Monument Mountain boys basketball hangs on to beat Pittsfield

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GREAT BARRINGTON — With the outcome hanging in the balance in the final minutes of a close contest, doing the little things — communicating on defense, protecting the ball, boxing out and making free throws — will often determine which team comes out on top.

The Monument Mountain boys basketball team played with poise in the clutch, executing well down the stretch for a 55-48 win over Pittsfield on Tuesday.

Pittsfield's Elton Wilkins (8 points) hit turnaround jumper with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in the game, tying the score at 48.

From that point on, however, every time Pittsfield got in position to re-gain the lead, the Spartans used a well-timed offensive rebound, steal or blocked shot to keep the visitors at bay.

Graham Herrick recaptured the lead for Monument with a free throw after Wilkins' score. The Generals had a chance to take the lead, but Edwin Rodriguez's shot from three was no good and the ball fell out of bounds. On the ensuing in-bound, Monument's Noel Powell broke free from Pittsfield's press, caught a long pass and finished the layup through contact with 1:04 left, putting the hosts up 52-48. The Spartans finished making 3 of 4 from the charity stripe to secure the win.

"It plays the biggest role on our team," Monument's Kevin Troiano said of the team's experience helping it pull out a close game. "They know that down the line, we have to stay composed and keep your mind straight.

"With all our guys, we're just so composed and so in it for the team that we're good at being able to settle ourselves."

The Spartans' composure late was key, but a momentary lapse in composure almost cost them dearly. Leading by four with 1:41 left, Rodriguez was fouled driving to the basket. A Monument player voiced his displeasure with the call and picked up a technical foul. Rodriguez split the foul shots and Amin Purry split the technical free throws, bringing the Generals within two.

Powell's hustle provided the cushion to withstand the technical. Troiano started the final frame with a jumper. Helmke put Monument on top with a crafty pump fake and score. Carter Matthews answered with two free throws with 5:19 left, before Herrick responded with two of his own, giving the host a one-point lead.

After an empty Pittsfield possession, Powell grabbed a tough offensive rebound and scored. He followed with a transition layup off a Pittsfield turnover, putting the Spartans up five.

The missed foul shots helped Monument, but Pittsfield coach Brandon Mauer said his team needed to execute better in late-game situations.

"A couple rebounds here and there. ... When we got opportunities at the rim we didn't really finish them down the stretch," he said. "We had a couple ill-advised fouls and we couldn't recover.

"Just learn from it. We've had a couple good games where we've been really close, like Longmeadow and we ended up pulling it out because we did the small things. In this game we didn't."

A close finish appeared predestined in the back-and-forth affair that featured six lead changes.

Herrick's tough basket in the post capped a 7-0 run to begin the second quarter. Troiano added a fastbreak basket at the buzzer, putting Monument up five after two.

The third quarter had a throwback feel with big men controlling the paint. Pittsfield's Kymani Harley and Monument's Noah Helmke traded 3-pointers to start the quarter. Monument's sophomore post player scored all seven of the Spartans' third-quarter points. Pittsfield's Joe Cracolici showed nifty footwork in the post, ending the quarter with eight straight points, giving the visitors a 38-35 lead heading into the fourth.

Cracolici and Harley led Pittsfield with 12 points each. Helmke led Monument with 17 points. Herrick added 16 points and nine rebounds.

"We tried to stay emotionally composed the whole game," Monument coach Mike Saporito said. "We did lose that concentration with a minute left and got the technical, but I think for the most part there wasn't any panic in us.

"The lead changed a few times but we were able to execute some plays, getting the ball to Helmke and Herrick on a couple key trips. ... [Noel] is one of our top defenders in the program. We felt like when we finally got the lead back with five minutes left we needed to shift our philosophy to getting some stops."

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PITTSFIELD (48)

Matthews 1-2-4, Wilkins 4-0-8, Higuera 0-0-0, Cruz 0-1-1, Cracolici 6-0-12, Rodriguez 2-6-10, Harley 5-0-12, Moorer 0-0-0, Purry 0-1-1. Totals: 18-9-48.

MONUMENT (55)

Brown 0-0-0, Powell 3-0-6, Alston 0-1-1, Carlson 0-2-2, Troiano 2-2-6, Brownson 3-0-7, Herrick 4-8-16, Helmke 6-4-17. Totals: 18-17-55

Pittsfield     13     10     15     10          48

Monument     11     17     7     20          55

3-point goals — P 3 (Harley 2, Rodriguez). MM 2 (Brownson, Helmke).

Akeem Glaspie can be reached at aglaspie@theberkshireeagle.com, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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