Bird steps up to lift Drury to Western Mass. win over Renaissance
NORTH ADAMS >> Hayden Bird scored 25 of his game-high 37 points in the second half and overtime, willing No. 7 Drury to a 74-71 win over No. 10 Renaissance during the first round of the Western Mass. Division III tournament on Tuesday.
Trailing by two with eight seconds left in regulation, Bird used a nifty up-and-under move to net the tying basket and force overtime. Renaissance held a 69-67 lead mid-way through the extra period, but Bird's 3-pointer with 2:30 left put the hosts up for good. The Blue Devils advance to face No. 2 Easthampton on Friday.
"I was confident that if my team got me the ball, that I would be able to get to the hoop and score the points," Bird said. "That was what we were doing the whole second half and it seemed to be working."
Renaissance held Drury to just 20 points in the first half, but the Blue Devils hustled their way back into the game after halftime. The Phoenix were beat to almost every loose ball, and the extra possessions routinely led to second-chance points. After trailing by 11 to start the half, Drury chipped its deficit down to five heading into the fourth. Renaissance started the fourth on a 6-2 run, but Reece Racette's missed free throw was tipped back out to an open Christian Montoya for a 3-pointer. The basket led to a timeout and seemed to swing the momentum in Drury's favor. The team's exchanged free throws, before Racette and Bird sank four straight foul shot, bringing the team within two with 30 seconds left in regulation. The Phoenix had a chance to ice the game, but a crucial turnover led to Bird's winning shot.
"We were at home and we missed some shots," Drury coach Jack Racette said of the slow first half. "We grinded it out. In the third quarter I thought we made a nice run and we had some opportunities to really get over the top.
"We knew we could keep attacking the basket and we got stops. We didn't think we could match up with them man-to-man when [Arvon] Gordon was in the game and we had to. I thought our bigs did a decent job on him."
Gordon finished with 11 points, but his presence inside presented Drury's biggest match-up problem. He scored two quick baskets in the first quarter, but foul trouble caused him to sit out the entire second quarter. Without its post player, Renaissance relied on the 3-pointer and had success early. The Phoenix made four treys in the first half, but managed just three in the second half and overtime. Jason Winter led the visitors with 22 points.
In the second half, Drury did a good job of forcing the extra pass and closing down the driving lanes off isolation. The Phoenix's offense became stagnant and they seemed to play tight down the stretch.
"We relied too much on individual offense," Renaissance coach Neal Creeden said. "We've got some guys that can put it in the cup, but moving forward we really need to make sure we're looking for that second or third pass. Make sure that we're getting a good shot that we know we can hit, or getting a great shot that we know we can hit."
Jack Racette said players such as Connor Clark and Bryce Webb played a huge role in the game, without having to score many points. Their work on the boards was key to Drury's comeback.
Now, the Blue Devils must regroup for the a tough Easthampton team. Jack Racette said Tuesday's emotional win will benefit his team moving forward.
"We've got an Easthampton team that beat Renaissance twice," the coach said. "They have great guard play and they pressure the heck out of you. I'm sure they'll have a game plan. ... We're going to need some big performances out of some other guys on Friday night."
Caldwell 5-0-12, Gordon 4-3-11, Winters 7-5-22, Algarin 4-0-11, Charles 3-2-8, McCaskill 1-0-2, Williams 1-3-5. Totals: 25-13-71
Montoya 1-0-3, Bird 12-12-37, Racette 4-7-15, Meehan 4-1-11, Clark 2-0-4, Webb 2-0-4. Totals 25-20-74
3-point goals — R 8 (Winters 3, Algarin 3, Caldwell 2). D 4 (Meehan 2, Bird, Montoya).
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252.
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