Old Rochester Pulls Away Late to Top Hoosac in State Final

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WORCESTER, Mass. -- There was a moment, midway through the third quarter, when it all came together for the Hoosac Valley boys basketball team in Saturday afternoon's Division 3 State Championship game.
The Hurricanes were in the middle of an 8-2 run to cut a seven-point half-time deficit down to two, 35-33. Junior Jameson Coughlan grabbed a defensive rebound and got the ball to classmate Matt Koperniak, who brought it up the right side.
Koperniak made a spin move to find an opening high on the right wing and drove to the basket for a bucket to tie the game for the first time since 0-0.
But that was the last tie Old Rochester Regional would allow at the DCU Center. The Bulldogs scored the next six points and later used a 11-2 run to secure a 61-47 victory over the 'Canes (17-8).
Hoosac trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half before getting the deficit to single digits.
Then to start the second half, Coughlan scored three points and set up an Avery Hall 3-pointer, and Javon Reynolds put back an offensive rebound to erase most of that deficit.
"That was big," Koperniak said of the 10-2 spurt to get the Hurricanes level. "It's good to come out of half like that. We definitely had a lot of confidence. We thought we were going to take it away, but it just didn't happen."
After ORR (21-7) reestablished its lead at 41-35, Hoosac made it a one possession game thanks to Colin Rousseau hitting a pair of free throws and senior Nate Tomkiewicz setting up Peter Barrow in the post to make it 41-39.
Then, the wheels came off.
Old Rochester freshman Noah Fernandes (game-high 20 points) hit a 3-pointer just before the end of the third quarter, and Ryan Beatty hit another to start the fourth to put his team up eight. Three minutes later, it was an 11-point cushion as William Santos hit a jumper from the left wing to make it 52-41 and complete the 11-2 run.
J.P. Levesque hit a 3 to get Hoosac within seven at 52-45 a minute later, but that was as close as the 'Canes could come. Old Rochester closed with a 9-2 run that ended with both teams clearing their benches in the final minute.
Fernandes ended up with four 3-pointers, two in the decisive run that spanned the second and third quarters.
"That kid didn't miss from the 3-point line, I'll tell you that," Hoosac Valley coach Bill Robinson said. "Him and Beatty hit the big ones late in the game that put us away. But we kept coming. We kept coming, and trying to come back. We weren't quitting.
"If a couple of those layups fell, it could have been different, but it wasn't."
Hoosac struggled mightily offensively in the first half. In some ways, it was as frustrating as Wednesday's 13-point first half in the state semi-finals. This time, the 'Canes were getting better looks, but nothing was falling as they went to the locker room down 32-25.
"We got the ball inside where we had to get it, and they rolled off the rim," Robinson said. "[Austin] Milesi had a couple of drives that rolled off the rim. It just wasn't our day. The ball spun out instead of spinning in.
"hey hit 'em, we didn't. That's why you get a winner and a loser, I guess."
Koperniak, who had a team-high 14 points, said the Hurricanes were fortunate to go to the locker room down by just seven.
"Our shots just weren't falling," he said. "That was pretty much the story.
"We were having trouble, and it was pretty good [we were down only seven]. They didn't make many shots the first half either. We were in there. That was good for us."
Fernandes and Jordan Menard accounted for ORR's only two 3-pointers in the first half. The Bulldogs had five triples after the break.
Hoosac had just one first-half 3, from Levesque. He and Hall each made a triple in the second half. Coughlan backed up Koperniak with eight points and a team-high 12 rebounds. Reynolds grabbed five caroms -- all in the second half.
"I just think we're tough mentally," Robinson said. "I don't think we break. There was a time this year when we had to talk to the team about trust -- trust each other. We weren't there. We didn't trust each other. And I think we came away where now we're trusting one another. It helps when you have five guys playing instead of one. That's all it is: that and believing."
NOTES: The Hoosac Valley boys played in the middle of a six-game championship Saturday at the DCU and on the back end of a Hoosac Valley double-header. The Hoosac girls opened the day with a loss to Archbishop Williams in their D3 state final. ... A third Berkshire County team was in the house as well, as the Lenox boys basketball team was honored at half-time with the MIAA's sportsmanship award.
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