Wahconah boys basketball heating up at full strength, knocks off short-handed Monument Mountain

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MIKE WALSH — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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GREAT BARRINGTON — For eight-plus minutes Saturday afternoon, the lone basketball game in Berkshire County looked like it was going to be a great one.

Wahconah and host Monument Mountain played to a 19-all draw through one quarter of action. For a variety of reasons, the following three frames all went the Warriors' way in a 77-51 runaway.

For starters, Monument point guard Dion Brown, who scored eight of his team's 19 points in the opening quarter, limped to the sideline late in the first and did not return. He came down under a pileup on his ankle while going for a defensive rebound.

Behind the Spartans (10-2) trying to run their finely-tuned machine without its engine, it was the Warriors' own play that elevated.

Wahconah (7-2) got 26 points from Kevin Huban and a fabulously well-rounded outing by Tom O'Connor to roar by Monument and into its fourth-straight win.

O'Connor had 20 points and 13 rebounds to go with five assists and a pair of emphatic rejections. The senior big man showcased the skillset of a perimeter guard with his playmaking and hit three, 3-pointers.

Monument had won four in a row itself, clinching a Western Massachusetts tournament berth in the process, and with Brown piloting the operation the two teams were evenly-matched.

Brown and Ty Higgins traded off assisting on each other's 3-pointers in the first and big men Noel Powell and Dylan Brownson made hay in the paint against Wahconah's trees.

At the other end, O'Connor was spreading things around, and guards Huban and Tim Clayton (10 points) combined for 13.

With Brown on the trainer's table to start the second quarter, the Spartans — who are already down starter Caleb Carlson — turned it over four times in the first couple minutes, but coach Randy Koldys' defense kept the hosts right there. Powell and Isaiah Zorn knocked home 3-pointers, but it only held up so long.

"They were well-prepared and they're playing really confidently right now," said Koldys of Wahconah. "When you lose a major player on your team, you have to have something good happen to gain back that confidence. Couple bad trips down the floor happen, next thing you know it's a sinking ship.

"Our guys have to learn now, with two guys out, that they're still pretty darn good, too."

Towards the end of the first half, Wahconah's Jake Gai got to the line and hit 1 of 2, but O'Connor was there for the offensive board. He retreated back and kicked to Gai beyond the arc for a triple to make it 31-25 at the break.

"We did a good job controlling tempo with our defense," said Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher. "Obviously we hit some key shots at different spots, but a great team effort defensively."

Monument showed a bit more resiliency to open the third quarter as well, getting five straight with another Zorn three, but O'Connor stepped into a bomb at the other end to match it and Belcher called timeout up 34-30 with 7:04 on the clock.

His boys responded, and O'Connor called for a pick, side-stepped a defender and knocked home another 3-pointer to go ahead 10. Higgins responded from outside, but an 8-0 Wahconah run followed.

Huban soared through a passing lane for a steal and bolted the other way for an easy layup to make it 50-35 and force a Koldys time out.

"We knew going into the second half we had to keep up the intensity. They're a good team, even with Dion out they can hit some shots," said O'Connor. "We had to lock up defensively.

"We've more confident on offense when things are going well on D."

That coast-to-coast bucket may have marked the longest time Huban, who leads the Warriors in scoring with 23 points per game, had the ball in his possession. He scored 26 while seemingly never dribbling more than once.

"He's really good with absorbing contact and finishing at the rim. I don't think a lot of teams expect that from him," said O'Connor. "He does it so well."

Wahconah ended the third in front by 18, and pushed that to 26 by the final buzzer.

Playing in his fourth game back from a preseason injury suffered in Great Barrington at a jamboree, Tom Burris made his return Monument's floor. The senior wing got in foul trouble, but was a key cog in the second half, scoring all nine of his points and adding six rebounds and three blocked shots. It was his first game not reaching double figures, but the Warriors were still grateful just to have him on the floor.

"It gives us some energy. He's a glue guy for us," said Belcher. "But I was really proud of the effort without him in the first half. I think that showed how much we grew those first five games or so without him. We've come together and improved as a team. Having him back makes us that much stronger."

———

WAHCONAH (77)

Salvini 0-0-0, Clayton 4-2-10, Huban 7-10-26, Gai 3-1-8, Roughley 0-0-0, Burris 3-2-9, O'Connor 7-3-20, Lee 1-0-2, Hescock 1-0-2. Totals 26-18-77.

MONUMENT MOUNTAIN (51)

Robbins 1-0-2, Zorn 3-0-8, Hanavan 1-0-3, Gouchey 0-0-0, Higgins 2-0-6, Brown 3-0-8, Santos 0-0-0, Powell 6-2-16, Shultis 0-0-0, Curtis 1-0-2, Brownson 3-0-6. Totals 20-2-51.

Wahconah     19     12     27     19     —     77

Monument     19     6     15     11     —     51

3-point goals — W 7 (O'Connor 3, Huban 2, Burris, Gai); MM 9 (Powell 2, Brown, 2, Higgins 2, Zorn 2, Hanavan).

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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