Mounties Comeback Falls Short at St. Joe'sPITTSFIELD, Mass. — What felt like an easy win for Saint Joseph’s against one of the top teams in Berkshire County turned tense in the final minutes as the home team pulled away with a 77-73 victory over Mount Greylock.
The Crusaders (9-3) amassed a 15-point lead in the second quarter and pushed it out past 20 in the third before an improbable shot helped give the Mounties (8-3) a chance to tie the game in the waning moments.
Greylock’s Avery Cunningham hit a three-point basket with 31 seconds left in the game to cut St. Joe’s lead to 75-72. On the Mounties next possession, he was given another opportunity to hit a three from the same spot, this time to tie the game, but his shot missed the rim.
“We’re not satisfied with the result, but I certainly am proud of my kids," Greylock head coach Bob Thistle said. "We’ve been struggling to score points the last few games. I tip my hat [to St. Joe's]. They're one of the top teams in our county, and I respect that fact."
The Mounties scored 26 points in the fourth quarter alone, this after Thistle's squad struggled to score in its two previous games. Greylock scored only 39 points in a loss to Drury before putting up 38 in a win over Monument.
St. Joe’s amassed a 23-point lead, its largest of the game, in what was thought to be the last basket of the third quarter. With two seconds left, Zach Neary converted on a second-chance layup to take a 67-44 lead before Tyrell Thomas hit an impossible shot on a heave spanning three quarters of the court, which may have been the boost Greylock used to make its fourth-quarter run.
Thomas’s long-range shot began an 11-0 run that he anchored in the final quarter. In the first 15 seconds of the fourth, Thomas converted a steal into an open-court layup. Then, he and Tyler Picard sunk consecutive three-point baskets to cut the Mountie deficit to 67-55. Thomas finished with team-high 20 points to go along with six rebounds and two assists, while Picard chipped in with 14 points and 11 boards. Junior guard Hank Barrett also had a good game for the Mounties, going 5 of 7 from 3-point range on his way to scoring 17 points.
In the final three minutes of the game, Thomas sparked a 10-2 run that put Greylock within three points of the lead. Thomas' dribble penetration led to an assist to Picard, who cut the lead to nine at 73-64. The junior center then hit a pair of foul shots after an errant Crusader pass led to a shooting foul.
Late buckets by St. Joe’s guard Tank Roberson ultimately stymied the Mounties' rally attempt, including a driving lay-up with 1:48 left to halt the visitors' run. It was also his assist to Michael McMahon created off of a dribble-drive with 14 seconds remaining that gave the Crusaders a five-point lead and put the game out of reach.
“[The momentum] went with them into the fourth,” Roberson said. “They started taking it harder and harder. We’ve got to realize that we’re better than that. We don’t have to play their game.”
St. Joe’s controlled the pace of the game for most of the first three quarters, dictating the type of up-tempo style of play it has thrived on. Forced turnovers and defensive rebounding led to quick buckets in transition, resulting in a 9-0 run to begin the game, with big contributions by Michael Carpenter.
Carpenter had 11 of the Crusaders’ first 22 points on three long-range baskets. He also had two steals in the early going to help St. Joe’s surmount a 27-16 first-quarter lead.
Carpenter, St. Joe’s fourth-leading scorer entering the game with just under nine points per game, said he was “just feeling it.” Roberson attested that his teammates' aggressive play came as no surprise to him.
“He is actually supposed to be the first option because we have been looking for it all season," he said. "He definitely stepped up and we needed that. Last year, he was our spark. This year, he’s got to be our spark, too.
Roberson, more than most was the aggressor in transition for the Crusaders, hesitating little to drive the ball through the lane. He found a lot of baskets in transition and plenty of holes in the lane, likely due to the man-to-man defense played by the Mounties for most of the game.
According to Thistle, his defensive scheme helped set the quick tempo of the game, which he planned to have happen at its onset.
“Some folks would say don’t press a team like that," Thistle said. "We want to slow them down. But, we tip our caps to them. They made shots. We tried a combination of both man and zone defense in the first half and they made shots."
St. Joe’s plays its next game at home against Drury on Friday at 7 p.m. Greylock travels to Wahconah on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Both teams will meet again for its respective season finales on February 20 in Williamstown.