If the Hoosac Valley boys basketball team is going to have a chance to defend its Western Mass. Division III title, it needs to get through the No. 1 seed in the semifinals.
It's not just any top seed, either. It's a squad, Sabis, that fifth-seeded Hoosac is very familiar with.
The Bulldogs defeated the Hurricanes, 51-46, back on Jan. 5. It included an 18-10 fourth quarter in favor of Sabis, giving the Bulldogs the victory.
And while Hoosac won Western Mass. last season, a run in which the Hurricanes defeated Mount Greylock, Drury and Wahconah en route to the crown and eventual D-III state final berth, the Hurricanes lost to Sabis in the Western Mass. D-III final the season before, 71-56. They also fell against Sabis in 2011.
The Hurricanes (13-9) and Bulldogs (15-6) are set to meet again today at 4:30 p.m. at the Curry Hicks Cage at UMass in Amherst. The winner will face No. 2 Easthampton on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Cage.
Hoosac coach Bill Robinson outlined three keys to today's game if the Hurricanes are going to have a chance to advance.
"We've got to be strong with the ball," he said. "We can't turn the ball over and have it lead to easy baskets for them.
"The big thing, too, is we've got to keep up on the glass with them. If they're getting second and third chances, we're in trouble. So we've got to compete on the glass and make sure they don't get out and run in transition because we've turned it over. And we've got to make some shots. Three things, don't turn it over, compete on the glass and make shots."
Hoosac defeated No. 12 Hampshire and No. 4 Pioneer Valley to make it this far in the tournament. In the win over Hampshire, Jameson Coughlan led the way with 29 points while Dahndray Sistrunk had 11. In the road victory over Pioneer, Coughlan had 24 points, Matt Koperniak scored 18 and Sistrunk contributed 10.
In Sabis' victory over ninth-seeded Mohawk in the quarterfinal round, Nathan Colon led the way for the Bulldogs with 28 points, including seven 3-pointers. Justin Rennis also played well for Sabis, as he scored 26 points. The two combined for 54 of the team's 68 points while Mohawk only had 52 as a team.
The Hurricanes got off to a 2-4 start to the season, as a season-opening victory over Renaissance was followed by losses to Lenox and Pope Francis before a win over St. Joseph.
Hoosac then lost Rutland (Vt.) and the aforementioned game to Sabis before rattling off eight victories over a nine-game span to improve its record to 10-5. It's only loss in that one-month span was a 57-56 setback to Monument Mountain.
"Defensively we're playing better," Robinson said. "We've got more energy at this point. I wouldn't necessarily say we're playing as well as we were during that streak. We've played well enough in the tournament, and it's survive and advance."
The Hurricanes picked up some quality victories in that span, including wins over Pittsfield and Mount Greylock twice each. Hoosac lost three of four to close the regular season against a solid slate of opponents.