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Wave stays unbeaten, nips Falcons

HATFIELD — Greenfield High School took another step toward showing western Massachusetts that it means business this season.

After edging Smith Academy 55-53 the first time the Hampshire League powers met last month, the Green Wave showed once again that 55 points is enough to beat the high-powered offense the Falcons have exhibited all season as the Wave earned a season-sweep over Smith Academy with a 55-54 victory at Sherry A. Webb Gymnasium on Friday.

“These are the games that as teams you have to cherish,” Smith Academy senior Mat Sulda said. “This is exactly what tournament is going to be like. Fans all over the place. Good games. It always comes down to the stretch in tournament time. Every team is good.”

The game had a postseason-type feel. The Falcons (12-2, 10-2 Hampshire West) are among those fighting for a top seed in Division III, while Greenfield (12-0, 12-0 East) is pushing for a top seed in Division II.

With both sides of the gym packed, the teams battled through seven ties and 16 lead changes. The final tie was 52-52 following two free throws by Sulda with 3 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the game.

Lew Borden answered with one from the line on the other end and the game had more stops than goes the rest of the way.

“Neither team really let the other run the offense they wanted to,” Falcons coach Matt Zerneri said. “Neither got in a good rhythm and that’s good defense.”

With less than two minutes remaining, Smith called a timeout after a defensive rebound and Sulda converted a jumper at the other end with the shot clock winding down. His basket gave the Falcons a 54-53 lead with 1:33 left. It was their final lead of the game.

On the Green Wave’s next possession, Borden (24 points) rolled to the basket off a screen and scored inside for the final basket.

“They play us tough,” Sulda said. “They play tough ‘D.’ They executed on offense. We executed. It came down the last couple plays and they ended up on top.”

Down the stretch both teams had opportunities but neither converted.

Smith Academy’s Seaver Rickert was blocked inside by Borden with 53 seconds left.

Falcons junior Keith Natale, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 22.9 seconds left.

Greenfield’s Robin Marchese (10 points) missed the first of a one-and-one with 15 seconds left. Smith pushed the rebound up court and had a shot at a layup but a timeout was called with 10 seconds remaining. Sulda had an open 3 off the inbounds but missed.

“We had a screen coming up high and one coming for Keith to go down low. That was a first look and we got it,” Sulda said. “I got to knock it down.”

Borden then missed two from the line with four seconds left.

Needing to go the length of the court, David Longstreeth hit Natale at half court, but Natale’s pass to a streaking Sulda was stolen by Tyler Miller.

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