Senators hold off Wahconah
Mahar guard Brandon Woodard (14) slices into the lane and takes the ball to the hole against Wahconah defender KevinBoino (4) Friday during a quarterfinal Senator win. Tonight, the Senators will have a tougher assignment at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst, where they'll play top-seeded Sabis in the WMass Division III semifinals.
Mahar's Troix Adams (12) gets off a successful shot inside as Senators teammate Austin Leary (23) looks on during a WMass quarterfinal win over Berkshire power Wahconah Friday. Both Senators will be back in action tonight at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst, where they'll play top-seeded Sabis in the Division III semifinals.
ORANGE — Mahar Regional School boys basketball team is headed to the Curry Hicks Cage for the semifinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III Boys’ Basketball Tournament.
The No. 4 seeded Senators dispatched fifth-seeded Wahconah Regional High School, 51-49, Friday night at the Grzesik-Bixby Complex in Orange, but it was anything but easy.
“That Wahconah team was like Freddy Krueger,” said Senators’ head coach Chad Softic. “They just kept coming and coming and coming, and just when you think you put them away, it’s like a bad dream, and here’s Freddy again.”
Fortunately for Mahar (16-5), it didn’t end with a nightmare in Orange, as the Warriors fought hard and outscored the Senators, 20-15, in the final quarter, the only frame in which Wahconah dropped in more than 10.
Nick Slattery scored 21 on the night to lead all scorers, including five treys, but no points were more important than the two free-throws he dropped in with eight seconds remaining in the game. The Senators were clinging to a precarious 3 point lead, and had struggled at the line in the previous two minutes, including Slattery missing two freebies a minute and six seconds earlier. When the sharpshooter calmly drained those final two from the charity stripe, it made it a two possession game at 51-46, and made the last long 3-pointer, drained from way back by Marco Anastasio at the buzzer, irrelevant.
“Those free throws were crucial, and he made them,” said Softic. “He’s a few weeks removed from his injury, and he’s finding his legs, and been looking good in practice. He was solid, efficient, anything you want to say. I think he’s one of the best players in the league, if not the best.”
As important as Slattery’s offense was to the Senators, Softic also had high praise for his team’s defensive effort, and especially senior Troix Adams, who seemed to be everywhere.
“We came out in man early, and to save us from fouling everyone out, we went to a 2-3 zone. I think it actually stunned them, especially in the first half. Look at Troix Adams, making all those rebounds in traffic ... he’s just been Mr. Dependable all year long,” reflected Softic.
The Senators trailed only once in the contest at 2-0, when Slattery hit the first of his three-balls, two and a half minutes into the first quarter. The Warriors (13-8) were able to tie the contest at 9, but Mahar finished the quarter up 13-10. Neither team appeared to be poised to make a run in the second quarter, as the defenses were smothering on both sides. Both teams were scoreless for four and a half minutes between the 6:20 and 2:50 minute marks, with Mahar escaping with a 24-19 edge at the half.
The third quarter saw the Senators extend their lead to seven at 36-29, but the start of the fourth saw Wahconah’s Ryan McMahon drop in a trey on its first possession to cut the lead to four. The Warriors just wouldn’t quit, and when Collin Parrott dropped in a three-ball with eight seconds left, cutting the lead to three, you could hear a pin drop in the gymnasium. All’s well that ends well, however, as that set up Slattery’s free throws that iced it, and Mahar’s fans, players, and coaches could finally exhale, and start planning the trip to Amherst for the semis.
Troix Adams brought some offense to the table as well, dropping in 10 on the night. Malik Adams added 7, and Brendin Woodard poured in 4. Nick Zanga, Jake Paul, and Drew Patria each threw in 3.
Parrott led Wahconah with 20 points, and dropped in five three-balls of his own. Anastasio scored 11, and Marcus Duncan and Cole Morrison each put in 5.
For Mahar, it will be its second appearance of the season on the Curry Hicks floor, as it opened the season on December 14th at the venue, with a 57-24 win over Belchertown High School. The task will be much tougher for the Senators against the tournament’s top seed, Sabis International Charter School, but Softic and the Senators are ready to take on the challenge.