Pittsfield girls face familiar opponent Belchertown in Western Mass. D-II semifinals

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PITTSFIELD >> Twelve months ago, Pittsfield guard Peyton Steinman put her team's Western Massachusetts Division II championship game loss into its proper perspective.

"It was a good experience for everybody," she said, "for even the younger girls to be here. I think it's good because we'll be back."

The Generals are back at the Curry Hicks Cage tonight for a Western Mass. Division II semifinal game, and the foe on the other side is a familiar one. The third-seeded Generals will play No. 2 Belchertown, the team that knocked off Pittsfield in the title game.

"Both teams had the same experience last year, and the quality of the play was right there," Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said before putting his team through a Sunday morning practice. "It's a matter of being at the Cage and performing at the Cage."

The game is the finale of tonight's tripleheader at the Cage. The Mount Greylock boys and girls will precede the PHS-Belchertown game.

The winner of tonight's game will play the winner of the game between top-seeded Longmeadow and No. 4 North Middlesex. That game is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Last year, Pittsfield beat North Middlesex in the quarterfinals and Quabbin in the semis. Belchertown, the fifth seed a year ago, upset No. 1 Longmeadow in the 2015 semifinals.

It's the third consecutive year that Pittsfield and Belchertown have met in the Division II tournament. Two years ago, Pittsfield earned a quarterfinal win over coach Jason Woodcock's Orioles. Last year, Tea Spellacy had 32 points and 10 rebounds as Belchertown held off Pittsfield 54-43 in the championship game.

That gave Belchertown its first-ever Western Mass. Division II title. Pittsfield is still seeking its first Western Mass. title since it won the Division I crown back in 2006.

Like Pittsfield, the Orioles came into the tournament with a 16-4 record. By virtue of its quarterfinal win over Commerce, Pittsfield is now 17-4.

The Orioles are missing Spellacy, who graduated in June and is now playing collegiately at Babson. But Kayla Henry, a guard who scored 10 points against PHS and started a 9-0 run in the third quarter of the title game with a 3-point basket from the top of the circle, leads the Orioles.

"We've had a good year, obviously. I don't know how many people would have guessed 16-4 based on what we graduated," said Woodcock, during the halftime break of Thursday's quarterfinal game at PHS. "The girls have played very well. We're pleased with the effort.

"We know Pittsfield will give us a hell of a game."

For his part, the veteran Pittsfield coach said he is looking for his team to return to its level, believe it or not, from early December.

"Our best game, to be honest with you, was our very first game when we [beat] Glens Falls," said Racicot. "It's coming back to that and I'm glad.

"I don't know where we were in the middle. I think we were trying some different kids to round out the 5-6-7 in our lineup."

While Racicot said he's pleased that his team is rounding back into its early-season success, the PHS coach also said that Thursday night's win over Commerce showed him something and he is hopeful the trend will continue.

In that game, Steinman got in early foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the first quarter and sitting for the remainder of the half. But the Generals got good games out of Bella Aitken and Allie Hunt, both of whom scored in double figures. Aitken had a team-high 18 points, while Hunt and Steinman had 13 each.

"I think we definitely need that to win, to be honest with you," said Racicot. "If you take Peyton away, we're going to need those other two or three kids.

"Britney Perkett did a great job on the boards [12 rebounds] in the last game. She got us the rebounds to get us more points. That's going to be key, also."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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