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Wave boys No. 1 seed

Despite stumbling a bit down the stretch of the regular season, Greenfield High School did enough to secure the No. 1 seed in the WMass Division II Boys’ Basketball Tournament when the seeds were announced Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

Greenfield was just one of seven local squads that found out their fates on Saturday. Greenfield finished 18-2 this season, but lost two of its final four games. Despite the losses to Springfield School of Science & Technology and Mahar Regional School, the Green Wave still came away with the No. 1 seed. Greenfield will open up Thursday night at home at 7 against eighth-seeded Palmer High School.

“We had practice yesterday and I told the kids that the top seed should be a feather in their cap,” Thayer said. “The seed is well-deserved, but to use the old cliche, it doesn’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things, because everyone is now 0-0. All it does is give us a home game.”

The Green Wave experienced some team turmoil in their regular-season finale loss to Mahar. Thayer said that while it’s never a good thing to lose, he felt that his team learned a lot and will be able to regroup for the tournament.

“A situation like that can either fracture a team or, as I believe is the case, it can really galvanize a team,” he explained.

This marks the second straight season that a local team took home the top spot in Division II. Last year’s No. 1 seed, Mahar Regional School, went on to win the WMass and State titles. This year, the Senators went 15-5, but it was only good enough for the fifth seed according to the Walker System, which takes into account record, wins against tournament teams and strength of schedule when determining the seeds.

Mahar coach Chad Softic said he was more than disappointed that his team only got the fifth seed, especially since Sabis International Charter School was awarded the third seed after finishing 7-13 on the season. Sabis did not even qualify under the 70 percent rule (if 70 percent of your games are against teams in a higher division, then you have to win 50 percent of the games against your divisional opponents), but rather finished second in its division at 5-3 and got the automatic entry into the tournament. But because the Bulldogs played a tough independent schedule, they were rewarded for it in the Walker System, despite going 2-10 against those independents.

“I’m very disappointed,” Softic said on Saturday night. “A team like Sabis has the ability to schedule 12 independent games. It’s not our fault that we are locked into 18 games (in our league). We don’t have the chance to schedule more than two independents.”

Instead of hosting a quarterfinal game, Softic and his team will now have to make the trip to Pittsfield on Thursday to open against fourth-seeded Taconic High School, which finished 12-8 and Softic believed should have also been seeded ahead of Sabis. A win would send the Senators on to a potential semifinal showdown against the Green Wave.

Last year’s Division II runner-up and perennial favorite South Hadley High School earned the second seed after going 13-7.

Softic was not the only coach upset with his seed on Saturday. Turners Falls High School went 14-6 this season, but that was only good enough for the 10th seed in the boys Division III tournament. The Indians now have to travel to seventh-seeded Lee High School (12-8) in tonight’s first round game at 7. The Wildcats have been one of the hottest teams in western Mass. recently, and should pose a real test. Renaissance Charter School (18-2) picked up the top seed in Division III, followed by Granby High School, Mt. Greylock Regional High School and Smith Academy, which all checked in at 17-3 on the season.

Frontier Regional School was the fourth boys’ team to earn a bid, placing one spot behind Turners Falls with the 11th seed. The Red Hawks will travel to Pittsfield to face St. Joseph’s Central High School Tuesday night at 7.

On the girls’ side, Athol High School has the best record in Division II at 19-1 on the season and earned the third seed.

Drury High School picked up the top seed in Division II after going 15-3 on the season, and Hampshire Regional High School picked up the second seed with a 17-3 mark. The Red Raiders came in third, their only loss of the season coming to Hopkins Academy in the season finale. Athol coach Dan Bevis was disappointed with the third seed, but said his team will now work to prove they deserved better.

“It is what it is,” Bevis explained. “Our league hurts us in the long run. We can’t do anything about it, that’s just the way it is. We just have to go out and try to prove to everybody that we deserved to be the top seed. The only way we can do that is by winning some games.”

The way the seeds worked out, all three of the local teams that qualified will play each other this week with one team certain to make the semifinals at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst next week. Mahar earned the sixth seed after going 16-4 on the season, while Frontier picked up the 11th seed with an 11-9 record. Those two teams will meet Tuesday night at 7 in Orange, and the winner will advance to take on Athol Friday night at 7 in the Tool Town.

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