Wave crests to final, 62-49
G4 Vincent Funari T23 Drew Scace
T25 Brennan Kickery G4 Vincent Funari
T13 Shaquille Ardrey G 5 Parker Hickey T 53 Mike Taylor
AMHERST — When Greenfield High School needed a spark, it turned to the thing that got it to the Western Massachusetts Division II Boys’ Basketball Tournament semifinals: Defense.
The top-seeded Green Wave held fourth-seeded Taconic High School to just nine points in the fourth quarter — including a meaningless 3-pointer in the closing seconds — and the offense thrived off it by scoring 18 points en route to Greenfield’s 62-49 victory at Curry Hicks Cage.
Greenfield (20-2) moves on to Saturday’s title game at 4 p.m., when it will face second-seeded South Hadley High School (15-7), which knocked off Sabis International Charter School 52-40 in Tuesday’s early semifinal at the Cage. It will be the Wave’s 11th all-time appearance in the finals, its first since losing 53-37 to South Hadley in 2004. This will be the third time the teams have met in the finals, the other coming in 2001 when the Tigers edged Greenfield, 50-49.
Greenfield used nine players, with the minutes pretty evenly spread by Wave coach Scott Thayer, who continually substituted to keep fresh defensive legs. He said it’s the same tactic he’s employed all season, and it’s been an edge the team has hung its hat on.
“We wanted to keep the pressure up,” he said of the tactic. “We knew we were going to give up some but we just kept telling our guys, ‘Keep the pressure on, keep the pressure on.’”
The main offensive weapons Thayer was looking to take away were Treyvon Sims and Shaquille Ardrey, a pair of guards who score in double figures. Sims netted eight points in the first five minutes of play, but the Green Wave held him to just eight more points the rest of the way. Ardrey, meanwhile, netted 14 points on the night but was hounded throughout by the Wave defense.
Despite the tough Green Wave defense, Taconic entered the fourth quarter with some momentum after Ardrey hit a 3-pointer late in the third to pull the Braves (13-9) within four points, 44-40. That helped the team close the seven-point halftime deficit they faced with Greenfield holding a 28-21 lead.
The four-point deficit would be as close as the Braves got, though, as Greenfield opened the fourth on a 11-2 run, highlighted by a behind the back pass from Vincent Funari to Tyler Miller that the Green Wave’s lone senior finished off with a 3-pointer.
Greenfield upped the lead to 55-42 after three minutes of play and then clamped down defensively while running time off the clock on its offensive possessions. Wave forward Lew Borden finished with six of his 13 points in the final frame, but as was the case all night, the scoring was balanced. While Taconic finished with just four players on the score sheet, Greenfield had eight of its nine players with at least two points. Thayer said that he told his players to continue doing the same thing in the fourth quarter that they had done to that point, and the advice paid off. “We just said, ‘Stick with what we do. We talked about the energy and the effort level. We want to make everything fundamental and the guys responded. This was an institutional win tonight.”
Robin Marchese also had a big night for the Green Wave. The junior point guard was solid, controlling the offense, and finishing with a game-high 17 points, to boot. Funari was also a spark, scoring 11 points, while Miller finished with 9.
The game was tight throughout the first quarter, with neither team taking more than a three-point lead at any point despite the teams combining for 24 points. The two squads got off to a fast start offensively, including the Braves, as Sims hit a pair of 3-pointers en route to eight points in the opening quarter. Greenfield, meanwhile got points from four players in the opening frame, as it gave a glimpse of how the offense would be spread around. While the two teams each scored 12 points in the first 5:30, the scoring came to a screeching halt as the defenses went to work, and neither side scored a point in the final 2:30.
The second quarter saw the Green Wave take control of the game, opening up on a 9-0 run to take a 21-12 lead it would not relinquish. The run was fueled by the Green Wave defense, which held Taconic scoreless for the first three minutes of the second half. While the Braves were struggling to score, Greenfield was filling up the hoop, including Marchese, who had five points in the run and finished with seven points in the quarter. Taconic made a run of its own to get back in the game, getting as close as four points, but Greenfield took the 28-21 lead into the break and never surrendered the lead.