Girard, Drury Celebrate Birthday, Win

By Ryan Sports
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CHESHIRE, Mass. – Typically, people are supposed to keep their birthday wish to themselves and not share it with anyone else.
Justin Girard didn’t care much about that on Friday night, however, and he wasn’t about to wait for cake, ice cream or birthday candles before he let everyone else in on his little secret.
“Today is my 18th birthday, the senior guard said after his Drury boys’ basketball team earned a 48-42 win at Hoosac Valley on Friday. “This is a great birthday present. I was wishing we would win this game, and it came true.
“This is a huge game. We haven’t beaten them in awhile.”
Turning 18 is memorable enough, but Girard made it a little more special by scoring a game-high 14 points to go along with eight rebounds. He was the offensive catalyst for the Blue Devils, who snapped a three-game losing streak with their first win over the Hurricanes since the 2011-12 season.
It was an unfamiliar feeling for Hoosac coach Bill Robinson, who has won 11 out of the last 12 meetings between the two teams.
“I’m not used to this,” he said. “We don’t lose to Drury. But I told Coach [Jack Racette] at the end of the game that I thought he did a great job of preparing his kids. They played hard, and they knew what was coming when we did it. He did a great job, and we just don’t have the offensive weapons that he does at this point. We’re bigger, but we didn’t outrebound them. They outrebounded us tonight, and they wanted the game more.”
Another weapon Racette had on offense came in the form of senior point guard Nick Trombley, who set the tone right off the opening whistle by attacking the Hoosac defense off of the dribble. Trombley hit a pair of pull-up jumpers and added a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the first quarter as the Blue Devils (9-4) jumped out to a 16-6 lead. Overall, he scored 13 points on the night, sinking a pair of 3s and two clutch foul shots with 1:24 left in the game when the Hurricanes (9-4) cut the visitors’ lead down to just four points.
“He’s been playing pretty good for us,” Racette said. “We said he’s the guy that kind of makes it go for us on the road. He’s a good shooter. I don’t think he shoots enough to be quite honest. He’s got a nice little pull up, he knocks down the 3-ball and he played some good minutes for us.”
After Drury’s fast start in the first quarter, the game seemed to be getting away from Hoosac early in the second period. Girard started the frame with his second triple of the night before reserves Ryan Harrington and Kirby Bryce scored on back-to-back possessions to put the Devils up 23-8. Robinson switched up to a zone defense, however, and big 3-pointers by Matt Koperniak and Nate Tomkiewicz helped the hosts go on a 12-2 run to end the half.
Hoosac’s zone forced Drury into five straight turnovers at one point and allowed Robinson’s club to make it a 25-20 game at halftime.
“We couldn’t handle them man to man,” Robinson said when asked of his decision to play zone. “They were too quick for us, and they were blowing by us.”
The Blue Devils gathered themselves in the third quarter and started finding seams in the Hurricanes’ zone. Girard, Kareen Beckett and Cameron Lesure attacked the basket and got to the free-throw line with consistency, combining to go 7 of 10 from the foul line during the quarter. Beckett also did a fantastic job on Hoosac center Jameson Coughlan, limiting the big man to just eight points, only two of which came after halftime.
It was a good night for the Drury defense, which packed the paint and forced the hosts to settle for 3-pointers. The ’Canes got plenty of good looks from outside but only made 7 out of 32 shots from behind the arc.
“I thought [Beckett] was big,” Racette said. “Coughlan is averaging 15 [points per game], and he held him to eight. He gets his 15 and it’s a one-point game the other way. We really came in here looking to stop him, and I thought we did a great job. We put [Beckett] in the middle of that zone, and he was the guy tonight. He dominated the boards I thought.”
Beckett collected a game-high 12 rebounds on the night to go along with nine points. The Devils held a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Hoosac kept the game interesting thanks mainly to a trio of threes by junior Nolan Hayer. His second triple made the score 43-39 with 1:25 to play in the game, but Hayer fouled Trombley on the ensuing inbounds play. Trombley sank them both, Hayer missed his next long-range attempt and sophomore Hayden Bird came up with a big block on Hoosac’s next shot to put the game away and give the Drury seniors their first ever win against the Hurricanes and one unforgettable birthday for Girard.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I haven’t had this feeling of beating Hoosac before. Going into the locker room tonight after this big win was just awesome”
Hoosac will try to rebound with a home game against Taconic on Tuesday. The Blue Devils return to action on Wednesday with a game at Mount Everett.
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