Wave tastes big-time today at HoopHall Classic

  • Greenfield’s Kirsten Ward (21) will try to make things happen in the paint today at the Spaulding HoopHall Classic in Springfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield head coach John Hickey, shown talking to his team during a recent game, will lead his team into the Spaulding HopHall Classic in Springfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield’s Sam Smith (32) will be in action today when her team ventures to Springfield for the prestigious Spaulding HoopHall Classic. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Thursday, January 11, 2018

When Zion Williamson, the top-ranked uncommitted high school basketball player in the country, takes the floor at Springfield College’s Blake Arena Saturday night, ESPN’s national-television audience will tune in to watch his Spartanburg Day School (S.C.) play Chino Hills High School (Calif.).

On the same floor today at 4:30 p.m., Greenfield High School will get its shot to participate in the 2018 Spaulding HoopHall Classic. The Green Wave tangle with undefeated Hampshire Regional High School (8-0) on Day 2 of the annual five-day showcase that features some of the top high school programs in the entire country.

“They approached us last spring to take part and I think it’s a great opportunity for our school and the community to be involved with an event like this,” explained Greenfield head coach John Hickey, whose team enters today’s game with a 7-1 overall record. “We’re going to go down there, enjoy the experience, work hard and see what happens.”

Greenfield is the first local school to play in the HoopHall Classic since 2014, when the Green Wave boys’ team lost to Granby High School, 67-54, at Blake Arena. Mahar Regional School was the last local team to win in the event, as the Senators beat Hampshire, 69-43, in a 2012 boys’ basketball game. The last girls’ team to compete was Frontier Regional School in 2011, a 50-39 loss to Sabis International Charter School.

“It’s exciting to be invited to play,” offered Greenfield freshman guard Katie Haselton, who averages 14.8 points per game this season. “There are some really good teams there. It’s a big opportunity for us.”

Thursday and Friday serve as the local showcase for the HoopHall, while Saturday, Sunday and Monday’s schedules feature some of the top programs in the country. Saturday’s 8 p.m. game featuring Williamson is on ESPN, while four Monday contests will be televised on ESPNU.

The event features a horde of prominent alumni, with the list containing the likes of NBA stars like Kevin Durant (2006), Kyrie Irving (2010), Anthony Davis (2011) and Jayson Tatum (2015, 2016).

“It’s a big deal for us,” admitted Greenfield senior Kirsten Ward. “Everyone is really excited to play there. And it’s cool for our students. I know a lot of people have been asking about it and are going to make the trip down for it.”

Plenty of top programs will be on hand throughout the weekend. Montverde Academy (Fla.), the top-ranked high school team in the country in the current USA Today Top 25 poll, is on the schedule, as are traditional powers like Oak Hill Academy (Va.), DeMatha Catholic High School (Md.) and Mater Dei High School (Calif.).

Today features a full slate of girls’ high school games, beginning at 3 p.m. when West Springfield High School and Chicopee High School tangle. Just seven WMass girls’ programs are involved in this year’s event, with Springfield Central High School headlining things at 9 p.m. in the nightcap against Long Island Lutheran High School (N.Y.).

“I think it’s a real honor,” Greenfield senior Lizzy Howland said. “Three or four years ago, we never would’ve been considered to play, but we’ve come so far as a team; we’ve worked our butts off in practice.”

The matchup with Hampshire should prove to be a challenge for a Green Wave team that was looking to bolster its independent schedule this winter. The two Division III teams were actually supposed to meet last year, but Hampshire was forced to drop the regular-season meeting because it had one too many games on the schedule.

“It’s going to be a good experience to be around good teams and the pressure that comes with it,” said Ward. “We’ve heard a lot about (Hampshire). It’s good to play teams like that. We want to play teams that will hopefully prepare us for the tournament.”

Hampshire has yet to be really challenged this winter, dominating its eight opponents by an average victory margin of 31.6 points. The Raiders have won five games by 30 or more points.

The two teams have one common opponent this season: Sabis International Charter School. Hampshire beat the Bulldogs, 84-40, while Greenfield also handled them easily to the tune of 70-30. The Green Wave enters today’s contest on a five-game winning streak, winning those games by an average of 36.4 points.

Simply put, two dominant teams will take the floor at Blake Arena.

“We’re playing a good team and it’s a divisional team so it’ll be a great indicator for us moving forward the rest of the season,” Hickey said.

Tickets for today’s game cost $10 at the door. Children under 5 are admitted free. Each ticket is good for all five of today’s games, and fans can save $2 at the door with their Big Y Silver Savings Card.