No. 2 Drury boys fall to No. 3 Pioneer on buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Western Mass. D-IV semifinals
Third-seeded Pioneer Valley held the No. 2 Blue Devils without a basket for the final two minutes of the game, and the Panthers' Garrett Cote scored the final three of his game-high 32 points on a coast-to-coast drive and 3-point shot as time ran out. The hoop shocked the Blue Devils and their faithful, as No. 3 seed scored a thrilling 69-68 win in a Division IV semifinal matchup at the Curry Hicks Cage.
"I didn't think we played well at all," Drury coach Jack Racette said. "Our pressure wasn't as good as it usually is. They broke our pressure, they knocked down some shots. They played loose and we just didn't make shots. That was the difference in the game."
The Blue Devils were seeking their first Western Massachusetts championship since beating South Hadley in the Division II title game in 1990, and last played in the final in 2009, losing to arch-rival Hoosac Valley.
With the win, Pioneer Valley gets a date on Saturday at 12:30 in the Division IV championship. The Panthers last won a title in 2000, beating Granby in the old Division III. The Panthers will play top-seeded Hopkins Academy, as the Golden Hawks beat No. 4 Ware 86-54 in the other semifinal.
The Blue Devils (17-5) did hold a 12-point halftime lead, but unlike the last time the two teams played, the Panthers (17-5) did not fold.
When these teams met in the second game of the regular season, Cote did not play and the Panthers dropped a 74-44 decision.
And when they took to the Cage floor, Pioneer battled back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to take a lead midway through the fourth quarter. Drury went up six points with 1:58 to play, but were outscored 10-3 down the stretch.
Reece Racette and Chad Lawrence each scored 22 points for the Blue Devils. Racette, a junior guard, made a free throw early in the third quarter to reach the 1,000-point mark. He finished the night with 1,008. He made only three baskets in the second half and made 1 of 3 free throws in the final minute.
Racette finished with 11 rebounds and 7 assists to go with his 22 points.
For the Panthers, Brendan Emond finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Cote had four assists and two steals to go with his 32 points.
Racette was fouled with 5.3 seconds left by Pioneer's Brendan Emond, missed the first and was called for a lane violation on the second. That set up the final play.
Pioneer's Cote got the inbounds pass and was guarded by Racette into the frontcourt. When Cote got to the 3-point line, he faked Racette into the air, and got his shot off from 20 feet. It hit nothing but net, the horn sounded, and the Panthers had their victory.
"There was actually a time in the JV summer league where I hit a game-winner, a 3-pointer, fading away, kind of just like that," the Pioneer junior guard said. "That was the only time I hit a game-winner. But not on a stage like this."
Pioneer coach Scott Thayer said he didn't have a time out after the free throw misses. He had, however, called time with 5.3 seconds left before Reece Racette went to the foul line.
"We had worked on some home run plays the last couple of weeks," said Thayer. "You never know if you're going to use it. We did exactly what we wanted to do.
"I didn't want him to make and then call time out, so Jack would be able to think about what he wanted to do. We knew what we wanted to do, whether [Racette] made or missed."
A 12-2 Drury run with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter broke a 59-all tie and gave the Blue Devils what looked like an insurmountable 65-59 lead as Max Daugherty made 1 of 2 free throws.
The Blue Devils forced a turnover and as Thayer yelled "foul him," Mike Menard fouled Scott McGuire (18 points). McGuire missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Off the inbounds, Cote drove to the basket and dished to Brendan Emond for two. All of a sudden it was a four-point lead.
Racette made the second of two from the line with 58.4 seconds left. Cote hit the third of his four 3-point shots to make it 66-64. Then, out of a Pioneer time out, Racette lost the handle on the ball for a turnover, Jordan Loughman was fouled, and made two shots to tie the game at 66.
Lawrence gave the Blue Devils a 2-point lead when he sank two foul shots with 19 ticks on the clock. That set the stage for the thrilling finish.
"You've got to make foul shots and rebound down the stretch," the Drury coach said. "We didn't do that."
The finish overshadowed the milestone set by Racette, who is now 21 points behind Aaron Dupuis (Class of 1995) on the Drury 1,000-point list. During the celebration, a Drury player didn't come off the court as Racette missed the second foul shot. The Blue Devils were assessed a bench technical, and Cote made two free throws.
"We had a great year, man. We won the North. I don't know the last time a Drury team won the North," the veteran coach said. "We beat some quality teams and had some quality wins.
"The kid made a big-time shot. What can I say?"
PIONEER VALLEY (69)
T. Emond 1-0-2, Cote 9-10-32, Wheeler 2-1-6, Underwood 0-0-0, Laughman 0-2-2, Hubbard 09-0-0, Fox 0-0-0, B. Emond 9-0-18, Menard 3-1-9. Totals 24-14-69.
Clark 1-0-3, Daugherty 1-0-2, Lawrence 7-2-22, McGuire 8-1-18, Middleton 0-0-0, Racette 8-5-22, Sarkis 0-0-0. Totals 24-9-68.
Pioneer 16 12 18 23 — 69
Drury 15 25 10 18 — 68
3-point goals — PV 7 (Cote 4, Menard 2, Wheeler). D 8 (Lawrence 6, McGuire, Racette).
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