NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — After being beaten handily at home in the semifinals of the State Vocational Regional High School Tournament on Thursday, the McCann Tech boys basketball team should feel encouraged, according to its coach.
Despite losing 80-56 to visiting Minuteman Technical Institute — a Division 3 team from Lexington — McCann coach Mike Nykorchuck focused on his team's competitive play through the first two and a half quarters as the motivating factor for his team moving forward into the postseason.
“There's certain games that you're not going to win. I have no regrets of how we went about preparing for the game, how hard we played. I told the kids after the game, if they play that way in the tournament, they may knock someone off,” Nykorchuck said,
Part of a tournament organized by the Vocational Technical Athletic Association that pits the top four teams in the state against one another, the loss gives the Hornets a 13-8 record entering the Division 4 Western Mass tournament.
Leading by two points through nearly 20 minutes of the game, the Hornets ended seven consecutive offensive possessions with turnovers in the third quarter during a 15-0 Minuteman scoring run. After Shane Fuller's pair of free throws halted the run with 52 seconds to play in the frame, McCann never got closer than 11 points.
“We started working the ball. Still found some openings, still scored; but after halftime we kinds of fell apart,” Fuller said, who scored 15 of his 24 in the opening two periods.
Fuller began the game by scoring McCann Tech's first 11 points — including three straight three-pointers — to take a 11-5 lead halfway through the opening period. Once the Minuteman defenders began keying on him, however, it became tough for the Hornets to generate offense.
The long presence of 6-foot-8 Mike Wedenkker matched that of the Hornets' Kyle Parada. Wedenkker tallied nine points in the first half, helping the Mustangs establish a 34-33 lead at half-time. With 51 seconds to play in the first quarter,
Wedenkker outran the McCann defense to catch a pass downcourt and finish with an emphatic dunk and foul, setting a tone of athleticism and physicality indicative of the Minuteman team.
Later in the first half, the Mustangs gathered seven offensive rebounds on one possession — most of which came directly under the basket - before Trevor Roach gathered himself with the ball in the high post and earned a driving layup and trip to the line.
Still, an early first-quarter lead, along with the team's overall grittiness left coach Nykorchuck feeling encouraged about the game's result, despite its second-largest loss of the season.
“That first half, that was an incredible high school basketball game,” Nykorchuck said. “I think their athleticism got us in the end; their size advantage. That was probably the best pressure defense we faced all year.”
Prior to Thursday, the Hornets had not allowed 80 points to any team this season, aside from Lenox, a team coach Nykorchuck said Minuteman is reminiscent of. The Millionares, who also qualified for the Western Mass Division 4 tournament, bested McCann Tech in both meetings this season by a combined 45 points.
The Hornets now await to hear from the Western Mass selection committee to determine what team it begins postseason play against next week.