PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield coach Steve Ray said throughout the season that he was worried about his team's lack of size down low.
Friday night, it finally came back to bite the Generals.
Shepherd Hill exploited the undersized Generals in the post and on the glass, but it took a last-second miss for the Rams to pull off a 70-65 win in the Western Massachusetts Division II quarterfinals.
"We had a tough time handling their bigs," Ray said. "That's been our struggle all season. We're undersized.
"They were just too big for us. They were killing us on the boards, and we tried quite a few different things to stop [guard Drew Jean-Guillaume]. We tried different things, but the biggest problem was handling their bigs."
"Their bigs did damage," added senior Amancho Adopo. They out-rebounded us and got second-chance points. We didn't do a good enough job fronting their bigs."
Shepherd Hill had a 29-19 advantage on the boards, but it was the rebound on Pittsfield's last shot of the game, a missed 3-point attempt by Scott Steinman, that sealed the win.
With 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the game, Bryce Daley drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 63. A layup by Shepherd Hill's Dave Bianculli gave the Rams a two-point lead on their next possession.
On Pittsfield's next possession, Adopo's layup rimmed out, but junior Josh Bonny followed the miss with a putback to tie the game at 65.
A free throw and a Bianculli jumper gave the Rams a three-point lead with 18 seconds left, setting up Pittsfield's last possession.
Adopo took the ball at the top of the key, sized up his defender and fired a deep 3-pointer that hit off the back rim. He collected his miss and found Steinman on the left wing, but his 3-pointer missed as well. Bianculli grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws to ice the game.
"We were looking to get a shot for Daley or Steinman, but it wasn't there," Ray said.
The irony for Generals is, early on they could not miss from 3-point land.
Four-straight 3-pointers (two from Daley, one from Steinman and one from Chad Shade) gave the Generals a 12-point first quarter lead.
After the first, however, the Shepherd Hill bigs went to work down low.
Bianculli had 10 of his game-high 21 in the second quarter. He also pulled down six rebounds. His second-quarter performance allowed the Rams to cut Pittsfield's lead to two at halftime.
In the second half, Adopo tried to keep Pittsfield in the game by attacking the basket. His layup, followed by a Steinman putback, gave Pittsfield a 5-point lead midway through the third. But Shepherd Hill had an answer for everything Pittsfield threw at them.
Adopo finished with 18 points. Daley finished with 22, including six 3-pointers. Steinman had 17.
Shepherd Hill big man Mike Rapaza had eight of his 20 total points in the third quarter. His 12 total rebounds lead to many second-chance points as well. Jean-Guillaume's penetration created scoring chances for himself and his teammates as well. He had 18 points.
"We play a matchup zone and that gives the interior players a chance to stay there," Shepherd Hill coach Duane Corriveau said. "That's why we could rebound defensively pretty well. It just so happens offensively it started to open up for us because Jean-Guillaume was hitting."
The Generals were visibly distraught after the game. Ray told his team the pain of the loss will go away, and that they should be proud of the season they had.
"We've got four of five starters back. ... The future is still bright for us," he said. "I said ‘don't hang your head and be proud of what we've accomplished.' "
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