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Smith Academy boys hoop runs past Turners Falls

  • Mat Sulda of Smith Academy, front, regains control of the ball beside Wyatt Bourbeau of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Mat Sulda of Smith Academy, front, regains control of the ball beside Wyatt Bourbeau of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy, left, takes a thumb in the eye from Wyatt Bourbeau of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy, left, takes a thumb in the eye from Wyatt Bourbeau of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mat Sulda of Smith Academy, top, shoots against Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Mat Sulda of Smith Academy, top, shoots against Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nathaniel Hanson of Smith Academy, right, shoots against Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Nathaniel Hanson of Smith Academy, right, shoots against Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Derek McMahon of Smith Academy, right, moves the ball against Melvin Moreno of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Derek McMahon of Smith Academy, right, moves the ball against Melvin Moreno of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • David Longstreeth of Smith Academy, front left, defends Malcolm Smith of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy. Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy and Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls are in the background.JERREY ROBERTS

    David Longstreeth of Smith Academy, front left, defends Malcolm Smith of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy. Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy and Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls are in the background.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy, left, comes down with a rebound beside Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls, center, and teammate Keith Natale Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy, left, comes down with a rebound beside Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls, center, and teammate Keith Natale Monday at Smith Academy.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Keith Natale of Smith Academy, top, shoots against two Turners Falls defenders Monday at Smith Academy.JERREY ROBERTS

    Keith Natale of Smith Academy, top, shoots against two Turners Falls defenders Monday at Smith Academy.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mat Sulda of Smith Academy, front, regains control of the ball beside Wyatt Bourbeau of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy, left, takes a thumb in the eye from Wyatt Bourbeau of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Mat Sulda of Smith Academy, top, shoots against Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Nathaniel Hanson of Smith Academy, right, shoots against Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Derek McMahon of Smith Academy, right, moves the ball against Melvin Moreno of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • David Longstreeth of Smith Academy, front left, defends Malcolm Smith of Turners Falls Monday at Smith Academy. Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy and Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls are in the background.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Seaver Rickert of Smith Academy, left, comes down with a rebound beside Summer Forrest-Bulley of Turners Falls, center, and teammate Keith Natale Monday at Smith Academy.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Keith Natale of Smith Academy, top, shoots against two Turners Falls defenders Monday at Smith Academy.JERREY ROBERTS

HATFIELD — Coming off a 97-point outing in its last game, it wasn’t surprising the offensive output decreased significantly for the Smith Academy boys basketball team on Monday night.

While the Falcons weren’t quite at their usual level on one end of the floor, they showed their effectiveness in a half-court battle, particularly on the defensive end in a 71-44 victory over Turners Falls at Sherry A. Webb Gymnasium.

“I didn’t think we executed very well at all,” said coach Matt Zerneri. “So to be able to get to 71 points against a good team isn’t bad. The game was a lot closer than the score would indicate, but we made enough shots to build a decent lead.”

With the win, Smith Academy (7-1, 6-1 Hampshire West) took firm control of the league’s top spot.

“We knew this would be a tough game, and we certainly didn’t play our best, but we did enough to get the win,” point guard Derek McMahon said. “We turned it over too many times, which is mostly my fault as the point guard. We definitely need to clean that up going forward.”

Mat Sulda scored a game-high 21 points, including a run of 10 straight for Smith Academy late in the first quarter and early in the second as the Falcons lengthened their lead from eight to 15.

“Turners plays a solid matchup zone, and it slowed us down a little,” said Zerneri. “We didn’t do a great job attacking them, but it’s always nice when shots fall in a stretch like that. It always makes a game a little easier. Mat and Derek work hard on their shooting and work to get good looks, so it’s rewarding to see the shots fall.”

Sulda knocked down all three of his 3-pointers in the first half, the final one late in the second handing Smith its halftime advantage of 16 points. The senior guard added four assists and three steals.

McMahon had 16 points and a team-high seven assists in the win. His third of four 3-pointers at the third-quarter buzzer made it 52-32 and ended the competitive phase of the contest.

“A lot of times I’m the facilitator, but if the defense sags off me I’ll take the shot and I have the confidence to make it,” said McMahon. “Having multiple guys able to shoot from deep makes it very difficult for teams to match up with us. It’s really fun being the point guard of a team with such great scorers. We all can run, which puts tons of pressure on the defense.”

The Indians (6-3, 5-3), playing without one of their leading scorers in Liam Ellis, made only 13 shots from the field. They attempted to shorten the game and limit the Falcons’ possessions, waiting until the shot clock hit single digits to work for a shot.

“They tried their best to slow the game down, and for the most part they were effective at it, but we were able to run enough to make it work,” Zerneri said. “We had those couple quick runs to really spread it out, which made it tough for them to try and come back. It’s a good game plan if it works, but our defense didn’t give them good looks when they finally got into the offense.”

Zerneri had the Falcons play roughly half the game in the man-to-man defense and the other half in their traditional zone. Turners struggled shooting over the zone until late in the game, as the Indians hit three of their five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve been running man defense more often this season, but we switched up (Monday) to our typical 2-3,” said McMahon. “It’s good to be able to change our looks and throw the other team off.”

Zerneri said, “We’re always working on something new, and we try to make the other team feel uncomfortable. We’ll play up to five different types of defense depending on the matchup. Turners is a good team and them not having (Ellis) helped us out on the defensive end.”

Keith Natale recorded a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds and provided a strong inside presence on both ends of the floor. Seaver Rickert had nine points while David Longstreeth added six for the Falcons, who closed the game on a 13-3 run.

Smith Academy hosts Mahar on Thursday night. The Senators (6-2, 6-1 Hampshire East) lost to unbeaten Greenfield (7-0, 7-0) Monday in a showdown for first in the Hampshire East.

“We have to control the tempo better than we did (Monday),” said McMahon. “I thought Turners did a good job slowing us up a bit, so we need to get back to playing at our type of pace.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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