NORTHFIELD >> On the road in a hostile environment, Hoosac Valley took it to Pioneer Valley and picked up a 66-59 win that sends the fifth-seeded, and defending champions, Hurricanes to the Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals for the third year in a row.
Hoosac came out and played aggressive defense from the start, giving the fourth-seeded Panthers a test that the team wasn't used to. Pioneer's leading scorer Brad Hastings, one of the best shooters in all of Western Mass, had to work hard for his 20 points on Friday, and in the second half he was limited to just one field goal despite scoring nine points.
"Just the fact that in the Hampshire league, we're not used to getting bodied up like they are up in the Berkshires," Brad Hastings said of what Hoosac did. "We tried to stay with it ... but they just out-toughed us tonight."
Jameson Coughlan scored a game-high 24 points for Hoosac to lead the way, including an 8 of 11 performance at the free-throw line. Matt Koperniak chipped in with 18, and knocked down a 3-pointer in all four quarters to keep the offense flowing.
"It's a great feeling," Koperniak said about the win. "We worked hard all year, all season. We know how tough it is in our county and our league. Just coming out here and getting the big win, it's a great feeling, and we're proud to be back [in the semifinals]."
Pioneer scored the opening bucket of the game on a 3-pointer from Jake Willis (7 points), but Hoosac got the lead back midway through the first on a three from Koperniak to go up 5-3, and Pioneer never got the lead back.
The Panthers did tie the game when Brad Hastings hit a deep three with 2:28 to go in the second, capping a 7-0 run.
Hoosac coach Bill Robinson responded with a timeout, Koperniak scored a free throw to get the lead back, then hit a 3-pointer to make it 27-23.
"[In the timeout] I said the pace is what we want right now," Robinson said. "They aren't going to get 100 [points] tonight, they aren't going to get 74, which is what they average. We got the game, we want the game, just continue on and battle. We are almost done with the half, we are a little tired, but I could see it in [Pioneer's] eyes and their legs, too."
Hastings scored one more bucket to cut the deficit to 27-25 at the break, but out of the half Koperniak hit a corner three on a pass from Colin Rousseau to immediately push the lead back to five. Pioneer cut the deficit back to three points three more times, and with 2:32 to go Tyler Martin (10 points) hit a three to make it 58-54.
Hoosac responded with its defense, and Rousseau stole the ball underneath his team's hoop for a layup that put the Hurricanes back up six. In the final 48 seconds, Koperniak and Rousseau (9 points) each hit a pair of free throws to keep the game near double digits.
"We've got some tough kids, experienced kids," Robinson said. "We are defending champions. Our guys know how to play. We haven't done that all year at times, but of late we are starting to get that energy back in practice."
Brad Hastings' only bucket of the second half came with 1:29 left in the third. He did go 7 of 8 at the line, but the lack of made shots was indicative of what the whole Pioneer team faced.
"I do feel that our kids shied away from the physicality of what occurred," Pioneer coach Dave Hastings said. "And I think that was a huge part of the game itself. They all played as hard as they could, just the physicality of what Hoosac brought to us is a little beyond what we are used to playing."
Dahndray Sistrunk added 10 points in the win along with six assists. Coughlan had 12 rebounds for a double-double, and Koperniak had six boards and four assists. Tucker Llewelyn had 17 for Pioneer.
Hoosac now advances to play Sabis in the D-III semis on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The Hurricanes lost to Sabis earlier this year, 51-46.
"They've been our nemesis for years, they've always beaten us when we get down to the Cage," Robinson said. "Maybe it'll be our lucky charm one of these days."
HOOSAC VALLEY (66)
Hall 1-0-3, Rousseau 3-2-9, Carlow 0-0-0, Koperniak 5-4-18, Lancia 1-0-3, Sistrunk 3-4-10, Barrow 0-0-0, Coughlan 8-8-24. Totals 21-18-66.
Hastings 6-7-20, Llewelyn 4-8-17, Emond 0-0-0, Hubbard 0-0-0, Willis 3-0-7, Loughman 0-0-0, Martin 3-1-10, Menard 1-0-3, Blanker 1-0-2, Williams 0-0-0. Totals 18-16-59.
3-point goals — HV 6 (Koperniak 4, Rousseau, Lancia), P 7 (Martin 3, Hasting, Llewelyn, Willis, Menard).
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.