Hopkins Academy boys basketball will face Pioneer Regional with eye on fourth straight WMass Division 4 title

  • Jon Morrison, left, and the Hopkins Academy boys basketball team will play Pioneer Regional in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament final, Saturday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

AMHERST — After an action packed Monday night at the Curry Hicks Cage, the stage has been set for the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship.

The top-seeded Hopkins Academy boys basketball team will be taking on No. 3 Pioneer Regional, at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

It’s no surprise that Hopkins has found its way back to the championship. The Golden Hawks will be playing for their fourth consecutive title. They have been a dominant force all season, boasting a 20-2 overall record. They went 8-0 in winning the Hampshire South during the regular season.

“I’m very happy to coach these kids and to have a lot of fun with them this year,” Hopkins coach Angelo Thomas said. “Hopefully they can go out and do something special.”

Hopkins met little resistance on its journey to the championship game. The Golden Hawks steamrolled their first opponent, McCann Tech, 96-51, in the quarterfinals, and did the same Monday night when they defeated Ware, 86-54.

Hopkins guards John Earle and Justin Ciaglo have played a big roll in the postseason. Earle scored 22 points in the team’s victory over McCann and posted another 21 points against Ware. Ciaglo scored 28 points and snagged 10 rebounds in the quarters and tallied another 18 points in the semifinals

Add in Jon Morrison’s work in the paint (22 and 27 points, respectively) and the Golden Hawks have been tough to handle.

Pioneer Valley earned a shot to dethrone Hopkins Monday night.

The Panthers knocked off No. 2 Drury, 69-68, with a leaning 3-point shot by junior Garrett Cote at the buzzer.

“We all knew coming into the season, we knew that (Hopkins) was the class of the field, we’ve known that,” Pioneer Valley coach Scott Thayer said.

Pioneer Valley lost twice to Hopkins during the regular season, 71-44 on Feb. 5 and 60-46 on Dec. 29.

However, the Panthers showed Monday that regular season results don’t matter in the postseason. Drury beat Pioneer 74-44 to open the season.

“We are going to have to have another monstremental effort, that’s what it comes down to, but we’ve given ourselves a chance,” Thayer said. “That’s what you want this time of year, survive and advance.”

Pioneer has won seven straight since its last loss to Hopkins, which fields an experienced roster.

“Our seniors, they’re not “ra-ra” guys, well one or two of them are. It’s just a calmness. They are very calm,” Thomas said. “They don’t get rattled … we know what we need to do, no matter what the score is in the game, we know what we need to do so that they don’t get rattled.”