Wahconah Boys Win, Make It All-Berkshire Western Mass Final
AMHERST, Mass. — It's been 12 years since the Wahconah boys basketball team has stepped foot on the Curry Hicks Cage, and in their first appearance back Wednesday evening they made it one to remember as they took down No.1 seeded Hampshire Regional, 53-48, in the Division 2 Western Massachusetts semi-final.
In the wake of the loss of 6-foot-4 junior center Cole Morrison because of an injury in the first quarter, Wahconah had some big shoes to fill. Seniors Marco Anastasio and Collin Parrott did just that as they led their team with the help of their bench to a semi-final win and a trip back to the Cage for the finals.
"You come here with the mindset that nothing's going to go wrong and everything's going to go your way," Anastasio (16 points) said. "When your biggest guy gets hurt you have to step up on the boards and step up doing the things that he does."
With fewer than three minutes remaining in the game Parrott went to the line where he shot 5 for 8 for the evening; he sank his first shot and missed his second, but Anastasio was there to put back up the rebound, giving No. 4 Wahconah a 10-point lead ate in the fourth and helping seal the victory with his team in the 1-and-1 bonus.
"It's incredible, it's been a dream of mine since I was in third grade playing with all these guys," Parrott (21 points) said. "We decided we wanted to work in the off-season and get here."
Hampshire opened the scoring for the evening with a shot from center Conor Cronin, but from there Wahconah went on a 12-0 run and held them scoreless for the rest of the first quarter.
Anastasio recorded three consecutive charges on Hampshire defensively and he also put up three jump shots, which boosted the momentum of the Wahconah bench and fan base.
"We talk about it all the time, the officials will reward you when you work hard and get in position," Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher said. "We haven't been here in 12 years so these guys haven't experienced this before, so we need things like that to get nerves out and I think that really helped with that and we settled in after and realized this is just another basketball game."
Hampshire came out in the second quarter and was able to put some points up, outscoring Wahconah 14-8 in the wake of Morrison's departure, but Hamp still trailed by four points going into the half (20-16).
At half-time Wahconah had some adjustments to make with Morrison being out, but Belcher said that it's something they've talked about all year; the importance of the depth of their bench.
"We've talked all year about being built to winning the tournament," he said. "We said we need to have ten guys that can go out on the floor at any given time and play meaningful minutes.
"Matt Schneider's number got called tonight, Marco did a phenomenal job for sure, but Matt was the guy coming off the bench that filled that role for us."
Schneider put up eight points for the Warriors and on the boards he had a lot of key rebounds.
"It's incredible to watch people who usually don't get a lot of minutes come in and have big games," Parrott said. "Schneider stepped up huge for us, it was just a full team effort and it was great."
Wahconah will now face No.2 Hoosac Valley, who defeated No.3 Drury to advance to the finals. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at the Curry Hicks Cage Saturday afternoon.
"I know coach is going to stay up all night watching his films on them to see what we've been doing wrong and things we've been doing right," Parrott said. "We can't buy into the whole rivalry thing, stay between the lines; we know them, they know us."
"We need to just got out there and play 32 hard minutes."