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Indians run roughshod over PVCS Eagles, 85-49

TURNERS FALLS — The dominant theme that emerged Tuesday night for the Turners Falls High School basketball team was clear day for all to see: unselfishness.

The No. 4 seed Indians, hosting No. 13 Pioneer Valley Christian School in the first round of the Western Mass. Division IV Boys’ Basketball Tournament, used smothering team defense and selfless offensive play to dismantle the Eagles, 85-49.

Turners came out of the gate running and scored the contest’s first 8 points, 6 of those coming on a pair 3-balls from point guard Melvin Moreno. The Eagles answered the early challenge, however, and put up a 9-point run of their own to take a 9-8 lead with 4:50 remaining in the opening quarter. It was the only lead they held all night, and lasted all of 15 seconds. The Indians finished the quarter on a 13-6 run, and the fun was just beginning.

The second quarter was huge for the Indians, who held just a 5-point lead, 23-18, after Pioneer Valley Christian’s Genesis Arias dropped in one of his two 3-pointers on the night with just 30 seconds gone in the frame. From that point, Turners went on a 24-0 run that featured six different Indians finding the net, and seven straight possessions in which the Eagles didn’t get off a shot. The Indians had 18 steals in the first half, and it seemed like they capitalized on every one. They passed the ball with precision, found the open man, and were finding nothing but net.

“We shot the ball well and that makes you look good when they fall into the basket. We ran the court well, and shared the basketball, which is what we have to do,” said Turners head coach Gary Mullins. “We had 18 steals in the first half, converted most of those into points, and guys were still getting back on defense and not letting up a bit.”

The run ended with the Indians leading 47-18, and Turners went into the locker room leading 55-23, after which there was little drama. Turners held Arias, who led all western Mass. scorers this season with 29 points per game, to season-low 12 points, 7 of them coming in the first half. Mullins was proud of the way his team shut the prolific scorer down.

“We talked about that at halftime. The young man’s a terrific shooter for them and we were able to keep the ball out of his hands, then started turning that into some steals.” reflected the coach.

Not only did the Indians force the ball away from Arias, when he did get his hands on the ball, there was always a body on him and a hand in his face. The same could be said for all of the Eagles, as there were not a lot of clean looks for anyone. The Indians were disciplined, relentless, and in synch with each other all night long.

The score was 72-36 at the end of three quarters and that was the night for most of the Turners starters. It was a rare opportunity to get some young players into a tournament game, and that experience can only be a positive for the players, and the program going forward.

“We brought some kids out who had never played varsity before and they had some big eyes but got some minutes that will be valuable down the road.” said Mullins.

The Indians had four players in double figures, a further testament to their ball movement and unselfish play. Jalen Sanders had a game-high 17 points, and added 10 rebounds to record the double-double. Moreno and Malcolm Smith were right behind, dropping in 16 each, with Moreno also recording a d ouble-double with 10 assists. Nick York poured in 15, and also joined the double-double club with 11 boards. Liam Ellis contributed 9 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals. All in all, it was an overall team effort that would make any coach proud.

“The kids have been great about sharing the basketball all year long,” beamed Mullins.

Jacob Connor was the high scorer for Pioneer Valley Christian, dropping in 14 points, including four treys. Noah carter added 13, and Chris Reid had 10. The Eagles end their season with a 10-11 overall mark.

Turners (17-4) will host No. 5 seed Lenox High School Friday night in the tournament semifinals.

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