CHESHIRE — The gameplan worked. The inability to make shots did not. That is why the Hoosac Valley boys basketball team was knocked out of the MIAA Division V tournament Tuesday night.
The Hurricanes opened their Sweet 16 game against 12th-seeded Hull by missing 12 of their first 14 shots. Hoosac, chasing points all night, trailed wire-to-wire as the Pirates escaped with a 52-44 win over the No. 5 seeds, ending the season for coach Bill Robinson and his players. The planning worked. The execution, not as much.
“Yeah. At the end it got away because we fouled them,” Robinson said. “We were in the 40s. We had a couple of spots where we cut it down and we couldn’t get that lead. If we got the lead, it might have been different. I think we [cut the lead] at one point, and they came right back and got six straight points on us.”
Hoosac, which trailed by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, came back to trail 24-19 at intermission. And when Caleb Harrington hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left, Hoosac had cut the lead to 26-23.
It's a game again. Hoosac scored the last 6 in the quarter. Canes trail 24-19.— Howard Herman (@howardherman) March 8, 2022
But the Pirates, whose girls’ team lost at Drury Monday night, responded. After several empty trips for both teams, Hull big man Joe Johnson twice scored over Carson Meczywor, and when Gabe Griffin scored, a one-possession game turned into a nine-point lead for the team from the South Shore, who had also beaten the Hurricanes in the MIAA Division VIII football semifinal back in November.
“We’re the only Division V team in our league, so our league does a great job preparing us for the tournament,” said Hull coach Steve Capone. “[Hoosac is] very good defensively. I saw two films on them, and the way they get after it halfcourt defensively, they’re not very big but they’re fast, strong and quick. They play hard.”
Teams don’t get to the Sweet 16 without being good, and without having coaches who switch on a dime. Capone did that when, in the second quarter, he got his team out of a regular zone and went to a Diamond-and-One, with the “One” being recent 1,000-point scorer Meczywor.
Tommy Burke and Sean Marois took turns going everywhere Meczywor did. They likely would have followed him to Calculus class, if there was one at night. On defense, the other four Hurricanes did not matter one bit to Burke or Marois.
“Meczywor is a great player, and we have the utmost respect for him. He can score from the outside. He’s fast and he’s strong. After I saw what he was doing, I said he’s not going to beat us,” Capone said. “We’re going to try to take him out of the game and force other people to beat us.”
For his part, Robinson said the switch to the “junk” defense could have opened up things for other Hurricanes.
“I thought there was more room for everybody else to attack,” the Hoosac coach said. “Early-on, it really helped us get back in it, to be honest. Guys have to make shots. They have to make shots. We just didn’t make them.”
The Hurricanes were 16 for 50 from the floor in the game. After Harrington hit that 3-pointer to make it 26-23 with 6:24 to go, the Hurricanes made only one more basket in the quarter. Hoosac was 2 for 14 in the first quarter and 2 for 14 in the third quarter, and spent the rest of the night chasing points.
Hoosac got a huge lift off the bench by eighth-grader Adam Wicks. Wicks, who came on late in the third quarter and started the fourth, hit back-to-back, 3-point shots on Hoosac’s first two possessions. The first one coming off an assist from Meczywor and the second on a pass from Mikey White. The second one cut the Hull lead to 35-31, and the Hoosac gym was rocking.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, not long enough, as Hull’s Dan Punchard scored and then Evan Burke converted a Hoosac turnover. The Hurricanes couldn’t get closer than six the rest of the way.
Punchard had a double-double with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds. Gabe Griffin had 14 points and four assists for the Pirates.
While Meczwyor closed his Hoosac hoop career with only seven points, he had five rebounds and took six — count ‘em — six charges in the game. There is no official record for that at Hoosac, but Robinson said he thought it was a record.
Harrington finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals. White had three points and four assists.
With the win, Hull advances to the Division V Elite Eight, where the Pirates will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between fourth-seeded Paulo Friere and No. 13 Westport.