EASTHAMPTON >> Early in the fourth quarter, Zach Crisafulli caught the ball just outside of the paint. With his back to the basket, he spun to his right, pounded the ball into the floor twice and took two large strides before elevating into a hook shot. The ball glided through the net, and the whistle blew, signaling an and-one.
Both the Crisafulli basket and the whistle were trends in the Division 3 quarterfinal between Easthampton and Drury on Friday. The No. 2 Eagles (19-2) defeated the No. 7 Blue Devils (12-10) 80-54 in a foul-filled contest behind 24 points from Crisafulli.
"We like the energy," said Crisafulli. "We like chippy games. That's how it is in the playoffs. It's no secret that both teams are going to play hard and try to win."
The game got aggressive in the fourth quarter. With roars of boos from the energetic crowd and multiple moments of disagreements between the officials and coaches, the referees put their whistles to their mouths before things got out of hand. Three technical fouls were dished out (two to Easthampton, one to Drury) during a quarter in which Easthampton led by as much as 28.
"I think we got a little over excited at times and lost control of our emotion a little bit," Easthampton Coach Brian Miller said. "We want to play up tempo, but we don't want to commit that many fouls. You have to find that balance, and sometimes you step over the line."
In the first half, the game flowed much more smoothly, and fouls were not as popular. In the first quarter, both teams were playing at a fast pace, trading baskets. Raphie Coleman hit a mid-range jump shot with 20 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a one-point lead. On the ensuing possession, Reece Racette was fouled and went 1-2 at the line to tie the game at 14 heading into the second quarter.
"We weren't executing our game plan in the first quarter," Miller said. "We wanted to attack the basket, but for some reason we were settling for 3-pointers."
After being tied at 17 early in the second, the Eagles went on a 9-2 run led by Crisafulli and freshman Ish Akanour.
"Once we start seeing the ball go through the hoop we're confident," said Crisafulli. "It feels good, and the crowd goes crazy."
Akanour finished with 15 points and had multiple strong finishes at the rim. He came off the bench and provided a spark at the end of the first half with a layup and a floater that soared high over the defender's stretched arm and swished through the net.
"He's a great scorer," Miller said of Akanour. "Tonight he showed what he can do. He's hard to stay in front of. No one on our team can stay in front of the kid. If he gets into the lane, he's a good finisher."
The second quarter came to a close with a Crisafulli buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send East Hampton into the locker room with a 37-25 lead.
The Eagles really pulled away early in the third quarter as Crisafulli continued to assert his dominance. Easthampton will play in the semifinals on Tuesday against Mount Greylock at 8:00 p.m. at UMass.
"As a team we're moving the ball really well, and we're pushing the tempo to get easy baskets," Crisafulli said. "That's what it's all about. We do a good job of turning our defense into offense."
Racette 2-4-8, Montoya 0-0-0, Carpinello 0-0-0, Bird 5-9-19, Meehan 3-5-13, Stewart 0-0-0, Clark 3-2-9, Lawrence 0-0-0, Webb 1-0-2, Dubie 0-1-1, Harrington 0-0-0, Woodsen 0-0-0, Corry 1-0-2, Crosier 0-0-0 . Totals: 15-21-54.
Pek 2-2-6, Coleman 3-11-17, Crisafulli 9-5-24, Bara 0-0-0, Palonis 0-0-0, Torres 3-0-7, Jenkins 1-5-7, Akanour 4-7-15, Bragg 0-0-0, Healy 0-0-0, Brown 0-0-0, Leveille 2-0-4, Lafountain 0-0-0. Totals: 24-30-80.
3-point goals — E 2 (Crisafulli, Torres), D 3 (Meehan 2, Clark)