Basketball, Hockey Sectional Fields Are Set

By Stephen Sports
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Before rolling out the eight brackets that make up Western Massachusetts' February/March Madness, Western Massachusetts basketball tournament director Lou Conte noted that the Walker System used for seeding teams predicts the final four in each division "88 percent of the time."
The Wahconah boys basketball team will be one of those looking to punch a hole in that track record.
Wahconah was just missed on a top four seed in the Division 3 boys tournament and instead gets a first-round home game Monday with the tournament's fifth seed.
Wahconah will begin its quest to get to Curry Hicks Cage at UMass-Amherst against a familiar foe, Southwick, which dropped a 54-42 decision in Dalton late last month.
The Wahconah boys (15-5) are one of 16 teams from Berkshire County spread among three boys and three girls divisions.
All but one of those teams will get its post-season underway over the next week.
The top-seeded team from the area, the defending Division 2 boys champions from Taconic, have more than a week to get ready for their tournament debut.
As the top seed in this year's six-team D2 tourney, Taconic (17-3) gets a bye all the way to the semi-finals, to be played the week of March 4 at Western New England University.
The top girls seed from the county is Hoosac Valley (16-4), which hosts the sectional quarter-finals on Friday against the winner of Tuesday's game between No. 7 Sabis (10-10) and No. 9 Mahar (12-8).
The Hurricanes are joined by two Berkshire County foes in the 10-team D3 girls field. No. 3 Wahconah (18-2) will host No. 6 Granby (10-10) in the quarters on Friday. No. 8 Drury (12-8) gets a first-round home game against Frontier (10-10) for the right to take on top seed South Hadley (15-5) in the quarters.
Wahconah coach Liz Kay was one of the coaches who made the trip to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday for the bracket announcements, which, in her eyes, yielded no surprises.
"We knew where we were going to be," Kay said. "We actually have some pretty good mathematicians in our league. I didn't figure it out, but as it turned out, between everybody, they got it right."
That means Kay had plenty of time to think about the rematch with Granby, a team Wahconah handled, 48-19, back in December.
"We've got a lot of film, and I've seen them play a bunch of times this year," Kay said. "We feel pretty good about what we know. Execution is a whole other thing.
"And this is the first year without a prelim game, so for us, that's going to be an adjustment as well."
No first-round games in the six-team Division 2 girls field, which yields the only intra-county matchup among the games that were assigned on Saturday.
No. 3 Taconic (16-4) will host No. 6 Pittsfield (11-9) on Friday for the right to move on to the semi-finals and a date with second-seeded Longmeadow (11-9). Taconic owns a pair of wins over Pittsfield in the regular season.
There are three Berkshire County teams in the crowded Division 4 girls field, where 17 teams qualified. They will play a play-game on Monday to decide who gets the No. 16 seed and a trip to No. 1 Monson (13-7).
The rest of the girls first-round games are slated for Tuesday, when No. 4 Mount Everett (13-7) will host No. 13 Gateway (14-6), No. 6 McCann Tech (12-8) will host No. 11 North Brookfield and No. 10 Lenox (6-14) will go to No. 7 Putnam (13-7).
The Eagles have gone to the Cage two of the last three winters and will have to go through the Gators and probably No. 5 Renaissance (20-0) to get back.
"I don't know a lot about Renaissance," Mount Everett coach Scott Rote said. "Twenty-and-0, but they play in the Tri-County league, so you don't know. But you look at their first three games, they were against [No. 12] Smith Academy, [No. 7 Putnam] and [No. 8 Pope Francis] out of that Tri-County League, and they won those games, too.
"They look like they have a couple of athletic kids, two kids who are mainstays for them, which every team has. We'll just have to figure it out and see what happens."
Last year, Mount Everett earned a 55-19 win over Gateway in the first round of the tournaemnt.
While 17 teams made the D4 girls tournament, 16 teams qualified among the D4 boys.
Third-seeded Drury (15-5) leads the county contingent and will need to win two home games this week to get back to the Cage, where last year the Blue Devils came within a point of reaching the sectional final.
This year, Drury starts its tournament run against No. 14 Pioneer Valley Christian (10-10).
The winner of that game will see either No. 6 Granby (13-7) or No. 11 McCann Tech (14-6) in the quarter-finals. The Hornets have won 10 of their last 12 games and will be looking to go back to the quarter-finals for the third straight year.
The D3 boys field has more county teams that any of the six involving local squads. No. 8 Lee (10-10) will open on Monday at home against No. 9 Turners Falls (11-9). No. 10 Lenox (8-12), which qualified on the last night of the regular season by taking second in the Berkshire South, goes to No. 7 Baystate Academy (17-3) in the first round.
While the Taconic boys already know they will be goign to the sectional semi-finals next week, No. 6 Pittsfield (13-7) has to earn that trip with a win on Thursday in the quarter-finals at No. 3 Longmeadow (12-8). It will be a rematch of December's Pittsfield Hoop Club Holiday Classic, when the Generals earned a 58-54 win.
Taconic also will have a rematch of a sort in its semi-final, when it takes on either No. 4 Tantasqua (14-6) or No. 5 Northampton (10-10) on a night to be announced. Last year, Taconic beat Tantasqua, 61-42, in the quarter-finals, before going all the way to the state championship game. This season, Taconic topped Northampton, 69-53, for its first win of the season.
"We saw them play Pittsfield, we played them last year," Taconic coach Bill Heaphy said of Tantasqua. "New coach, so their system is a little different, but we saw them play Pittsfield.
"I think everyone in our division knows each other. There aren't going to be too many surprises. It's whoever is hot, is playing well and, obviously, healthy."
Just two county teams qualified among the 12 in the Division 4 field, but both are home in the first round.
No. 6 Monument Mountain (15-5) entertains No. 11 South Hadley (6-14), which got in by finishing second in its league. The Tigers played just one Berkshire County opponent this winter, falling to Mount Greylock by 12 points in December.
Last year, Monument advanced to the Western Mass title game with a win over Wahconah in the semis. This season, those two would not meet until the finals if they get that far.
Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher had no complaints about needing to win two games to get as far as the semi-finals at UMass.
"I think for us, having a prelim game is a good thing, coming off a loss to Pittsfield at the end of the year," Belcher said. "Getting back on the court is a good thing for us -- getting back into a rhythm and a routine.
"[Otherwise] it's a question of whether you should do a scrimmage or just do our regular stuff. You always go through that when you have a long layoff. To not have that, I think is a good thing.
"So we'll get out Monday, be ready to go and hopefully make a run."
WESTFIELD, Mass. -- One of the county's three teams qualified for the Western Mass tournament in ice hockey.
The Drury Blue Devils, who picked up three points in their final two games to finish 7-6-6, earned the No. 7 seed in the Western Mass Division 3A field.
Drury will take on No. 2 Greenfield on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Olympia Ice Center.
In the regular season, Drury earned a 2-2 tie at Greenfield before dropping a 2-1 decision to the Green Wave in North Adams.
The winner on Tuesday goes to the semi-finals on Saturday to face either No. 3 Belchertown (12-3-3) or No. 6 Chicopee (9-8-3).
As always, the MIAA pairings are not official until a 24-hour appeals period passes after the fields were announced on Saturday.
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