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Senators stun Falcons at buzzer, 48-46

  • Frontier's Ryan Hoar (15) and Turners Falls' Nick Fisher (24) battle for a rebound late in the second quarter during Friday's Senior Night game held at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

    Frontier's Ryan Hoar (15) and Turners Falls' Nick Fisher (24) battle for a rebound late in the second quarter during Friday's Senior Night game held at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Frontier's Pete Watroba attempts to steal the ball from Turners Falls' Nick Fisher during Friday's fast-paced Senior Night game at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

    Frontier's Pete Watroba attempts to steal the ball from Turners Falls' Nick Fisher during Friday's fast-paced Senior Night game at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Turners Falls' Summer Forest-Bulley looks for a team-mate to pass to during Friday's Senior Night game at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

    Turners Falls' Summer Forest-Bulley looks for a team-mate to pass to during Friday's Senior Night game at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Frontier's Ryan Hoar (15) and Turners Falls' Nick Fisher (24) battle for a rebound late in the second quarter during Friday's Senior Night game held at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo
  • Frontier's Pete Watroba attempts to steal the ball from Turners Falls' Nick Fisher during Friday's fast-paced Senior Night game at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo
  • Turners Falls' Summer Forest-Bulley looks for a team-mate to pass to during Friday's Senior Night game at Frontier. Recorder/Trish Crapo

It took all season, but Mahar Regional School finally played up to coach Chad Softic’s expectations.

The Senators held Smith Academy to a season-low 46 points on Friday night, and Brendin Woodard’s buzzer-beater broke a tie to send the Division II State champions home with their best victory of the season, a 48-46 Hampshire League victory in Orange.

“I’ve thought all year, maybe my expectations were too high, but I thought all year that we were capable of playing with the big boys, and tonight we got a big boy win,” Softic said. “As a coach, you can talk about how good your team is until you’re blue in the face, but until you finally do it, it doesn’t matter. Tonight, they did it.”

The Senators (13-5, 12-4 HL) have a strong record this season, but the team has struggled to compete against some of the top teams in the league. The biggest reason for the struggles have come on the offensive end of the floor, but good defense and a dominant rebounding performance helped hand the West-Division champion Falcons (16-3, 14-3) their third loss of the season.

“We were working hard defensively,” Softic said. “They really had to work to score. And we did a good job on the boards. We out-rebounded them 38-25 I think. They didn’t get too many second shots.”

The win was reminiscent of what the Senators did at the end of last season when they used a blanketing defense to make the run to the state title. Softic said that he saw flashes of last year’s team on Friday, despite the fact that only one starter remains from that squad. He added that it was a loss to Turners Falls late last season that helped turn things around. This season, the Senators also lost to Turners late (a 64-46 loss on Feb. 5), and since then they have beaten Hampshire Regional High School and now Smith Academy.

“We played our best basketball at the end of the season last year, and it was a loss to Turners that forced us to regroup last year,” Softic explained. “I believe in this team. We are capable of playing really good basketball and we certainly did it tonight.”

The Senators opened up a five-point lead after the first quarter and the team held a slight lead throughout the game. Smith Academy sharp-shooter Mat Sulda nearly stuck a dagger in the hearts of the Senators with eight second left, when he hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 46-46, but Mahar quickly inbounded the ball to Woodard, who carried the distance and hit a runner from 10 feet at the buzzer to end it.

Woodard finished tied for the team-high in scoring with 9 points, as Mahar had no player in double figures but five players with 7 points or more. Rafael Silva also netted 9 points, while Charles Verheyen added 8, and Nick Slattery and Joey Whitman each added 7.

Sulda was the only player to reach double figures for either team with his game-high 25 points. That included seven 3-pointers, and Softic said many of them were well-earned.

“He was hitting NBA 3s off us,” Softic joked. “They were off-balance, contested, you name it. He was great tonight.”

Derek McMahon and Seaver Rickert each finished with 7 points, while Keith Natale, who is averaging double-figure scoring on the season, made just two free throws and finished with the 2 points.

Greenfield 53, Easthampton 29 — One game after losing for the first time all season, Greenfield High School turned in one of its best defensive performances of the season to take a 53-29 victory over Easthampton High School in HL boys’ hoop action Friday night in Greenfield.

Garrett Hudson poured in a game-high 12 points to go along with nine rebounds and four steals for the Green Wave (17-1, 16-0), while Parker Hickey added 8 points and six rebounds. Lew Borden and Tim Cooley each netted 8 points, Vincent Funari added 7 points, and Ryan Roberts finished with 5 points and four assists.

