Pittsfield Wins Defensive Battle at Hoosac Valley

By Ryan HolmesSpecial to iBerkshires.com
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — There was enough defense to go around in Friday night's game between the Hoosac Valley and Pittsfield boys' basketball teams. Although offense was in short supply, the Generals found enough of it in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 48-42 win on the road.
Pittsfield improved to 13-3 overall and kept itself firmly on top of the North Division standings by holding the Hurricanes (11-6) to just 19 second-half points. After starting off slow and falling behind 14-6 after the first quarter, the visitors outscored Hoosac in every frame after that. Other than a game-high 20 points from junior center Jameson Coughlan, no other 'Canes player had more than six points.
"We were able to run an effective offense [against the zone]," Hoosac head coach Bill Robinson said. "They switched to man to man, put pressure on our guards and our wings up top, and our guards melted. We had 22 turnovers that we charted and 18 were from the wings or the top.
"They had 18 direct points off of turnovers. Our turnovers weren't throw-aways to the out of bounds. Our turnovers were throw-aways to them as they ran the court and laid them up and in. In a game in the 40s, if you can get 18 points off of turnovers, that's huge."
A change in defensive strategy certainly did wonders for the Generals, who looked a little out of sorts early on. The Hurricanes' offense knifed through Pittsfield's zone in the first quarter, allowing Coughlan good looks inside and setting him up for 10 quick points in the opening frame. Hoosac players had five assists in the first quarter alone, two of which came on lob passes inside from Matt Koperniak to Javon Reynolds.
"We tighten up our defenses to cause them some problems and cause some pressure," Generals head coach Steve Ray said. "We tried not to let them throw the ball in over the top to Reynolds like they were in the first half. The closer up we play on the perimeter, the harder it is for them to throw it up. I think we did a better job hitting the boards, but I think it really was the defensive pressure on the perimeter that helped."
It also helped having a great all-around effort from Chad Shade. The senior forward did a lot of things right on Friday night, leading his team with 11 points, a game-high 13 rebounds while also adding four assists, three steals and one block.
"That's what we needed," Ray said. "Last time we played these guys, we got beat very badly on the boards. It's tough for [Shade] to play against a kid the size of Reynolds, but I thought he did a pretty good job."
Shade had a few momentum-changing moments in the game that helped Pittsfield seize control of the contest. With his team down 23-18 at the end of the first half, Shade scored on a runner before grabbing a defensive rebound and finding Scott Steinman (seven points) with a full-court pass to beat the buzzer and pull the visitors within one at the break. He also came up big during a pivotal third quarter for the Generals, assisting on consecutive baskets before making a steal, finishing a lay up and getting fouled on the play. He sank the free throw to give Pittsfield a 33-28 lead. Overall, Pittsfield outscored the Hurricanes 14-7 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
"This is a huge win for us," Shade said. "Today was a great team win. Everyone kind of came together. We started off real slow, but we picked up together as a team and fought back. These guys threw some hard punches at us. They're a tough team, they play physical, and I thought we kept up with them in the physical aspect and getting boards in things like that."
Hoosac made a big push at the start of the fourth quarter, busting off a quick 6-0 run on three straight lay-ins set up by junior guard Avery Hall. That gave the hosts a 36-34 advantage, but the Generals came right back with 9-0 burst of their own. Junior Connor McDonough made two big plays in that streak, first hitting a three from the top of the key before converting a fast-break lay up a few moments later. Steinman then sank a pair of foul shots to give Pittsfield a big enough lead with 3:20 left in the game.
"Connor came in and did a great job," Ray said. "He got a bunch of rebounds and made some defensive plays. After his first couple of air balls, he knocked down some pretty big shots for us."
McDonough finished with eight points, while point guard Jerry McDonough added 10 points and three assists for the Generals. Shade said it's typical for his team to have a balanced scoring across the board like Pittsfield had on Friday night.
"That's how we've been all season," he said. "We have 12 guys on this team that contribute in their own special way. I think that's what makes us a good team. We can put anyone in, they can just contribute and we can play together as a team very well. We balance our scoring well, and I think that's part of our success."
The Generals next travel to Wahconah, where they will try to avenge one of their two league losses of the year on Tuesday. The Hurricanes will try to regroup the same night with a road game against Taconic.
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