Granby eliminates Hampshire Regional boys basketball from postseason contention
WESTHAMPTON — The urgency factor seemed to be on the side of the Hampshire Regional boys basketball team, which needed a victory Monday night to keep its postseason hopes alive.
But Granby had playoff positioning — and some revenge — on its mind and took command early in a 53-28 win to eliminate its league rival.
“We were plenty desperate ourselves,” said Granby coach Tim Sheehan. “We really want a top-four seed and if we’d lost this game I think we’d be on the outside. So hopefully this will give us a home game, which is what we’re looking for.”
Corey Baker scored the first eight points for the Bi-County North champion Rams (17-3, 7-1), who played their final game of the regular season. Baker finished with a game-high 15 points while adding eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
The Raiders handed the Rams their only league defeat on Jan. 7 by a 62-61 score in overtime.
“They beat us that first game, so we wanted to come out and make an early statement,” Baker said. “Fortunately, we carried that through for the whole game. We’re in a tournament mindset right now, and this is big for our seeding.”
An 11-0 run late in the first made it 16-2 and took the energy out of the packed Hampshire gym. The Raiders will miss the tournament for the second straight year after missing it once in the previous 14 seasons.
“It’s upsetting to not get into the playoffs and to see the season end early,” Hampshire senior guard Shane Andrews said. “I’m really proud of this team. We pulled out some solid wins early but had a tough stretch recently. Playing a team like Granby, we needed to have one of our best games, which didn’t happen.”
Hampshire (8-11, 3-5) simply couldn’t hit shots on Monday night. Andrews scored 27 points in the prior matchup but only four Monday.
“We came out a little flat and struggled from the floor all night,” said Hampshire coach Claud Salomao. “I thought we played pretty well defensively and kept them off the boards. We kept the score where we wanted to on defense, we just could not finish. Obviously against a team as good as Granby, you can’t give them such a big cushion.”
The Rams played championship-caliber defense in their final tuneup for the tournament, not allowing Hampshire to reach double digits in any quarter. The lone concerning part was the number of offensive rebounds Granby gave up.
“This is the time to start playing your best defense, and we get better and more active every day,” said Sheehan. “With the rebounding, we get in position but we’re not the most physical team. So a team with some length like Hampshire could have some success on us in that regard.”
Trailing by 19 early in the second half, Raiders senior Adam Laroche went on a personal 5-0 run to close it to 30-16, the closest the Raiders got the rest of the way.
Laroche put in a team-high 10 points in his final home game, while Conor Cronin also had 10.
“Our guys played their hardest and didn’t give up,” said Salomao. “That’s a testament to our guys. We’re a young team and we missed some opportunities all season to win games. But I’m going to remember this as a fun team that was a pleasure to coach. We had great team chemistry.”
Baker hit three free throws, then Molin knocked down a 3-pointer as the lead ballooned back up to 20. A triple by Liam Galloway midway through the fourth closed out a 7-0 run as Granby assumed its biggest advantage at 50-21.
Galloway enjoyed a solid all-around performance with 10 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. Molin added 10 points in the win.
“This is where you want to be, going into the tournament playing your best,” said Sheehan. “We’re showing that defensively. On offense (Monday) we made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but nothing we can’t work on and correct.”
An emotional senior night program before the game honored both Andrews and Laroche.
“Unfortunately for our seniors, they didn’t have classmates around them who played,” Salomao said. “I love those two guys. It’s been an honor to coach them and watch them grow. They’ve both been in the program for four years, so it’ll be strange without them around.”
Said Andrews, “Our freshman year we won the league title and I learned a lot from my older teammates that year. I hope that I’ve taught the young guys some lessons about basketball and about life. I played my hardest the last four years, which you want to leave as an example for the younger guys to follow.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.