CHESHIRE >>It's March, so it must be time for the Hoosac Valley boys basketball team to kick it into a higher gear.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a big lead after the first quarter and never looked back as the fifth-seeded Hurricanes routed No. 12 Hampshire Regional 60-37 in a Western Massachusetts Division III first-round game Tuesday night.
"Our energy picks up," when the calendar flips to March, said Hoosac guard Dahandray Sistrunk. who had 11 points and five steals. "Everybody starts picking it up in practice. Everybody gets pumped. Everybody has to pick it up another level at tournament time."
That's what Jameson Coughlan did on Tuesday night. The senior scored a game-high 29 points and had 13 of Hoosac's 17 points in the first quarter. He had 17 at halftime.
But if one looks at him and looks at the play-by-play sheet, they might be a little puzzled. Hoosac's "Five" man scored his first hoop on a jump shot from the left elbow and scored his last two points of the quarter off the bounce on a drive to the basket. Five of his hoops were on shots from the vicinity of the foul line.
"Mostly every day in practice, we're practicing those foul-line cuts and jump shots. As a bigger guy like me, teams don't expect me to be a great shooter from out there," said Coughlan. "If I get an open look, I like my chances."
Being Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside presented Hampshire Regional coach Claud Solomeo with quite the conundrum. It was a problem the Raiders never solved.
"He made his shots. It's kind of one of those things where you pick your poison on a team like this that can score and defend," said Solomeo. "I thought we could have done a better job closing out on him, but he made his shots. He's a quality player, and that's what happens when you go up against quality players."
Off the stat sheet, Hoosac forced 19 turnovers and had 13 steals. The Hurricanes outrebounded Hampshire 40-37 with Koperniak pulling down a game-high 10 and Coughlan getting eight. Hoosac also registered 14 assists with Sistrunk, Koperniak, Avery Hall and Mat Carlow getting three each.
After scoring the first eight points of the quarter, Hoosac saw its lead cut to 10-4 on a drive to the basket by Hampshire's Greg Laroche with 3:12 left in the quarter. The Raiders didn't score again in the quarter while Hoosac finished the stanza with a 7-0 run.
The Hurricanes led by double figures until late in the second quarter when Hampshire went on a 5-0 run, all from the free throw line, cutting the Hoosac lead to 24-15 with 1:39 left. The Raiders did not score again while Hoosac scored the final five points, and when Sistrunk hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer, it was 29-15.
The quick start was something Hoosac coach Bill Robinson said he was looking for.
"We haven't been playing too well of late. We made some changes to our defense tonight to do something against them, and it worked pretty well for us. The kids came up with another level of energy, which is good," said Robinson. "In front of our home crowd, you have to expect it and we got it."
Hoosac led 41-24 after three quarters, and if one was expecting a miracle comeback by the Raiders, it wasn't coming as the Hurricanes opened the third quarter with a 13-0 run that gave them a 23-point lead.
"I guess so," said Koperniak, when asked if March is Hoosac's month. "The only game we lost in March last year was in the state final. It's pretty crazy.
"We find ways to win and we have to play hard and keep winning."
HAMPSHIRE REGIONAL (37)
Warner 1-0-3, Marek 0-3-3, Ouimette 0-0-0, Campedelli 1-2-4, Laroche 2-2-7, Bryant 0-2-2, Pickunta 0-0-0, Babyak 3-1-7, Bihler 3-2-8, Vaclovicek 1-0-3. Totals 11-12-37.
HOOSAC VALLEY (60)
Hall 0-0-0, Levesque 1-0-3, Rousseau 1-0-3, Hayer 0-0-0, Carlow 1-0-2, Koperniak 1-0-2, McGrath 0-0-0, Lancia 3-0-8, Mendel 0-0-0, Sistrunk 4-0-11, Barrow 1-0-2, Coughlan 13-3-29. Totals 25-3-60.
3-point goals — HR 3 (Laroche, Valovicek, Warren). HV 7 (Sistrunk 3, Lancia 2, Levesque, Rousseau).
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.