Saturday March 9, 2013

n St. Joseph can beat teams in more than one way.

Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD -- In many ways, defending the St. Joseph Central High School boys basketball team is all about the percentages.

A team can sag in on the Crusaders' big man, Lavante Wiggins and try to prevent him from scoring inside.

Or, they can spread their defense out and try to contest the Crusaders' perimeter shooters: Taverick Roberson, Jon Bianchi, and Mike Carpenter.

Basketball being what it is, doing both is always difficult. So it's a tough call, and when both elements of the Crusaders' game is clicking, as they have been in this postseason, it's an impossible one.

"At the start of the year, our guard play was carrying us," said Roberson earlier in the week. "But Lavante has been producing for us, and when we can go to him and get some points, that makes us very tough to beat."

It has so far. In the No. 6 seed Crusaders' semifinal win over Lee, the Wildcats stayed close to the basket to nullify Wiggins. It worked pretty well in terms of initially limiting the Crusaders' big man.

But here is where the percentages come in: St. Joseph's outside shooters bombarded the Wildcat zone with three-pointers, six in the first half, and scored 29 points to the Wildcats' 16. As good as Lee is on offense, it was a hole that eventually proved too deep out of which the team could climb.

That will be the conundrum faced by Smith Academy of Hatfield, the Crusaders' opponent in the Division III final, slated for 12:30 p.m. today at the Curry Hicks Cage on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.

The Falcons (20-3), have defended their way into the title game. They have outscored opponents by an average of 26 points, and have allowed only 43 points per game in the three playoff games they've played.

This will be the second time in two years the two teams have met. Smith followers can be forgiven if they don't want to remember last year, when a Crusader team headed for the state finals dominated a young Falcon team, 75-42 in the semifinals of the Western Mass. tournament.

All five Smith starters return from that contest, led by guard Mat Sulda, who is averaging 20.3 points per game in this postseason. The young team is now a veteran squad, and a squad that will have to decide just how to play the percentages to prevent St. Joseph from taking its second consecutive Western Mass. crown.