Hampshire girls beat Easthampton, ready for postseason
EASTHAMPTON — The Hampshire Regional girls basketball team certainly looked playoff ready in the final week of the regular season.
After a convincing win over Belchertown on Monday, the Raiders wrapped up their schedule with a 38-28 win over rival Easthampton in a packed house Wednesday night.
“It’s exciting to be going into the tournament playing this well,” freshman point guard Chelsea Moussette said. “But it is also sad because we know it means the season is almost over. We just want to (keep that from happening) for as long as possible.”
Sarah Kober scored a game-high 20 points for Hampshire (17-3), which has won 15 of its final 16 games heading into the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament.
“The whole process is making sure you stay in the moment,” coach Rich Moussette, Chelsea’s uncle, said of keeping the momentum going despite potentially having more than a week off before their first tournament game. “All year long, we’ve focused on taking it a quarter at a time, a game at time and we have to keep it that way.”
Moussette added 10 points and played terrific defense on Eagles 3-point specialist Kristen Windoloski, who was held scoreless.
“It’s definitely exciting (to beat them) after we lost to (Easthampton) twice last year, but we came in confident and ready to play,” said Chelsea Moussette, whose team was eliminated by the Eagles in the quarterfinals last year. “We are a year older and we are so much better than we were last year.”
The game was the opener of the yearly doubleheader between the programs and was followed by the schools’ boys teams.
Both teams now await Saturday’s tournament seeding meeting, which will take place at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield at noon.
The Eagles, who reached the quarterfinals last year and won the Franklin South title this year, enter the postseason having lost their last two games against two of the tougher teams in the D-2 field. They fell to Mahar 48-35 on Monday before losing to the Raiders Wednesday.
“I think this game showed how prepared we are for the tournament. We’re not,” Easthampton coach Jay Fortier said. “We’ve played our two worst games of the year in our last two games. I’m very disappointed, but it is my fault. I haven’t gotten them prepared. Obviously, it is my fault.
“They are better than we are. They have shooters all around us. They are very hard to play. I thought we played very well defensively, but we just can’t score. When you double off (Easthampton standout senior center Elizabeth Whitney) — and they know who to double off of — we had no answers.”
Whitney scored a team-high 17 points in the loss. Courtney Nelson-DeNucce added six.
“I’m disappointed, but that’s a good team. That’s a very good team,” Fortier said. “I told the kids we can’t get into a track meet. We have to play in the 30s and if we play them in the 30s, we have a chance. The way it started out, I thought they were going to get 60, but we played pretty good defense. But when you’ve got one horse in Whitney and you can’t get it to her, you can’t score. I didn’t do a lot of things right and when I thought I did do some things right, the kids didn’t respond. That’s happened for two games in a row that I’ve thought we were prepared and had all the answers and clearly we didn’t.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GazetteHS.