Hoosac Boys Come Back on Renaissance

By Ryan HolmesSpecial to IBerkshires.com
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CHESHIRE, Mass. – Trailing the entire game and without a 3-pointer to speak of, Hoosac Valley head coach Bill Robinson was looking for a way to find points and find them fast.
Not a single player on either the Hoosac or Renaissance boys’ basketball team had hit a shot behind the arc the whole night until Hurricanes sophomore J.P. Levesque found a sweet spot in the left corner and nailed a game-tying three with 17 seconds left on the clock to tie the score at 50 points apiece. It was Levesque’s only shot of the game and the only time Hoosac didn’t trail on the scoreboard the entire game.
The Phoenix was unable to get a good look on its final possession, and the Hurricanes pulled off the come-from-behind win in overtime when junior Jameson Coughlan banked in a shot in the lane with three seconds remaining to give the hosts an improbable 56-55 victory.
Leading the entire way, Renaissance (6-3) had a chance to ice the game with 23 seconds left, but Tawana Caldwell was off the mark on a pair of foul shots, giving the Hurricanes (8-2) one last chance to even the score. Junior guard Matt Koperniak quickly moved the ball up the middle of the court and fired a pass to wide-open Levesque in the corner. Slightly off the mark on his first shot, Levesque swished one of the few jump shots on the night to give his team new life.
“It was just a regular set,” Robinson said. “We needed some points, so we put him in. No one else was making them, so [we went to him]."
While Levesque got the game into overtime, it was Coughlan who brought the victory home. It was a mixed bag for the Hoosac junior, who led the team with 21 points and 10 rebounds. While some of his teammates looked a little sluggish to start the game, Coughlan played with a high-energy level the entire game. His one downside, however, was a rough shooting night from the charity stripe. Coughlan missed his first nine foul shots to start the game before making one of two free throws to start the scoring in overtime and give the hosts their first lead of the night.
The two teams traded foul shots from there before Coughlan corrected his shooting motion to sink a pair of free throws with just under a minute left in overtime to put the ’Canes back up by one. The Phoenix answered with a finish by Dakota Harn (12 points) off a nice entry feed from point guard Juan Rivera, who finished with six points, 10 boards and four assists.
That gave the visitors a one-point lead with 46 seconds remaining but, once again, a pair of misses at the foul line by Jason Winters allowed Hoosac one last chance to win the game. Koperniak had a solid night with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocks, but he fouled out of the game with 1:25 left on the clock. That allowed backup Dahndray Sistrunk the opportunity to make a play, and the junior guard certainly stepped up, working his way into the lane and finding Coughlan in the perfect position to make and an easy bank shot to win the game.
“Dray did that himself,” Robinson said. “We were going to run another whirl for Levesque off of the top and then look for Coughlan inside, but Coughlan came off of a pick inside right away and Sistrunk just saw him and made a great pass.”
The win was all the more shocking considering the way Robinson’s squad played in the first half. Hoosac fell behind 10-2 out of the gate, trailed 18-8 at the end of the first quarter and fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second quarter before going into the break down 31-20.
Robinson said his players had a half of a day in school on Friday and felt like that was a major factor in why they struggled at the start of the game.
“I hate half days,” Robinson said. “I just didn’t like what we did in the locker room beforehand. We were kind of zoning out. I have a pretty good feeling for my guys, and I could tell [something wasn’t right]."
Another reason the Hurricanes had a hard time on Friday night was the play of forward Arvon Gordon. With Hoosac focused on getting the ball out of Rivera’s hands, Gordon cleaned up both on the glass and at the foul line. The Phoenix junior finished with a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, half of which came on the offensive end. He was also sank 14 of 18 free throws on a night when those shots were hard to come by.
“He’s done that for us all season long,” Renaissance head coach Dave Williams said. “All we ask of him is consistency, and that’s what he’s been all season long. He’s been very consistent at being around the basket, scoring points and blocking shots. When he plays that kind of game, it’s really hard to beat us.”
Although his team lost a heartbreaker, Williams said playing on the road at Hoosac was a great test for his team. The two teams split a pair of meetings last year, with the Phoenix winning big in the opener before the Hurricanes rallied back to ruin Renaissance’s undefeated season in the Division 3 Western Mass semifinals. 
“We knew what we were up against when we came up here,” Williams said. “We were trying to redeem ourselves from the tournament game last year. We knew they were going to be a defensive team and very tough to play on their home court. We just couldn’t maintain. We made too many mistakes, had too many turnovers and we didn’t box out well.
“I thought Juan Rivera was starting to dictate the tempo of the game and once he went out of the game, it made a big difference the two or three minutes he was out.”
Rivera had to leave the court on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter because of a pair of collisions that left him with a swollen eye. With him on the bench and the Hurricanes’ defense clamping down, Hoosac outscored Renaissance 18-8 in the final frame to push the game into overtime.
Robinson’s club is back at it again on Saturday, hosting Monument Mountain at 7 p.m.
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