Tribe gives Mullins 900th varsity win
TURNERS FALLS — Gary Mullins may not have written up his 900th career varsity win the way Monday night’s Hampshire League boys’ basketball game against Greenfield High School turned out, but he won’t soon forget it.
Turners Falls High School watched an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate but gritted it down the stretch and Mullins celebrated his 900th win following a 67-63 victory over the Green Wave.
Mullins entered Monday night’s game with a record of 899-654-32 in his varsity coaching career, including softball, basketball and soccer. Many of those victories have been less dramatic than No. 900, although for a while it looked like Turners Falls would cruise to the win.
Turners Falls (13-3 overall, 10-2) led 56-47 after three quarters of play and aside from tailing 2-0 in the opening minutes of play, the Indians led the rest of the way. The Indians increased the lead to 58-47 in the opening minute of the fourth, when Emmett Turn hit a 16-foot jump shot, but that wound up as the final Turners Falls field goal mades. The final 7 minutes, 38 seconds of play saw the Indians go to the line eight times and go 9-for-16, one reason the Wave was able to come back.
While the Indians struggled to shoot their free throws, the Green Wave took advantage, mixing in some solid defensive pressure to force a number of turnovers. Greenfield chipped away at the lead in the fourth and a putback by Parker Hickey with 2:42 left tied the game at 63-63. That was it from the Wave in the scoring department, though, as missed shots and turnovers the rest of the way kept it scoreless.
Turners Falls retook the lead with 2:02 left when Melvin Moreno went to the line and hit 2-of-2. Neither team scored over a wild next minute-and-a-half, before Liam Ellis was fouled with 25 seconds left in the game following a missed 3-pointer by Tim Cooley with 30 seconds left that would have given the Wave the lead. Ellis hit one shot and Cooley missed a runner with 10 seconds left, allowing Moreno to grab the rebound and ice an exciting 900th win for Mullins with 1-of-2 from the free-throw line
“That wasn’t on purpose,” Mullins said of the exciting finish. “I’ve had fun coaching and am lucky that I get to do it, but right now I’m more concerned with how these kids are playing and how hard they’re working.”
Another factor was Indian big men in foul trouble. Jalen Sanders and Malcolm Smith picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter, and Smith fouled out with 5:54 remaining in the game. Couple that with the fact that another big man, Tyler Charboneau, was not playing due to suffering a concussion in practice, and the Indians were small up front. Junior Nick York stepped up and had his best career game, netting 20 points to go with four rebounds.
“Nick is a pretty good player,” Mullins said of the forward. “We believe he can be a big-time scorer, and we’ve been on his case. I think he is one of the best form shooters in the gym, it’s just confidence with him. Tonight, he played, and when he played he can be a very good player.”
Junior guard Liam Ellis finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals, and Moreno came up huge with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals and 5 dimes. Smith finished with just 5 points, while Sanders had 4.
Greenfield also had to deal with foul trouble. Its two leading scorers, forward Garrett Hudson and guard Robin Marchese, both played with more than three fouls in the second half, and Marchese eventually fouled out with 2:02 left in the game. Hudson dominated in the low post for the Wave despite the foul problems and finished with 17 points, while Marchese shook off a tough first half of shooting and finished with a team-high 18 points. Parker Hickey finished with 13 points, and Connor Eckstrom netted 11.
Greenfield (9-8) is still looking for one more win to make the tournament, and will host Athol High School on Thursday. Turners Falls goes back to work Thursday at Hopkins Academy.