Hoosac Valley Rallies Past Wahconah in Fourth

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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DALTON, Mass. – Qwanell Bradley scored 10 fourth-quarter points, and the Hoosac Valley boys basketball team Friday forced nine fourth-quarter turnovers to earn a 60-57, come-from-behind win over Wahconah.
The Hurricanes trailed by 14 points in the opening moments of the fourth quarter but took their first lead since late in the first when Bradley scored in the post with fewer than two minutes left to make it 58-57.
Eighth-grader Trevor Moynihan drained a pair of free throws with 5.5 seconds left on the clock to give the Hurricanes a three-point margin.
And Wahconah’s last turnover of the game, into Hoosac Valley’s press, dashed any hope for a last-second shot for the home team.
The Hurricanes forced just six turnovers in the first three quarters but turned up the heat in the final eight minutes to earn their sixth-straight win and improve to 14-2 this winter.
“Coach gave it to us at half-time,” Bradley said. “Our leaders, our seniors stepped up really big, and they just pushed us to be our best.
“And we did our best.”
Hoosac Valley coach Bill Robinson said his team needed a change of approach defensively with the game in the balance.
“We played more of a lax defense,” Robinson said. “We didn’t play [Aidan] Hagmaier too much on the outside. We tried to take away his drive and give support for [Patrick] McLaughlin. He’s a hell of a player.
“At that point, I just said, ‘We have to come out and play them. We have to put pressure on everybody. I’ve got to see if they can handle the ball.’ And that’s what we did, and they wilted a little bit. But I’ve been on the other side of that. We’ve wilted at times too. It worked out for us.”
Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher was disappointed with how his team handled the pressure – both from the Hurricanes and the raucous crowd that turned out to see the county rivals.
“We did not do a good job handling the pressure at the end of the game,” Belcher said. “We let some of the outside influences impact some of our decision making, which hurt us, for sure. I thought we weren’t very poised down the stretch.
“That’s something going into the tournament that, obviously, we’ve got to be better prepared for. We turned over the ball too much at critical moments of the game.”
Wahconah committed just four turnovers in the first half, when it built a 31-20 lead.
A lot of that came from McLaughlin, who started red hot with nine points in the first quarter.
Hagmaier put back a rebound with 1:35 left in the first to give Wahconah an 11-10 lead. And a transition basket by McLaughlin (26 points, nine rebounds) and a conventional three-point play from Hagmaier (13 points) gave Wahconah a six-point margin going to the second.
Hoosac Valley answered to start the second with a triple from Joey McGovern (17 points) and four quick points from Bradley (16 points) to go up, 17-16.
But Wahconah closed the half with a 15-3 run. Sam McLaughlin (nine points) hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Evan Alfonso finished the half with a corner 3 to grab a 31-20 lead.
In the third, Frank Field (18 points, eight rebounds) kept the Hurricanes in the game, scoring 11 points. But Wahconah ended the half with a McLaughlin-to-McLaughlin 3 ball, with Sam getting the finish from the corner, to go on top, 47-35.
Hagmaier started the fourth quarter with a bucket in the post to make it a 14-point margin.
But the Hurricanes scored the next seven to cut that lead in half.
First, Bradley converted an offensive rebound. Then McGovern buried a deep 3 from the left wing. Finally, off a turnover, Bradley scored in the post with 5:31 left to make it 49-42.
After the teams traded baskets in four straight possessions, the Hurricanes got a stop that led to an Adan Wicks lay-up.
Pat McLaughlin scored on back-to-back possessions for Wahconah to make it 57-48 with fewer than four minutes to play.
But those were the last points Wahconah scored.
Hoosac Valley scored 10 points in fewer than two minutes, taking advantage of three Wahconah turnovers. McGovern started the run with a triple, and Bradley ended it with his 10th point of the quarter to give the Hurricanes the lead for good.
“I love games like this,” Bradley said. “If I get the ball, I’m not going to be afraid to shoot it just because there are a couple more people here. I’m going to play just as hard as I usually do, probably a little bit harder.
“I love the atmosphere. I play for it. I live for it.”
So does his coach.
“Let’s talk about the environment on a Friday night in Berkshire County basketball,” Robinson said, brushing aside a reporter’s initial question about the game. “This is what we’re missing. This was awesome tonight.
“The environment was electric. It was a great game between two good teams. Very competitive game throughout. That’s what high school sports are all about, right there.”
Wahconah’s Belcher is hoping his team gets to play in those atmospheres again this winter and that the lessons learned on Friday will come in handy down the road.
“That’s the message in the locker room after the game: These kinds of games, this is why we scheduled like we did, so we’d be in these kinds of environments so you’re prepared for the tournament,” Belcher said. “With the new format the way it is … the reality is it matters more who you play than who you beat.
“It was a great atmosphere. This was a great Friday night basketball game, for sure. We need more of these. But I didn’t think we handled those things that we can’t control very well in the fourth quarter.”
Wahconah (8-8) is at Monument Mountain on Monday and Pittsfield on Thursday to finish the regular season. Hoosac Valley is at South Hadley on Monday before coming home for another rivalry game, against Drury, to finish the regular season on Thursday.
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