PITTSFIELD -- If the St. Joseph boys basketball team is going to successfully defend its Western Massachusetts Division III championship, it would have to defend home court first.
Playing their last game on the Boys and Girls Club court they grew up on, Mike Carpenter scored a game-high 24 points and Lavante Wiggins came back from a scoreless first quarter to finish with 17 as the sixth-seeded Crusaders beat No. 11 Frontier Regional 65-43 on Tuesday night.
The win puts the Crusaders in focus for a Thursday night quarterfinal against third-seeded Mount Greylock in Williamstown. The winner will reach the Curry Hicks Cage at UMass in next week's semifinals.
After one quarter, the Red Hawks were within a point at 14-13, and in a place where Frontier coach Ben Barshefsky wanted. His game plan was to play deliberate basketball and keep the Crusaders from getting out on the break. He didn't count on Wiggins taking over.
The senior forward scored his team's first eight points, turning a one-point game into a seven-point lead for St. Joseph.
"My teammates came to the bench and told me we only have a [one]-point lead. They said ‘We've got to get you the ball. You've got to get going,' " Wiggins said. "Starting at the beginning of the second quarter, they gave me the ball twice and got two quick scores. They called a time out and we had the energy."
Wiggins' first two hoops were copies of each other. Both times, he got the ball down low and muscled past the Frontier defenders to score.
Wiggins made two free throws the next time he went to the basket and capped off his eight-point spurt converting a Tank Roberson pass. Wiggins also helped account for six of his team's last nine points of the second quarter. He penetrated to the hoop and passed to Jon Bianchi for a 3-pointer from the right corner and converted an old-fashioned 3-point play with 45 seconds to play. Roberson closed out the half with a basket, the Crusaders led 33-23, and the Red Hawks never caught up.
"He's a very strong kid. Active, and we had a tough time with him," said Barshefsky. "He was finding a way to get to the basket."
Carpenter finished with eight rebounds and two steals to go with his 24 points. Roberson had 17 points, seven rebounds and a game-high five assists.
The Crusaders forced 22 Frontier turnovers, and scored 19 points off those turnovers.
"Since I've been the coach at St. Joe, it's always been up and down, transition and let's score. When we get to the tournament, it's the complete opposite," said St. Joe coach Paul Brindle. "You're facing really good teams and coaches, and you've got to continue to play defense.
"We've done it every year come tournament time. We did it again. Now we have a big challenge coming up on Thursday against Greylock and we've got to do it again."
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