Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Drury's Vidal seizes moment at glory
AMHERST — Twelve months ago, Keeghan Vidal was watching basketball in the Curry Hicks Cage. Saturday, he got to celebrate as a champion.
"I was, but not with this feeling, no," said Vidal. "As soon as I saw them come here, I knew I had to be here. I knew I'm a good player."
The Drury High School senior did not do a lot in the scoring column in Saturday's Western Massachusetts Division IV championship game, scoring only seven points. But he hit the biggest shot of the game, draining a 3-point basket in overtime and then making 1 of 2 from the line as the Blue Devils successfully defended their D-IV championship with an 85-82 overtime win over Baystate Academy.
On a day when Scott McGuire Jr. scored 45 points, it was those three points by Vidal that helped hold off the top-seeded Bulls and clinch a second title in as many seasons for coach Jack Racette's Blue Devils.
With the win, Drury becomes only the fourth Berkshire County team to win back-to-back titles since the current system came into being in 1989. Taconic did it in 2018-19, Hoosac Valley did it in 2015-16, while St. Joseph did it in 1994-95.
Vidal transferred from McCann Tech for his senior season. He had been a successful player on a pretty successful team. The Hornets made the Western Mass. Division IV tournament in each of his three years. They did, however, lose to Drury in last year's quarterfinals. McCann also dropped quarterfinal games to Hopkins Academy in 2018 and Monson in 2017.
It was a new school, a new coach and a new system at Drury.
"He knows what it's like now that we're what, game 23?" Drury's McGuire said. "He knows what it's like to be Drury now. The first couple of games might have been rough, but he knows what it's like to be here."
Vidal said that he feels fully adjusted to life in school and on the court.
"Of course, I miss my old friends," he said. "But these guys, from Day One, they had me in here and accepted me like nobody else did. I love these guys."
He was especially feeling the love after the play.
"I trusted him," Drury coach Jack Racette said after the post-game celebration. "You don't start and there are a lot of reasons why we do that. I know you're going to be in there at the end."
The play was capped off when McGuire threw a cross-court pass over the Baystate defense to Vidal, who caught it near the right corner in front of the Drury bench, and with one motion, swished it home.
"We designed [the play] for him. We said they're not going to come running out. We're going to screen the bottom, screen the top," Racette said. "You're going to be wide open. Pull the trigger. Just pull the trigger. You're a shooter.
"He pulled it and it went in."
That put the Blue Devils on top 83-81. While Vidal did make an insurance free throw, it was the 3-pointer that made everyone in blue and white deliriously happy.
"Coach trusted me from the get-go. He kept telling me that [even though] I was kind of having an off-night, you're a good 3-point shooter," Vidal said. "Just shoot it. Just shoot it. Scott had 45, they're targeting him, and coach trusted me.
"I knew I was going to hit that."
The blue-clad fans in the Cage erupted in cheers when Vidal drained his shot. It might not have been a Jimmy Chitwood from Hoosiers buzzer-beating shot, or a Tyus Edney-style coast-to-coast drive at the buzzer, but it was a huge shot that will long be talked about in the history of Drury High School basketball.
"I don't even know" what was going through his mind, Vidal said. "All I could do was scream at the moment."
The Blue Devils are still McGuire's team. Nobody's been able to stop him this year, not in the regular season and certainly not in the playoffs, where he had games of 36 and 21 points to go with Saturday's 45.
Central Massachusetts Division IV champion Hopedale is going to be the next team to try and slow the Drury senior down.
Whether Hopedale can or cannot, it still might take somebody other than McGuire to hit a big shot.
Now that Keeghan Vidal has hit his big one, maybe he will be in position to hit another.
"This is what I came here for, and it feels so good," Vidal said. "It's amazing. There's no feeling like it."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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