Chris Starcun led Easthampton with 17 points. The Greenfield defense did not allow more than nine points in any quarter to the Eagles.

Turners Falls 60, Frontier 42 — Turners Falls High School made another statement on Friday night as it took over sole possession of second place in the HL West with a 60-42 triumph over Frontier Regional School at Goodnow Gymnasium in South Deerfield.

Turners Falls led 35-20 at the half as it played strong defensively, holding Frontier leading scorer Paul Decker (nearly 16 points per game) to just 8 points on the night. Decker, the Red Hawks’ best 3-point shooter, was held scoreless from behind the arc as Frontier did not hit a 3-pointer on the night. Despite the loss, Frontier coach Ben Barshefsky said he was pleased with the effort level of his team.

“I’m very proud of the effort from our guys tonight,” he explained. “They worked extremely hard, but Turners Falls played extremely well.”

Liam Ellis drained six 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 25 points, giving him three games of 20 points or more in his last six as he rounds back into form after missing five games due to injury. Wyatt Bourbeau netted 11 points for the Indians (13-6, 12-5), while Melvin Moreno added 10, and Nick Fisher chipped in 9. The Indians were also playing without leading scorer Malcolm Smith on the night.

Peter Watroba led Frontier (11-8, 11-6) with 11 points. Ryan Hoar added 8 points, and Tim Hoar netted 6.

Pioneer 84, Athol 60 — Drew Hastings scored a season-high 21 points during Senior Night on Friday night and Pioneer Valley Regional School earned an 84-60 HL boys’ hoop victory over Athol High School at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield.

Lennon Robichaud finished with 17 points, and Brian Llewelyn added 16 points. C.J. Artus, who has been slowed considerably all season due to an injury after averaging double figures last winter, netted a season-high 11 points to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.

Athol was missing leading-scorer Adrian Sexton due to an illness. Alex Page hit five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points, Zack Dodge added 10, and Bradley Bousquet and Tyler Guerin each netted 9.

Hopkins 52, Mohawk 51 — Hopkins Academy opened up an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter and held off a comeback by Mohawk Trail Regional High School to post a 52-51 victory in HL boys’ basketball play Friday night in Hadley.

The difference in the game came at the free throw line where Hopkins shot 76 percent (19-for-25), while Mohawk shot just 46 percent (10-for-22).

Zach Kelley netted 24 points to lead Hopkins (2-16, 1-16), while Greg Pipczynski added 11 points.

Mark Buck paced Mohawk (2-17, 1-16) with 22 points, and Kyle Leger added 12.

FC Tech 63, Westfield V-T 55 — Was Franklin County Technical School looking ahead to Tuesday?

The Eagles came into Friday night’s game needing to win out in their final two games and that started with one-win Westfield Vocational-Technical High School in Westfield before they closed out against a tough Pathfinder Regional High School Tuesday in Three Rivers.

The Pathfinder game almost became meaningless, however, as Westfield Voke threw everything it had at Franklin Tech before the Eagles held on for a 63-55 Tri-County League boys’ hoop victory.

Chris Wetherby led all scorers with 23 points, and Jake Earl added 18.

Luis Santos led the Tigers with 15 points.

Girls’ hoop

FC Tech 41, Westfield V-T 16 — It all comes down to Monday night for the Franklin Tech girls’ basketball team.

Brooke Meuse and Megan Aldrich each registered double-doubles on Friday night and the Eagles remained alive in the postseason chase with a 41-16 Tri-County League girls’ basketball victory over Westfield Vocational-Technical High School in Turners Falls.

The Eagles (9-10) must win their season-finale at home on Monday night against Pathfinder Regional High School at 6:30. Fittingly, the game is also Senior Night for the Eagles, because according to first-year coach Ed Marvell, it’s the seniors that have taken a leadership role at the end of the season.

“I believe the seniors, especially Megan Aldrich and Jasmine Farr-Marcum, are taking charge and telling the girls things like, ‘we will carry you,’” he explained. “They’re becoming leaders and as a coach you like to see that.”

Aldrich led the team in scoring with 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Meuse added 10 points and 10 barods, and Melissa Vatalaro and Brittany Andrews each chipped in 6 points.

Brandi VanGelder led Westfield Voke-Tech with 8 points.

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