Photo Gallery | Lenox boys basketball tops Lee
LENOX — The Lee boys basketball team faced the tough task of going on the road against rival Lenox needing a win to qualify for the Western Massachusetts tournament. The black-clad Lee student section did its best to neutralize Lenox's pink-clad student section, creating a tournament-type atmosphere in the packed gym. Unfortunately for the visitors, they could not sink the tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game — despite multiple attempts — as the Millionaires won, 47-44.
"We try in the county to have as many of us [in the tournament] as possible, but seeding matters for us after losing three out of our last four," Lenox coach Scott Sibley said of eliminating Lee from postseason contention. "I wish they had gotten their 10th [win] before they came here, because it's really not a pleasure knocking them out."
The last 30 seconds of the game were action-packed. Trailing by seven Lee's Josh Sampson converted a four-point play, making it a one- possession game.
After a Lenox turnover, Lee got the ball back with 17 seconds remaining. Sampson's tying attempt missed, but the ball bounced off a Lenox defender, allowing Lee to keep possession. Out of the inbounds, the ball ended up in Noah Johnson's hands for an open look, but his shot just missed. However, Lee keeps the ball after an over-the-back foul on Tyler Shepard, sending Tyler Buratto to the line. Buratto missed the first free throw and misses the second intentionally, but a lane violation gives Lenox the ball with 2.4 seconds left.
With a chance to end the game, Tom Hedges' inbounds pass went out of bounds, giving Lee the ball back on Lenox's end with 2.0 seconds left. Buratto threw a full-court pass to Sampson, but he could not get a shot off. Sampson led Lee with 17 points.
"We got three opportunities [to tie] on the baseline," Lee coach Tom Finnegan said. "That's all you can do is run a play, get a good look and if the shot goes down, it goes down. If it doesn't, there's nothing you can do about it."
The four quarter had all the elements of a great game, but the team's struggled to find rhythm early.
Lee used post player Randy Pichardo along with Sampson to smother the Millionaires' leading scorer Patrick Colvin. Colvin managed only two points in the first half, as Lee took a three-point lead into halftime. Colvin did not manage much more offense in the second half, but Shepard and Kevin Coakley picked up the slack with key baskets down the stretch.
Shepard started the third with a transition layup. Tom Reynolds' jumper gave Lenox its first lead with 5:51 left in the quarter, but Lee answered with a 7-0 run of its own, capped by 3-pointers from Matt Reynolds and Patrick Finnegan.
Shepard and Coakley responded with baskets, and after a layup from Lee's Ben Harding, Lenox closed with a 6-0 run to retake the lead. Shepard added five more in the fourth.
"We came out and started playing our best," Shepard said, "As everyone started guarded Patrick we need someone else to step up and I told myself 'why not [me]?' We needed the points and we needed the win. I'll do everything in my power to get it done."
Lenox heads to is third straight Division IV tournament, while Lee misses the tournament for its second straight year.
Despite the loss, Finnegan said the electricity in the gym reminded him of the Lee-Lenox games of the late-80s. He added that he wanted to play at least one more game for a special group of seniors.
Lenox awaits its tournament opponent. Seeds will be announced on Saturday.
Finnegan 1-0-3, Harding 1-2-4, Sampson 6-3-17, Buratto 3-2-8, Reynolds 2-0-5, Pichardo 1-0-2, Johnson 1-2-5. Totals: 15-9-44.
Colvin 3-0-7, Reynolds 2-0-4, Harley 0-0-0, Shepard 3-4-10, Farevaag 1-2-4, Coakley 5-0-10, Hedges 1-3-5, Heppleston 1-0-2, Downer 1-0-3. Totals: 18-9-47
3-point goals — L 5 (Sampson 2, Finnegan, Reynolds, Johnson), LX 2 (Colvin, Downer).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252.