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Turners girls among 7 area teams seeking WM berths

The Turners Falls High School girls’ basketball team is looking to accomplish something this season that it hasn’t done in 19 years: qualify for the postseason.

The Indians sit two wins away from a Western Massachusetts Division III Tournament berth, which would be their first since the 1993-94 season.

Turners Falls (8-10 overall) needs to win its final two games to guarantee a .500 record, which is one of two ways teams qualify for postseason play — teams can also qualify by finishing in a tie for second or better in a league of at least five teams, regardless of its final record.

However, the Indians were dealt a major blow on Thursday night when they lost to four-win Smith Academy, but head coach Ted Wilcox believes his team can still get in.

“The first thing they have to do is forget (Thursday) night, and that’s hard to do,” Wilcox said. “We talked about that. Everyone knows it’s a tough loss. But how do you respond to adversity? I have a saying that I told the girls in practice: ‘Don’t let success get to your head, and don’t let failure get to your heart.’ And by that I mean that you have your highs and your lows. And what do you learn from that? We’re still in it. We control our own destiny. But it comes down to how they respond to failure.”

Turners is just one of a handful of teams trying to make the postseason during the final two weeks of regular season play.

The Indians have already matched their highest win total since that last WMass tourney appearance (the 1996-97 squad also won eight games). Since then, the Indians have won more than four games only once, but now find themselves with a chance of qualifying for the tournament.

Should Turners fail in its bid to qualify, Wilcox said that the season would not be a loss because the program was still playing in relevant games in the final weeks of the season — sort of its own little playoff in order to get to the postseason.

“Of course you look at this season as a success,” he began. “But when you’re right in the thick of it, you also don’t. Are things better at Turners Falls right now? Of course they are. But that loss was tough on the girls. I just tell them to learn from it, you’ve got to learn from these things in life. But it’s hard.”

The Indians end the year with a home game against Frontier Regional School on Thursday, and a road game at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Feb. 18. The Indians lost to the Red Hawks, 43-23, in their first meeting this season, but knocked off Pioneer, 58-52.

One of the things that could work against the Indians is that the Red Hawks and Panthers are also fighting for their postseason lives.

Frontier (9-8) appears on the surface to be a lock to qualify, needing just one win in its final three games. Their finale happens to be against Smith Academy on Feb. 18.

Pioneer (8-9), meanwhile, has a significantly tougher road to the WMass tourney, needing two wins in its final three games. The Panthers would need to beat Turners and pull off an upset over either Athol High School (18-0) or Hopkins Academy (9-8), both of which have already beaten Pioneer this season.

Franklin County Technical School is the final area girls’ team that still has a shot to qualify down the stretch. The Eagles (7-10) need to sweep their final three games in order to qualify. They host Westfield Vocational-Technical High School (Monday) and Pathfinder Vocational High School (Feb. 18), and travel to St. Mary High School (Thursday) for those final three tilts.

Athol and Mahar (14-3) have already qualified for the tournament, while Greenfield High School (2-16) and Mohawk Trail Regional High School (4-14) have already been eliminated.

The boys’ side is much more clear-cut.

Franklin Tech is the only team that doesn’t already know its fate. The Eagles (7-9) need to win three of their final four games to get in, and the is not easy.

The Eagles travel to Athol on Monday and host Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School on Tuesday. A win in either of those games could put them on the fast-track to qualifying, as they end the season at Westfield Voke-Tech (Friday) and at Pathfinder (Feb. 19), both of whom they’ve already beaten.

Frontier (10-6), Greenfield (15-0), Mahar (11-5) and Turners Falls (12-5) have all qualified, while Athol (5-11), Pioneer (5-11) and Mohawk (2-15) have officially been eliminated.

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In hockey, Greenfield and Turners Falls both appear to be headed for the postseason, barring any major upsets.

The Green Wave (9-6-0) needs just two points in its final five games in order to qualify for the WMass Division IIIA Tournament. Greenfield travels to South Hadley High School on Monday, hosts Amherst Regional High School on Tuesday, and travels to Chicopee High School on Saturday for its next three games, then hosts Easthampton High School (Feb. 19) and travels to Agawam High School (Feb. 21) to close out the schedule.

Greenfield is 1-1 against Amherst this season, but has lost to all of their other four opponents this season.

Turners Falls (8-7-1) doesn’t have as much wiggle room, needing three points in its final four games to qualify for the Division IIIA tourney.

The Indians host Belchertown High School on Monday (whom it has yet to play this season), then hosts South Hadley (Feb. 16), which dealt them a 5-1 loss on Wednesday.

Fortunately, Turners visits a pair teams it has beaten in the last two games — Amherst (Feb. 18) and St. Mary (Feb. 22) to complete the regular season.

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Speaking of postseason play, the Western Mass. Basketball Tournament seed meeting will be held on Feb. 23 at noon at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The WMass hockey tournament seed meeting is also scheduled for Feb. 23, at the Dante Club in West Springfield at 9 a.m.

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