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South Hadley can’t keep up with Holyoke at Hoophall

  • Calvin Bridges, center, of South Hadley, reaches for a rebound against Holyoke players Jacob Santos, left, and Edward Anderson during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Liam Dawson, top, of South Hadley, shoots as Holyoke defenders Eliezer Vazquez, front, and Darius Diaz look on during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • South Hadley players Keith Harris, center, and Marcus Larrier, right, defend Derek Birriel, of Holyoke, during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Calvin Bridges, right, of South Hadley, shoots against Holyoke defenders Devin Martinez, left, and Darius Diaz during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hunter Carey, center, of South Hadley, drives to the basket against Eliezer Vasquez, of Holyoke, during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hunter Carey, left, of South Hadley, shoots against Edward Anderson, of Holyoke, during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hunter Carey, of South Hadley, top right, passes to Calvin Bridges, front, amid Holyoke defenders Eliezer Vazquez, top, and Jacob Santos during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Keith Harris, left, of South Hadley, shoots against between Holyoke defenders Darius Diaz, right, and Isaiah Lopez during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Calvin Bridges, front left, of South Hadley, looks for a shot against Jacob Santos, of Holyoke, during the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 at Springfield College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Thursday, January 11, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — South Hadley blinked first at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

The Tigers boys basketball team traded body blows with Division 1 stalwart Holyoke until midway through the third quarter at Springfield College’s Blake Arena Thursday.

Keith Harris received an entry pass at the right elbow, took one dribble and backed his posterior into Darius Diaz to clear space before drop-stepping over his outside shoulder for a short jumper that put the Tigers up 1.

It was their last lead. Derek Birriel hit a jumper through contact and made the free throw to put Holyoke back on top, then Jacob Santos turned an errant South Hadley pass into a layup and a four-point lead with 3 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the third.

“Mental errors, bad passes, they’re on us,” Harris said.

Holyoke held the Tigers at bay for the entire fourth quarter and won 67-57.

After Harris’ bucket, Holyoke went on a 10-3 run to close the third quarter. The Purple Knights (4-2) carved their first double-digit lead at 61-50 when Santos made two free throws with 3:23 left.

“I’m really proud of these guys, for the most part we were in striking distance,” South Hadley coach Juan Maldonado said. “We were competing, that’s what we really wanted.”

South Hadley (3-5) proved equal to the task early on. Calvin Bridges gave the Tigers their first lead 13-11 when he finished a tough layup through multiple defenders and drew a foul with 2:26 left in the first quarter.

“Calvin is a special player. I know a lot of people see it now, but I’ve seen countless hours in the gym working on his craft,” Maldonado said. “This stuff pays off when you put so much work into it.”

Bridges finished with 17 points and nine rebounds but didn’t score in the third quarter. He put up 12 points in the first half before Holyoke’s defense zeroed in on him.

When that happened, South Hadley began using Bridges as a decoy to open opportunities for his teammates.

Harris took advantage with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Hunter Carey scored 14 points.

“It’s good to see my brothers succeed because we’re all one unit,” Bridges said.

Carey nailed a jumper to tie the game at 41 with 4:35 remaining until halftime.

“We played with a lot of energy, we were committed to what we were doing,” Maldonado said.

Holyoke built the lead back to 37-33 at halftime.

After Harris’ jumper gave South Hadley its last lead, Holyoke started pressing. The Purple Knights turned South Hadley over 20 times in the game.

“Some players started thinking too much. They weren’t making the same plays they were in the first half, too scared to make mistakes,” Maldonado said.

They also started flexing their size on the offensive boards to limit South Hadley’s opportunities. Holyoke outrebounded the Tigers 47-38.

“They were getting a lot more shots, and our defense broke down,” Bridges said.

Carey made a layup after a jump stop in the final 10 seconds of the third quarter to cut Holyoke’s lead to six. South Hadley never pulled closer for the rest of the game.

“We were actually not that mad about the loss. We came here and competed with a D-1 powerhouse,” Harris said. “We thought we played well against them.”

It was a bittersweet moment for Maldonado, who played at Holyoke and was coaching against his old high school coach, Bill Rigali.

“In all reality it’s not about me, it’s about these kids. I’m from Holyoke and I’m proud to be from Holyoke, but tonight I was a Tiger and I’m really proud of it,” Maldonado said. “I wouldn’t change any of it.”