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WMass championship Saturday: Northampton looks to sweep Division 2 titles

  • Members of the Northampton team, with coach Rey Harp, cheer for their team Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Western New England University. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton coach Rey Harp talks to his team during their win against Chicopee, Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Western New England University. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton coach Perry Messer talks to his team during their win against Pittsfield, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton players Olivia Kesin, right, Amanda Mieczkowski, second from right, and others, celebrate their win against Pittsfield, in the Division 2 Western Massachusetts semifinal, Monday, Mar. 5, 2018, at Western New England University. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Friday, March 09, 2018

A rare opportunity awaits Northampton at Curry Hicks Cage on Saturday.

The Blue Devils boys and girls basketball teams could win Western Massachusetts Division 2 championships within hours of each other, a feat the school has never accomplished. Northampton’s top-seeded girls team will play No. 2 Tantasqua at 5:45 p.m., while the boys team, also the top seed, faces No. 6 Taconic at 7:30 p.m.

“We started our season together at the Cage, so it’s cool that we get to do the same thing (Saturday),” Northampton senior Andy Grygorcewicz said.

Northampton last won a boys sectional championship when it captured the Division 1 crown in 2011, while the girls team topped Division 1 in 2008. Both teams moved to Division 2 before this season following MIAA realignment.

“Neither the boys or girls team has won a championship in a long time so this is definitely really exciting,” Northampton senior Emma Tanner said. “This is pretty much the ideal situation that we could be in, playing back to back, and we’re hoping to have lots of fans.”

The girls squad has won eight of its last nine games, only falling to Central, which won the Division 1 championship Friday. They haven’t played Tantasqua this year. The Warriors (19-3) lost their first two games before ripping off a 19-1 stretch. They beat Sci-Tech in the opening round and East Longmeadow in the semifinals.

“It’s kind of tricky since they’re a team we haven’t really seen or heard about before,” Tanner said. “But we’re really going into the game thinking more about ourselves than them.”

On the boys side, Northampton watched Taconic blow past Longmeadow in the semifinals before the Blue Devils beat Chicopee. Hamp defeated the Braves early in the season.

“The last time we played we only had a few games under our belt, so they were still getting used to each other,” Grygorcewicz said. “When we saw them (Thursday) they seemed to be very competitive to every loose ball.”

Northampton has a quick turnaround to the finals after waiting two weeks to play the semifinals. The boys team only got one day in between its semifinal and the championship after a snow delay Wednesday. The girls team played its semifinal Tuesday.

“We played very well (Thursday) after a lot of downtime. We are eager and ready to play this game,” Grygorcewicz said. “We have been looking forward to this game the whole season.”

Division 3 boys

Easthampton reached the championship game as quick as it could. The second-seeded Eagles pushed tempo and relied on their athleticism in wins over Southwick and Sabis. They’ll face a different force when they play No. 1 Monument Mountain for the title at 4 p.m.

The Spartans boast a size advantage and will try to leverage leading scorer Graham Herrick in the paint.

“Rebounding is going to be huge for us. If we can limit to one shot, that allows us to get out in transition,” Easthampton coach Brian Miller said. “Our goal is to push the pace and try to get it going the way we know how to play, which is up-tempo.”

Easthampton last played for a title in 2016 and won one in 2003. Only seniors Sopie Pek and Zade Jenkins saw the floor against Hoosac Valley two years ago.

“Every single one of us have worked as if every practice and every game is your last one,” Pek said.

Division 3 girls

Hampshire Regional won’t have much time to process its dramatic win against Greenfield in the semifinals. The No. 1 Raiders won in overtime late Thursday night and will face No. 3 Wahconah at 2:15 p.m. Saturday.

“That was my first career win at the Cage and it was an intense win,” Hampshire senior Katelyn Pickunka said Friday. “The adrenaline is still there.”

They’ll face a Wahconah team that ended Hoosac Valley’s reign atop Division 3 and ousted South Hadley in the semifinals. The Warriors have won 14 of their past 15 games. Hampshire didn’t play Wahconah during the regular season but watched the Warriors twice.

“We are looking to defensively be strong and our offense will come to us,” Pickunka said.

Pickunka leads western Mass. in scoring 26.2 points per game. She’s put up at least 17 in every contest and broken 30 eight times.

“I want to leave my mark,” she said. “If your presence does not make an impact your absence will not make a difference.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.