The Cage awaits confident Wave
For the first time since 2004, Greenfield High School is heading to the Cage.
The top-seeded Green Wave will take on fourth-seeded Taconic High School in the WMass Division II boys’ basketball semifinals tonight at 8 at Curry Hicks Cage on the campus of UMass. The last Cage appearance by the Wave resulted in a 53-37 2004 loss to South Hadley High School in the WMass Division II championship game.
Greenfield (19-2) took the first step toward getting back to the title game on Thursday night by kicking off the tournament with a 59-20 quarterfinal dismantling of eighth-seed Palmer High School. It now takes on a Braves team that reached the semifinals with a 57-50 victory over another Hampshire League team, defending state champion Mahar Regional School.
Taconic (13-8) is strong in the backcourt, with senior Treyvon Sims and junior Shaquille Ardrey leading the way. Ardrey led the team in scoring during the regular season with 20.3 points per game. Sims was not far behind. Against Mahar, the duo used speed to drive the lane, resulting in 14 trips to the charity stripe, where they cashed in 11 points. Ardrey finished with 27 points, Sims 11 points. Greenfield coach Scott Thayer said his team must play well defensively to take away the penetration, something he feels confident can be accomplished.
“I’m confident we can compete,” he explained. “This is where our independent schedule comes into play as well. We scheduled two tough teams in Sci-Tech and Hoosac Valley. Both of those teams were quick and we should see a combination of what those teams did in Taconic. We know we’re playing a very good team, but we feel like the kids are ready for the challenge.”
Taconic also has some size on the interior, starting with junior center Mike Taylor, a large body who can present some matchup problems. He finished with 6 points and 10 rebounds in the Mahar game, while senior Tyler Murphy and junior Drew Scace joined him as forwards in the Taconic frontcourt, combining for 13 points.
Greenfield will counter with a tough lineup of its own, starting with its own big man in junior center Lew Borden. After averaging nearly 12 points per game during the regular season, Borden dropped in 9 in the win over Palmer, but he has displayed the ability to take over a game. He is flanked at forward by junior Connor Eckstrom and Garrett Hudson, both of whom are capable of double-digit scoring while averaging about 7 points per game during the regular season. One area Mahar exploited against Taconic was the ability of its big men to step out and shoot from long range. Center Jake Paul drained a pair of 3-pointers, while forward Joey Whitman added two of his own and also knocked down a 15-footer. If the Greenfield bigs can step out and knock down some shots, it could hurt the Braves.
Perhaps the most interesting matchup will be along the perimeter, an area where the Braves dominated on both ends of the floor against Mahar. Sims and Ardrey made life difficult for the Mahar guards, and Greenfield guards Robin Marchese, Vincent Funari and Parker Hickey will have their hands full trying to create their own offense. Marchese is the team’s best outside shooter, knocking down three 3-pointers against Palmer en route to a team-high 15 points, while Funari and Hickey can both shoot well. Tyler Miller is the lone senior with siginificant minutes on the team, and he’ll help the team break the press and add an athletic option up front after averaging over 7 points in the regular season.
Thayer said his players are ready to go, and looking to put Greenfield back on the map.
“The last couple of years we’ve been knocking on the door,” Thayer said of getting back to the Cage. “The kids are physically and mentally prepared and we believe that if we play our best, we can win this game.”