Mounties Face Familiar Foe in WildcatsWith all due respect to the Springfield-based teams in Division 1, it would be hard to find a more marquee and even matchup than tonight's Division 3 semifinal game between the Lee and Mount Greylock boys' basketball teams.
Both the third-seeded Wildcats and seventh-seeded Mounties have home wins against each other this year, they both finished the regular season with identical 15-5 records and they both have proven that they can play with and beat the best competition Division 3 has to offer. Lee took down top-seeded Saint Joseph's in the regular season this year, while Greylock is fresh off of a 75-62 upset win over No. 2 New Leadership in Friday's quarterfinal round.
If the Mounties want to build off of that success and earn a trip to Saturday's sectional final, head coach Bob Thistle thinks his team needs to do one simple thing.
"We need to be focused on the task at hand," he said. "We need to play hard but loose. We need to be focused on our team from start to finish."
Thistle also believes his team needs to pay attention to the talent the Wildcats possess. Senior guard Matt Scapin is one of Berkshire County's best players and has already celebrated passing the 1,000-point mark this season. Unfortunatley for the Greylock, he did it against the Mounties with a 35-point outburst in a 76-62 home win for Lee in early February.
"Scapin is the key player for them," Thistle said. "He is one of the best players in the league. We will have our work cut out in guarding him. It is a great challenge, but we are looking forward to it."
Thistle also said Jake LePrevost, Heamon Williams and Zac Kelley are scoring threats for the Wildcats. He also knows that Lee features a quick-strike offense that can put up points in a hurry if his team is not committed to getting back on the defensive end.
"Lee beat us soundly when we played at their place," Thistle said. "They beat us down the floor, so we will need to do a better job on transition defense. Also, they outrebounded us. We did a better job in both areas when we beat them at our place."
Speaking of that, Greylock has one huge feather in its cap when it comes to the last time the two teams met this season. Trailing by eight points heading into the fourth quarter, Thistle's squad exploded for 33 points in the final frame to run away with a 67-49 win in the final game of the regular season less than two weeks ago. The victory ruined the Wildcats' chances of earning a share of the South Division title and propelled the Mounties on their current three-game winning streak.
Sophomore guard Tyrell Thomas scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter of that game and has been a consistent producer for Greylock all year long, leading the team in both scoring (16.27 ppg) and assists (3.23). Junior guard Hank Barrett is also a threat from the backcourt. He is currently third on the team in scoring and second in both assists and 3-pointers made. If those two guys beat you off of the dribble, watch out for senior forward Avery Cunningham. He does one thing, but he does it really well. He's made 50 3-point shots this year compared to just four two-point baskets.
All of three of the players mentioned above help open the inside for junior center Tyler Picard, who had probably the best game of his career with a 24-point, 13-rebound effort in Friday's win over New Leadership. If the Mounties play their inside-outside game to perfection and Picard has another solid game inside, they should be a tough team to beat on Tuesday night.
"We are excited to be playing at the Cage and are happy for our fans, who get the chance to experience it as well," Thistle said. "We will take it quarter by quarter, possession by possession, hoping to leave it all out on the court. I know the kids will give it their best."
Tip off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Curry Hicks Cage on the campus of UMass-Amherst.