Hoosac Boys Edged in State Semi-Final

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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WORCESTER, Mass. -- After a series of heart-stopping wins the last two winters, it was a heart-breaking loss for the Hoosac Valley boys basketball team on Tuesday evening at the DCU Center.
The Hurricanes twice had the ball down a point in the closing seconds but could not get off a shot in a 45-44 Oxford victory in the Division 3 state semi-finals.
When Shawn McCarthy (18 points) scored with about 15 seconds left to give the Pirates a one-point lead, it looked like the stage was set for another in a series of dramatic Hoosac victories.
But this time around, the basketball gods had something different in mind.
First, a drive on the baseline ended when arguably the best all-around athlete in Berkshire County lost the ball out of bounds with 2 seconds on the clock.
But after a timeout, Matt Koperniak redeemed himself, stealing Oxford's inbounds pass at midcourt to get Hoosac the ball with 1 second remaining.
After Hoosac's third timeout to set up a miracle, the Canes could not corral Jameson Coughlan's inbounds pass, and the clock expired to send Oxford to the first state final in school history.
Last year, Hoosac was in the state finals after a miraculous shot by Coughlan in double overtime in the semis.
This time, Coughlan, Koperniak, Dhandray Sistrunk and Avery Hall were forced to start processing the idea of life after Hoosac Valley basketball.
"These guys are a really special group," Koperniak said. "I've known them for a while now, ever since youth leagues. A lot of special kids, really good on and off the court. Throughout the season, we had a great run, at the end, especially. And other years we've had great runs, too.
"It's just a pleasure to play with these guys. It's been a pleasure to play for my community, represent Hoosac Valley, and my coaches, too. They're a great group of coaches."
Hoosac coach Bill Robinson could not say enough about what the Class of 2016 has accomplished in Cheshire.
"They walk out of here the most decorated senior class in the history of our school," Robinson said. "They played in three Western Mass football championship games. They won two Western Mass basketball finals. They're the first team to win back-to-back. They played in a state final. They almost played in another state final. That's a good career. I'm sure a lot of kids would like to have that career.
"They're just tremendous, tremendous competitors and very good chemistry. They all get along. They like each other. ... That's 90 percent of the battle, the chemistry."
On Tuesday, Coughlan and Koperniak carried the bulk of the load on offense, accounting for 29 of Hoosac's 44 points between them.
Coughlan (23 points) did most of his damage in the first half, going to the locker room with a game-high 15.
He scored Hoosac's last eight points of the first half to send the Hurricanes to the locker room with a 24-21 lead. Tyler Lancia set up Coughlan for a 15-footer to give Hoosac the biggest lead either team managed all night, 24-19, before Jarod Schutrick (16 points) answered to make it a one-point game at the break.
Oxford took its biggest lead, 42-38, with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter when Schutrick hit from the baseline on the left side.
But Hoosac answered right away. First Koperniak drove to the hole from the right wing for an "and one" that made it 42-41. Then after Hoosac forced a turnover at the other end, Keegan McGrath hit a 3-pointer to give the Canes a 44-42 lead with 1:40 left.
But McCarthy converted a free throw to get his team within one. And after two empty trips for the Hurricanes, he scored in the post to put his team ahead, 45-44, with the shot clock off.
Robinson opted not to call a timeout to set up a final play -- or allow Oxford to set its defense.
"I'm not a beleiver in that because I liked the way we were set at that point," Robinson said. "We weren't just holding the ball. Koperniak had the ball in his hands. That's the guy you want with the ball in his hands. He had a great drive to the basket. He just lost the ball out of bounds. He had a layup. He doesn't lose that ball and goes up and in, you guys are sitting here asking me what I think about the next game.
"Unfortunately, he lost the ball out of bounds."
Robinson did regret the play he chose for the final inbound with one second on the clock.
"I blew that one at the end," he said. "I should have went with my gut instinct. But one second, you don't have a lot of time to do much of anything anyway."
In the immedate aftermath of a one-point, season-ending loss, it's natural to focus on what went wrong. But in the very near future -- and for years to come -- there will be a lot to remember about what went right in Hoosac Valley boys sports the last few years.
"We've had a great career," Coughlan said. "Our group of seniors here -- you hate to see it come to an end. It's heart-breaking. But we won a lot of championships in football and basketball.
"We were a good group. We worked hard. We worked for everything we got, for sure."
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