- and beyond -- Racette said some feel schools in the western part of Western Mass still don't get the respect they deserve.
"I think they underestimate our schedule, being the two seed," Racette said. "We talk about it. They think they're better than us. And they're a good team. But I say, if you play my schedule, you'd be lucky to win 10 games, playing the Taconics, Wahconahs, these are all tough tournament teams with great coaches.
"We take a lot of pride in Berkshire County, a lot of pride."
This week, four teams will put that pride on the line in the Final Fours of their respective divisions.
All four state semi-finals involving Berkshire County teams will be played at Western New England University's Alumni Healthy Living Center on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
On Tuesday at 5:30, the defending state champion Hoosac Valley girls (17-6) take on Central Mass champion Millbury (21-2) in a rematch of their mid-January meeting at the Hoophall Classic at Springfield College, a 45-28 Millbury win.
"I think we can play with them," Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said. "That was probably one of our poorer games of the year, offensively. Defensively, it actually wasn't bad, we held them in the 40s.
"We're going to have to score. They're a seasoned team. Senior-laden. They pass the ball well. We'll make some adjustments, for sure, based off the film. And if we can put some points up, I think we can definitely play with them."
Hoosac Valley was far from alone in struggling to score against the Woolies. Millbury held its three opponents in the Central Mass tournament to 36, 28 and 26 points, respectively. According to the Worcester Telegram, Millbury, like Hoosac Valley, boasts a balanced scoring attack with Shannon Reno leading the Woolies with 11.7 points per game; the Hurricanes have three players -- Averie McGrath, Riley Robinson and Sarah Field -- who average around 9 ppg.
Tuesday's nightcap will feature the Drury boys (16-7) against Hopedale (19-4). Last year in the state semis, the Blue Devils fell by eight points to eventual D4 state champion Worcester Tech.
Hopedale beat Worcester Tech this year in the Central Mass quarter-finals. Sam Morelli and Dan Liberatore lead Hopedale with 15.6 and 15.0 ppg, respectively.
Drury is led by Scott McGuire Jr., who is averaging 25 ppg and has rewritten the scoring record book in North Adams. Louis Guilotte and Tim Brazeau back him up with about 9 ppg apiece.
On Wednesday night, Taconic High takes over the WNEU gym as the school's girls and boys each play in the state semi-finals. As of Sunday afternoon, Pittsfield/Taconic Schools Athletic Director Jim Abel confirmed that the district-wide ban on travel outside the county does not impact the athletic teams but "would include school sponsored 'fan buses' to games."
The Taconic girls Saturday secured the program's first sectional title in 27 years, but they are not done yet. They're setting their sights even higher.
"Even when these kids were freshmen -- Ciany, Ahliya [Phillips] -- they were talking about winning state championships their first week as freshmen," Taconic coach Matt Mickle said after Saturday's win.
Conyers and Phillips are just sophomores, but they already have helped Taconic (19-4) to two Western Mass finals.
The super sophs lead the reigning sectional champs with 13.7 ppg apiece. Senior Taea Bramer is just behind at 10.3 ppg and is good for nearly three assists per night.
Central Mass champ Medway (21-2) is having a Taconic-like season of its own, winning a sectional title for the fist time since 1992 and getting big contributions from a pair of sophomores: Amy Johnston and Maggie Regan, who each average around 9 ppg, according to the Metro West Daily News.
In Wednesday's nightcap, Isaac Percy (19.8 ppg), Mohammed Sanogo (14.3 ppg) and the Taconic boys (19-4) take on Central Mass champion Wayland (14-7).
Wayland played its way out of the bottom of the bracket to win its sectional title, winning as the No. 6 seed in an eight-team field and beating defending champion Hopkinton in Saturday's sectional final.
Wayland's boys have not made it out of a sectional since 1991. They made it this year thanks largely to the arrival of freshman Xoren Livingston, who scored 18 points -- 10 in the fourth quarter -- in Saturday's title game.