HS notebook: Holyoke Catholic hoop; Amherst track and Nordic; milestone watch at Smith Academy

Last modified: Friday, February 07, 2014
The Holyoke Catholic girls basketball team looks almost identical to last season, except for its record.

The Gaels (10-3, 2-1 Franklin East) surpassed last season’s win total (nine) with a tournament-clinching victory over Greenfield on Wednesday. Coach Terry Murphy said prior to the game that experience and maturity have caused the turnaround.

“All five starters are back, so experience plays a role in terms of performance and improvement, but also in terms of togetherness and consistency and toughness,” he said. “I think this team has been through some close games. We’ve had some disappointments in the last couple of years ... you learn from those things, you mature. I think it’s paid off.”

Kyra Robins, Danielle Easton, and Katie Klejna are all three-year starters, while Lindsey Robins and Julia Hiney are in their second season as starters. Off the bench, Lauren Malone and Alliana Hasiuk have seen consistent minutes the last two seasons and easily fit into the offense and defense when their numbers are called.

“We’re definitely smarter than we have been, more basketball savvy than we have been and that comes with playing and learning,” Murphy said.

The Gaels didn’t just improve in one area, but all over. Murphy said they’ve learned to keep a hard press on defense and gained shot confidence, while cutting down on foul trouble that plagued them last season.

“Early in the year, we weren’t shooting the ball that well. We worked on that, we’ve become a much better shooting team,” he said. “We’re scoring a lot more points because of that, but our defense, if you look at our scores, we’ve been keeping people right around the 30-point mark.”

Going into Wednesday’s 43-18 win over Greenfield, Holyoke Catholic allowed 33 points per game while scoring 41.

“One thing I’m really happy with is being able to play tough defense, pretty much 32 minutes without dramatically impacting the offense,” Murphy said. “Last year, I think we had moments were we had to back off more from fatigue issues, foul trouble, things along that line.”

On the other side of the ball, Murphy said his offense isn’t led by just one shooter. He can count on any of his starters and most of his bench to get shots to drop, confusing opposing defenses as to who to lock down.

“My first five have all had outstanding offensive moments this season,” he said. “Any of those five starters could have a game where they score 15, 20 points.”

Prior to Wednesday, Krya Robins was the Gaels leading scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game with seven games in double digits, including a season-high 26 against Cathedral on Monday. Easton averaged 7.8 points, but has stepped it up over the last five games, averaging at 10.

Murphy said this season’s mantra has been to take every open shot without second guessing it.

“With the exception of when we are trying to play for a last shot, I rarely tell them don’t shoot,” he said. “I want them all, from No. 1 to No. 10, if you’ve got an open shot, you take it. If you miss it, you miss it.”

A year ago, it took finishing second in the Bi-County West to earn a trip to the postseason. With their shooting sharpened and defense tightened, the Gaels are hoping to do better than that and secure a home game or two thanks to a much-improved overall record.

“I certainly think our (new) league is a better league than we’ve played in,” Murphy said. “(But) I would not be surprised if 7-1 can win this league. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 6-2 win it, but my hope is it’ll be 7-1 and it’ll be us.”

MILESTONE WATCH — Smith Academy senior Keith Natale is 10 points shy of 1,000 in his career. The Falcons host Greenfield Thursday at 7 p.m.

FAST FEET — The indoor track and field season is heating up.

The Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association held its Coaches Elite girls and boys championship meet on Sunday at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center in Boston.

Amherst Regional had a number of great performances as three athletes qualified for the Emerging Elite division at New Balance Nationals.

Junior sprinter Taj-Amir Torres blistered the field in the 55-meter dash. Torres finished in 6.45 seconds, nearly a full half-second ahead of Brockton’s Jonathan Derulos (6.56). Torres’ time was a season best and it matched his career best. Torres missed qualifying by 0.01 seconds.

Junior Allen Vance might have finished second in the 600, but his 1:22.38 time qualified for nationals.

Connor Evans finished sixth (2:34.47) in the 1,000 and missed the EE qualifying mark by 0.47 seconds.

Amherst’s 4x800 relay of Vance, Kelzy Rodrigues, Evans and Ryan Stender also qualified with a 8:09.32 run.

The 4x200 relay of Joseph Tavares, Xavia Perkins, JJ Sylla and Torres finished ninth and missed the qualifying mark (1:34) by 0.27.

Senior Anna Kaplan was fourth (11:11.45) in the 2-mile and qualified for nationals as well.

Other top finishes included Stender, who was seventh in the 2-mile (9:48.13), and Kanya Brown, who was eighth in the 55 (7.46).

The final meet of the PVIAC regular season is Friday. The postseason begins with the PVIAC championships on Feb. 7 at Smith College.

STATE TEAM — Amherst Regional sophomores Kale Wenczel and Ciaran Young qualified for the state J2 Nordic boys team. Wenczel is also an alternate for the state EHS team.

Amherst junior Amanda Riley is an alternate for the girls J2 state team.

Qualifying was held Sunday at Mohawk Regional in Buckland.

The J2 team is made up of the top 20 14- and 15-year-old boys and girls from Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Idaho and Canada.

The EHS teams consists of the top 24 boys and girls from grades 9-12 in each state/region.

The Eastern J2 Championship and National Invitational races will be held in Jackson, N.H., on March 5-7. The EHS Championships will be held in Gilford, N.H., on March 12-14.

AAU TRYOUTS — Tryouts are approaching for the DRIVE Hoops AAU boys basketball program.

Tryouts will be held March 1 at Hopkins Academy in Hadley.

Boys in grades 4 through 7 go from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Boys in grades 8 through 12 go from noon to 1:45 p.m. Participants need a birth certificate and $10 to tryout.

For more information, contact Angelo Thomas at 824-6679, email angelo@drivehoopsbasketball.com or visit drivehoopsbasketball.com.

BERKSHIRE HALL — The Berkshire County High School Girls basketball Hall of Fame will induct its second class in Pittsfield on Feb. 8.

The players class includes: Sue Carpenter and Jen Bennett of Mount Everett; A.J. Skowron of Lee; Nicky Vallieres of Hoosac Valley; Abigail Lemanski of Lenox; Katlyn Cunningham of Drury; Courtney Shepard of Pittsfield; Lauren Pelligrino of Monument Mountain; Shannon Hoosick of Wahconah; Peg Kirby of St. Joseph’s; and Maureen Michaels of Taconic.

The coaches class includes: Tom Cinella of Lee and Fred Lafave of Lenox.

The contributor class includes Mike Kinne of Great Barrington.