Ryan-Kut Leads Hoosac Boys into Western Mass Final

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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AMHERST, Mass. -- In the blink of an eye, Hoosac Valley senior Sean Ryan-Kut went from goat to great.
Ryan-Kut was called for a foul that nearly allowed Renaissance to erase most of a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Just more than a minute later, Ryan-Kut went to the foul line with a chance to ice the game.
He sank both ends of his one-and-one chance to help send the 'Canes to a 72-67 upset victory in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semi-finals on Tuesday at UMass Amherst's Curry Hicks Cage.
Ryan-Kut scored a game-high 26 ponits and dished out three assists.
But there was a chance those heroics would be overshadowed with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Carlos Gonzalez of unbeaten Renaissance had a breakaway with his team trailing, 67-60. Ryan-Kut caught him and took him down under the basket.
The Hoosac guard was whistled for an intentional foul. Gonzalez made both his foul shots, and Renaissance got the ball, hitting a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with more than a minute on the clock.
"I wasn't trying to intentionally foul him," a relieved and happy Ryan-Kut said after the game. "I was just trying to stop him from the lay-up. I ended up tripping him. That was a big mistake by me.
"But I ended up making up for it."
"I felt like I could make anything at that moment because I'd been shooting well all night," Ryan-Kut said. "I knew I'd knock 'em down."
His coach could not believe it when Ryan-Kut knocked down Gonzalez.
"I was ready to kill him when he intentially fouled that kid with a minute something to go," Bill Robinson said. "He came over and I rode him a little bit. And I shouldn't have. Then I backed off and said, 'Let me tell you something, Sean, you're going to have a one-and-one somewhere. I need you to be in this game."
A lot of people did not expect Hoosac (16-6) to be in the game against previously unbeaten Rensaissance, a team that beat the 'Canes, 82-70, in the middle of January.
Ryan-Kut said the difference was this time around, the Phoenix was not able to bother Hoosac with its press.
"I felt like on the bigger court, they weren't able to press us as easily," he said. "We were able to spread them out and get them out of the press very quickly. We just tried to slow the game down and play our pace, not their pace. That was a big difference."
Another key: Hoosac's persistence in driving to the basket despite seeing a couple of early shots get blocked by Renaissance forward Devonte Marshall.
"On offense we had two choices: pull the ball out or go at 'em," Robinson said. "I said, 'You know what? We're not cowards. Let's go at 'em.
"Our angles were a little bit better. We talked about angles in pracitce this week and how you've got to shed the big guy inside, create the angle and catch it so you're going into the basket, not straight into him. And we had some better angles tonight."
Hoosac also had stellar passing -- in particular from senior Matt Braman, who recorded eight assists to go along with 16 points.
"He was spraying the ball, moving the ball," Robinson said. "We told the guys we have to be careful of our passes, that we wouldn't throw it away because sometimes they like to gamble and step into passing lanes. He had to make sure our angles catching the ball weren't flat. And then we told them to pass a lot of crooked passes -- bounce passes and things, a lot of skip passes we wanted to put into our offense."
Jameson Coughlan scored 10 and grabbed seven rebounds for Hoosac. Gonzalez led Renaissance with 22 while Marshall added 17.
Hoosac led most of the game and was up by as many as 12 at the end of the third quarter.
But Renaissance got back into it with some big buckets in the paint by Marshall and the five-point trip to make it 67-65.
The teams traded possessions before Braman was able to set up Coughlan in transition to make it 69-65. Another Marshall basket in the post got the Phoenix within two with 20.4 seconds left.
On Hoosac's next possession, Ryan-Kut got to the line for the one-and-one that made it 71-67 with 11.7 on the clock. Trevor Alibozek earned a defensive rebound, and Braman got to the line with less than a second on the clock to provide the final margin.
With the win, Hoosac got back to Saturday's 4 p.m. Western Mass title game and elevated Robinson from coach to soothsayer.
"When we got beat by Renaissance in January down there, I watched them and I watched their habits, and I said to my guys, 'You know what? I'll be honest with you, Renaissance is not going to win Western Mass,' " Robinson recalled on Tuesday. "I said, 'I don't know what team's going to beat them, but they're not going to win.' "
Last week, after beating Greenfield in the quarter-finals, Robinson reminded his players of that prediction. And the subject came up again on Tuesday night.
"I never mentioned us until two minutes before [Tuesday's] game," Robinson said. "We were going through our little pep talk, and I said, 'I told you Renaissance isn't going to win. I told you someone's going to beat 'em, but I don't know who. Now, I know. That team's going to be us tonight.'
"I don't know if we believed it or what we did, but I'm proud of 'em, man."
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