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State basketball: Northampton, Hampshire girls; Easthampton boys seek semifinal wins

  • Hampshire Regional senior center Katelyn Pickunka lays in two points against Wahconah in the first half of the Raiders' 47-41 win over the Warriors in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Saturday, March 10, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire Regional junior forward Caroline O'Connor shoots under pressure from Noelle Furlong of Wahconah in the second half of the Raiders' 47-41 win over the Warriors in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Saturday, March 10, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire Regional head coach Amy Cyr huddles with her players starting the fourth quarter of their 47-41 win over Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Saturday, March 10, 2018. As they got up all they all chanted, "eight more minutes, eight more minutes." GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton head coach Brian Miller huddles with his team in the second half of the Eagles' 81-74 win over Monument Mountain in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Saturday, March 10, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton senior guard Zade Jenkins takes the fast break past Graham Herrick, left, and Caleb Carlson, right, of Monument Mountain in the first half of the Eagles' 81-74 win over the Spartans in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Saturday, March 10, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton's Bailey Maurer goes up for a shot against Tantasqua March 10, 2018 during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Girls Basketball Championship at the Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton's Sydney Lewandowski, right, puts a shot up while Tantasqua's Madison Varney looks on at back March 10, 2018 during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Girls Basketball Championship at the Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@kylegrbwsk
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A large, golden banner commemorating the 2008 girls basketball state title hangs prominently above the Northampton High School scoreboard. It reminds this season’s Blue Devils what they’re after.

“We’ve always looked up to the 2007-2008 girls basketball team who won the state championship,” Northampton senior Emma Tanner said. “We see it every day at practice and games, and, this year in particular, it’s motivated us because we want one of our own.”

The Blue Devils cleared a significant hurdle Saturday when they beat Tantasqua for the Western Massachusetts Division 2 title. Up next: Central Mass. champion Hopkinton in the state semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Worcester State. The Hillers (20-4) bested Medway in the sectional final.

“The best opportunity you have is the one right in front of you,” Northampton coach Perry Messer said.

Senior center Ivy Gogolin, a 6-foot-1 New Hampshire commit, leads the Hopkinton attack at 15.6 points per game.

“Their size is something we’re going to have to contend with,” Messer said.

Northampton prides itself on its defense but lacks size. The Blue Devils play a more interchangeable style featuring pressure and fast breaks.

“You’ve got to be fundamental, and you’ve got to be physical,” Messer said.

Messer was an assistant coach on the 2008 state title team and took over the program the next season. Current senior Bailey Maurer’s older sister Charlotte played on the 2008 team, as did Messer’s daughter, Jaime.

“Several of the players still live in the Northampton area and have been really supportive,” Tanner said. “We all really appreciate how supportive (Jamie’s) been since she was in our shoes 10 years ago.”

Easthampton’s familiar foe

Unlike many state semifinals, the Division 3 boys basketball matchup between West champion Easthampton and Central champ Sutton is a rematch. They’ll meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at AIC.

The Sammies (18-6) defeated the Eagles (18-5) 84-82 on Dec. 15. That loss started a run of four straight defeats for Easthampton, but playing a challenging schedule benefited the Eagles. They went 16-1 since and claimed the program’s first sectional title since 2003.

Easthampton coach Brian Miller sees a lot of his team in the Sammies. Both squads play fast and spread the floor. The Eagles prefer a faster pace rather than fighting a team trying to slow the game down.

“I’d rather play to our strengths,” Miller said.

Easthampton has won its last six games and scored over 80 in both the sectional semifinal and final.

“I think they’ve all found their groove. They know what’s at stake,” Miller said. “They’re trying to get the school to their first state final. They’ve been in big situations before, played against some great teams.”

Hampshire eyes consistency

One day after winning the program’s first Western Mass. championship in a decade, the Hampshire Regional girls basketball team returned to the gym.

“We’re trying to stay consistent,” Hampshire coach Amy Cyr said.

The coaches decided to hold practice Sunday to prepare for the state semifinals since they took last Wednesday off for the snow. They weren’t sure what they would get out of the team.

“They were really focused,” Cyr said. “This team is just a fantastic group. I’m so happy to still be in the gym with them everyday.”

Hampshire will face Central champion Sutton at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at AIC. The Suzies (22-1) rallied against Tyngsborough in their sectional final.

Natalie Fraioli leads Sutton with 16.6 points per game.

Senior Katelyn Pickunka leads Hampshire (21-2) at 25.9 points per game. She’s broken 30 points eight times.

Caroline O’Connor (13 ppg) and Maddie Pond (10.7 ppg) both also average double-digits for the Raiders.