At times, Joe Racicot feels he knows how a pro basketball coach’s schedule goes.
"I’m feeling a little bit like an NBA team, where you’re playing back-to-back, taking a day off and traveling, then playing back-to-back again," the Pittsfield girls coach said.
Pittsfield’s schedule is just that over the next several days. The Generals are scheduled for a four-game-in-five-day stretch from today to Tuesday, with three of those games against North Division opponents trying to knock the Generals out of the division lead.
Pittsfield meets Wahconah today, heads to Minnechaug for a rescheduled game Saturday, plays another rescheduled game Monday against Monument Mountain and finishes the tough stretch with Tuesday’s Senior Night game against Drury.
Every game is crucial to both postseason and North Division hopes.
Pittsfield has just a one-game lead over Drury and Monument in the division as of Wednesday, with Wahconah 11Ž2 games back and Taconic two behind.
This is just the kind of parity Monument coach Chris Unsworth expected when the season began.
"I think, when I gave a few thoughts at the beginning, it’s exactly what I expected," Unsworth said. "Pittsfield would be strong, but it’s pretty even across the board."
For some coaches, a stretch like this has to be the most stressful time of the year. Wins are at a premium, and one off night can put your team in a tough spot in both the standings and the playoff picture.
It seems that, if Drury coach Jay Meehan is feeling that stress, he’s hiding it well.
"It’s a fun time of the year," Meehan said. "We can’t really watch the scoreboard and worry about what other teams are doing. We have to worry about our schedule. And it’s going to be difficult. Next week, we go on the road at Pittsfield and at Taconic. We’re going to find out where we sit pretty soon."
So the most basic task is the one Meehan embraces: Win the next game.
To do that, he said his upperclassmen -- including five seniors -- will have to lead the way.
"They realize that their careers are winding down a little bit, and they want to make sure they do what they can to extend their season," the coach said.
At least one senior -- while knowing there are only so many games left in her career -- isn’t thinking about the end right now.
Taconic’s Nyanna Slaughter feels the pressure to perform at this point in the season, but says she doesn’t let that affect her approach on the court.
"When I’m in a game, I don’t think that it’s my last year at all," she said. "I think it’s just another game."
Wahconah coach June Blake likes the pressure of tough North games, as she believes it prepares the Warriors for Western Mass. tournament play.
Wahconah has already faced some tough tests, and there are more on the way -- specifically today at Pittsfield. After that, next week brings North foes Lee and Monument Mountain.
"For us, we’re going into every game needing some Ws, starting with Pittsfield [today]," Blake said. "I think every game, anything could happen in any one of those games. You have to play your best basketball at the end of the year."
Slaughter knows what’s required for the Braves to both win the North and make the postseason, and she thinks the toughest test will be next Friday at Drury. The pressure to succeed, though, brings her closer to her team, and vice versa.
"We all want to get in the tournament. [We want] to get there and make our coach happy," she said. "We know we should get in, so we have to work hard. ... All the teams are very even, but beatable, so it’s a matter of pulling through."
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