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Cote bomb sinks Drury

  • Pioneer players and fans celebrate their WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal win over Drury Monday night at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer’s Garrett Cote (13) hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win their WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal over Drury Monday night at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • The Pioneer student section reacts to the game-winning shot during the WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal win over Drury Monday night at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer’s Brendan Emond (24) and Mike Menard (25) go up for a rebound against Drury’s Conor Clark (23) Monday night during WMass Division IV boys’ basketball action at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer head coach Scott Thayer gives instruction from the sideline during his Panthers’ WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal win over Drury Monday night at the Curry Hicks Cage at UMass/Amherst. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer’s Jordan Loughman (20) drives to the hoop against Drury’s Conor Clark (23) Monday night at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage during WMass Division IV boys’ basketball action. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer’s Brendan Emond (24) takes a shot over Drury’s Hunter Sarkis (32) Monday night during WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal action at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer’s Garrett Cote (13) fights for a loose ball agaisnt Drury’s Max Daugherty (31) Monday night during WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal action at UMass/Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Pioneer’s Karl Wheeler (14) takes a jumper over Drury defender Hunter Sarkis (32) Monday night at at UMass/ Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage during WMass Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal action. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Monday, March 05, 2018

AMHERST — It will go down in Pioneer Valley Regional School boys’ basketball history as “The Shot.” And what a shot it was.

Down two points with 5.3 seconds to play in Monday night’s WMass Division IV semifinal game, Panthers’ point guard Garrett Cote took an inbounds pass and raced up the Curry Hicks Cage court where he pulled up at the 3-point line, ducked under a Drury High School defender and let a shot fly. The buzzer sounded as the ball approached the rim, and when it went through, handing the third-seeded Panthers a 69-68 victory, the Panther fans at the Cage erupted.

“Coach drew up a great play, we’ve been working on that in practice all week for a situation like that, and for it to work out the way it did was just amazing,” Cote said as he accepted congratulations from a swarm of well-wishers following the dramatic victory. “Once I pump faked and got space, I knew I just had to execute the shot. When it left my hands it looked great. It was just amazing. A great feeling.”

Drury guard Reece Racette had a chance to all but end the game prior to Cote’s game-winner. Racette, who had scored his 1,000th-career point earlier in the game, went to the free throw line with 5.3 seconds left after he got a rebound and was fouled following a pair of missed Pioneer shots that would have tied the game at 68-68. Racette missed the first shot, and then left his second shot short, which he knew was going to miss when it left his hands and stepped toward the hoop immediately, but was called for a lane violation. That played into the hands of Pioneer, as Jordan Loughman calmly inbounded the ball to Cote, who picked up a nice screen from Karl Wheeler to free himself enough to get up the court, and the rest was up to the junior guard, who knocked down the shot despite heavy pressure from Racette. For Cote, it finished off a career night that saw him finish with 32 points.

“He stepped up when he had to,” Pioneer coach Scott Thayer said. “Their whole game plan was to do what most teams do, be physical with him. But he’s progressed to the point now where it doesn’t bother him.”

Pioneer (17-5) advances to Saturday’s WMass Division IV championship game where it will take on top-seeded Hopkins Academy at 12:30 at Curry Hicks Cage. Hopkins defeated fourth-seeded Ware High School, 86-54, in Monday night’s other semifinal.

The game-winning shot came after a dramatic comeback by the Panthers, who stormed back from 12 down at halftime to take a four-point lead mid-way through the fourth quarter. Drury quickly recovered after giving up the lead, and went back in front, 64-59, following a 3-pointer by Chad Lawrence. The Panthers, meanwhile, turned the ball over on three straight possessions, and a foul with 1 minute, 56 seconds to play sent Max Daugherty to the line with the chance to extend it. He knocked down the first, but missed the second and it was an omen for things to come, as Drury went just 4-of-9 from the free throw line in the final two minutes.

Pioneer (17-5) took advantage of the misses to claw its way back, as Cote hit a 3-pointer with 49 seconds to play to cut the deficit to 2, and Racette had his first gaffe of the game following that, as he dribbled the ball off his foot, which led to a jump ball and Pioneer took over. Loughman was immediately fouled following the inbounds, and he went to the line with 42 seconds to play with the chance to tie it. Despite struggling for much of the night — he was 0-for-2 from the line to that point and had been held scoreless — Loughman came through in the clutch and knocked down both free throws to tie the game at 66-66.

Drury (17-5) took over with a chance to go back in front but Brendan Emond blocked Scott McGuire Jr., sending Pioneer up the floor with its own opportunity to go in front with the shot clock turned off. Cote rushed up the floor, and tried to attack the hoop and send a pass to Emond through traffic, but the ball went off a defender and bounced to Lawrence, who was inadvertently fouled with 19 seconds left. He went to the line and knocked down both to put Drury ahead.

“There was a point, with about 20 seconds left, that I threw the ball away, and there was no shot clock, and that was a mistake,” Cote said. “I was looking to make up for it and what a better way to do it than right there.”

Pioneer got off to a nice start, scoring the first six points of the game. The Panthers never trailed in the first quarter and took a 16-15 lead into the second. The Panthers continued to hold a narrow lead throughout the first four minutes of the second quarter, but the turnover-bug suddenly began to bite the team, and Drury ended the first half on a 19-3 run that turned a 25-21 deficit into a 40-28 lead.

But as has been the Panthers’ calling card all season, no deficit has been too big to overcome. Pioneer came out of the break and immediately went to work cutting into the deficit, using a 14-3 run to get back within striking distance at 43-42. One of the Blue Devils’ three points during the opening four minutes of the third quarter was a made free throw by Racette, which gave the junior his 1,000th career point. Drury never relinquished the lead, but only held a 50-46 lead going into the fourth.

Pioneer took its first lead of the second half with 4:56 to play in the game as Cote hit a pair of free throws that put the Panthers in front, 54-53. A 3-pointer by Cote extended the lead to 57-53, but Drury went on a 12-3 run to reclaim the lead and set up the dramatic finish.

“I kept telling them, just attack the basket, don’t settle,” Thayer said of the final minutes. “I know those guys are good foul shooters, but this type of atmosphere and pressure does funny things to kids at the foul line. And we had to have a little luck, too.”

Emond added 18 points in the victory, and Mike Menard tossed in 9.

Racettte and Lawrence each led Drury with 22 points, while McGuire chipped in 18.