Mounties Outlast 'Canes to Remain UnbeatenADAMS, Mass. — If there is one thing Bill Robinson has earned in his decorated career as head coach of the Hoosac Valley boys' basketball team, it's respect.
So when an undefeated and up-and-coming Mount Greylock team came to play a winless Hurricanes squad in Adams on Thursday night, you can bet the Mounties were on level-red upset alert.
In the end, the two team's places in the winning column held to form, but not before Hoosac made Greylock work all four quarters for a hard-fought 52-47 win at Adams Memorial School.
"That means nothing," Mounties point guard Hank Barrett said when asked about the two team's records coming into the game. "We knew they were going to come ready to play. They did, and they gave us all we could handle. It was close, and we could never really distance ourselves past that 10- to 11-point range. When they were able to stay that close, that gave them a chance to make a run at the end, and they did."
Greylock (5-0) built leads of nine points in the first quarter, 12 points in the second quarter and 11 points in the third quarter, but each time Robinson's young squad came back to make the game interesting. The Hurricanes (0-6) cut the Mounties' lead down to three points three different times in the fourth, but they could never find a way to stop Barrett or teammate Tyrell Thomas, who both made big shots in final quarter to keep the visitors on top.
Barrett, who led all scorers with 21 points, went on a 10-0 run by himself the first time Hoosac cut the lead down to three with around five minutes left in the game. His first shot was a show-stopper, a step-back 3-pointer from the right wing that stole the momentum back for Greylock. Before the 'Canes could blink an eye, Barrett scored off a fastbreak lay-up and then added another lay in off of a steal seconds later to push his team's lead back to 10 points.
"I've been working on [the step-back three] a little bit, and I knew we needed a bucket," Barrett said. "Sometimes you just have that confidence, and I had a feeling I could knock it down. Our game plan was we were going to try and get out and run the fast break. [My teammates] did good job of getting the ball, turning and, if I was up there, they got it to me."
While it looked like Barrett's offensive explosion would have been enough to seal the game for the Mounties, Hoosac's point guard Matt Braman also wanted a say in how the final score would turn out. Encouraged by his head coach to start attacking the basket more, the sophomore guard went on a nice little run of his own, scoring seven straight points to get the score back to a one-possession game. Braman, who scored a team-high 20 points on the night, got to the rim three straight times, the last of which he scored a lay-up off of a steal to make the score 47-44 with just under three and half minutes to play.
In all, Braman scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter alone.
"He's starting to get it a little bit," Robinson said of his young floor general. "That's a sophomore right there and playing point guard is not easy. He's one of these kids that's really unselfish and wants to get everyone else involved because he feels like if he shoots the ball too much, they are going to get on him because he's a sophomore. I told him, 'You are what we got, and you have to go.' He's starting to understand that the last couple of games, and tonight I thought he played a pretty decent game."
After another stop on defense, the Hurricanes had a chance to pull even closer when a tough non-call went the other way. A bounce pass by Hoosac's Sean Ryan-Kut appeared to be kicked by a Greylock player in the paint. The referees didn't see it, however, and the ball bounced out to a wide-open Thomas, who scored a lay-up to push his team's lead back to five points with less than two minutes to play.
"It's a three-point game, it's our ball and that would have reset the shot clock," Robinson said. "It was a perfect situation for us. We were going to get the shot clock back at 30, we're trying to slow the game down and we're trying to keep that score down. They get the kick, and they get a guy wide-open for a lay-up. A three-point game goes to five now, and we come up and throw the ball away.
"There are so many times, especially with our team, which is so challenged offensively, you can come came back in a game. We just couldn't do it tonight."
A 3-pointer from 'Canes sophomore Trevor Alibozek (15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) cut the lead back down to three points again, but Barrett calmly sank a pair of foul shots with 14.5 seconds left on the clock to put the game away for good.
It was a win against a quality opponent that Mounties head coach Bob Thistle said his team should be proud of.
"I just want to compliment Coach Robinson and his team," Thistle said. "They've had a hard stretch to start the season, but we knew in their building they were going to be hungry and work hard. That's a testament to his program for the past 20 years here. We have a team that is not used to winning, so each game we put in the books, we're either learning to come from behind or, in this case, hold onto a lead. It's just experience and gaining momentum.
"We have a lot to work on, but I'm proud of the kids. They hung in there and it's a tough place to play. It's been about eight or 10 years since Mount Greylock has beat Hoosac."
One of the reasons why the Mounties were able to finally get over that hump was the play of Thomas. He put another solid game, hitting three triples on his way to 18 points. He also added nine rebounds, five assists and six steals to his game resume and was most dangerous when the Hurricanes seemed to be on the verge of making a run. When Hoosac cut the lead to two points in the second quarter, it was Thomas who drained a trey from the right wing to start Greylock on a 10-0 run. He also scored seven of his team's 10 points in the third quarter, each time answering a bucket by the home team.
"He's a sophomore, and this is really his first year on varsity ball," Thistle said. "He's got a lot to learn to, but we're really pleased with his work ethic every day and his ability to want to take those shots. A lot of guys don't want to take those shots. And so for a guy who is in his first year as a varsity player, he's really stepping up for us as a leader."
Although his team is still winless after its first six games, Robinson was relatively pleased with his player's effort on the defensive end. The Hurricanes allowed a season-low 52 points and really seemed to excel in the half-court sets. They struggled with leaving shooters open in the first half, but came back with a solid effort in the second half, holding the Mounties to just two 3-pointers after giving up six in the first two quarters of play.
"We've got to find people," Robinson said. "Our biggest issue in the first half was we weren't finding anybody. [Nathan] Majumder and Barrett killed us with threes, and that kills you. The easy lay-ups where no one gets back is a concern, too. We can't give freebies. We work too hard on offense to score, so we can't give freebies."
Hoosac will try again for its first win of the season with road game at Monument Mountain at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Greylock, meanwhile, next hosts McCann Tech at 7 p.m. on Monday.
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