Katelyn E. Clooney
Ladies and gentlemen, elite hoops action is underway here at Springfield College.
Thursday afternoon marked the beginning of the 2015 Spalding HoopHall Classic at Blake Arena. The tournament, held by the Basketball Hall of Fame, places the nation’s top basketball talent at the Birthplace of the sport.
The first day of the tournament showcased local talent, as four Western Massachusetts matchups took place, including a rivalry game between Putnam and Central.
Here is a recap of all of Thursday’s action:
The tournament tipped off, at 4.p.m., with Cathedral High School, of Springfield, facing Pittsfield High School.
Both teams started strong, as the game was tied, 10-10, early on. Thanks, in part, to a couple of key steals, Pittsfield ended the first quarter on a 12-0 run, giving them a 22-10 lead. Pittsfield maintained control of the game throughout the second, holding Cathedral to just 27.8% from the field in the first half, and went into the locker room with a 32-25 lead.
Central started the second half off strong, scoring the first two baskets of the third, making it a one-possession game, at 32-29. However, Pittsfield soon found themselves up, 38-34, and never looked back. Despite strong defense by Cathedral freshman, Malyk Holmes, Pittsfield won the game, easily, 73-43. Anthony Jones finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end, and took home Most Outstanding Player honors for Pittsfield.
The second game of the day saw Chicopee High School facing Northampton High School.
After a slow start by both teams, Chicopee jumped to an 8-0 lead. Northampton answered back, cutting the lead to two points, at 10-8. However, Jake Midura and Darrick Boyd each hit a three for Chicopee, who led, 17-11, after one, despite a ¾ court bucket by Northhampton’s Jack Shaughnessy at the buzzer. Momentum quickly shifted back to Chicopee, as Boyd stole the ball and layed it up on the other end, not once, but twice. Despite 14 points from Northampton’s Aldan Hirst, Chicopee led, 36-17, at the half. In the second half, Boyd, and his team, continued to dominate. He finished with 17 points, 10 boards, five assists and six steals, on his way to Most Outstanding Player honors. Midura finished with a team-high 21 points, while Hirst finished with a game-high, 22. However, it was all Chicopee in the second half, as they won, 76-52.
Sabis Charter School, of Springfield, and Longmeadow High School tipped off shortly after 7 p.m., and found themselves in an early 6-6 tie. Sabis would lead, 9-8, but Longmeadow ended the quarter strong and led, 22-13, after one. Sabis cut Longmeadow’s lead down to four, as they trailed 24-20, in the second, but, despite seven second-quarter points by Dwayne Collins, trailed, 34-25, at the half. Sabis would, again, come within four, as Longmeadow lead 38-34 in the third. After Longmeadow extended the lead to 41-34, Sabis, fueled by two fast break baskets, found themselves ahead the first time since their 9-8 lead in the first quarter, as they now led, 41-38. Longmeadow bounced back and, after a trey from Jordan Chase, to end the third, led 54-45. Sabis continued to keep the game competitive for much of the fourth quarter; however, Longmeadow made it a double-digit lead, at 68-58, before taking a timeout. After play resumed, Longmeadow, fueled by strong defense, finally pulled away, and won the game, 75-59. Collins won Sabis’ Most Outstanding Player honors, after briefly leaving the game with an ankle injury, in the fourth. Mike Lemke, who finished with a game-high 21 points, to go with nine rebounds, took home honors for the winning team.
The last game of the night saw two-time defending state champs, Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, face-off against their rival, Springfield Central. Both schools are in the Valley League and this was Central Head Coach, Darryl Denson’s, first game against his former team. Denson, a rookie head coach at Central, was previously an assistant coach for William Shepard at Putnam. The two are also cousins.
Putnam scored first, but the game remained close for most of the first quarter, before Tyonne Malone awoke the crowd with a thunderous dunk, to give Putnam a 16-9 lead. The Beavers led, 20-10 after one, as Jonathan Garcia scored eight points in the first eight minutes.
Shortly into the second, Putnam got a scare, as Garcia, who is one of the top players in the state, limped to the locker room. After the injury, Putnam went scoreless for several minutes, as Central cut the lead down to 20-17. Luqman Abdur-Rauf finally ended Putnam’s drought, scoring his first two of the game, before they cruised to a 29-22 halftime lead. Garcia returned in the third and Central continued to lead. However, Brian McCrae was fouled as he scored a two-pointer and converted the free-throw, making it a one-possession game at 32-29, with 4:52 remaining in the quarter. Garcia scored his first basket of the second half with just under two remaining in the third and Putnam’s lead soon grew to ten. Central cut the lead down to single-digits and trailed, 43-35, heading into the fourth. After that, it was all Putnam. They extended the lead to 57-37 with 2:28 remaining in the game and won, with a final score of 75-59.
Despite recently seeing their 35-game winning streak snapped against Weaver, of Hartford, CT, during the Basketbull Hoopsfest, at Western New England University, Putnam remains no. 1 in the state rankings. This marked their 41st straight win against a MA opponent.
Stay tuned, as the girls take the court on Friday. Several more Massachusetts teams will face-off, on the only day in which females play.