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Rebecca Sapoukey steps up for Granby in quarterfinal win over Hopkins Academy

GRANBY — Granby Regional girls basketball coach Tom Burke had one game plan in mind Friday night: Get the ball to Rebecca Sapoukey.

And Sapoukey, as the junior center has done time and again this season, responded to her coach’s strategy with a hard-fought effort in the paint, scoring a game-high 17 points while grabbing seven rebounds and one block in the Rams’ 49-42 home win over Hopkins Academy in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament quarterfinals.

“Anything we ran was basically on an option for her,” Burke said. “And then we were trying to reverse the ball and still keep looking inside for her, because we figured they’d be fronting her or maybe doubling her.

“What we tried to do was just spread out four people outside and then let Becca work inside to get the ball. I said, ‘Even if we don’t get it in to her and we take a shot, she’s probably the only one inside (to rebound) with one of their players.’”

The 6-foot Sapoukey enjoyed a considerable size advantage over any of the frontcourt players the Golden Hawks could throw at her — usually Nicole Morrison or one of the Sullivan twins, Kate and Mackenzie. Earlier in the season, she used that edge to record 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in Granby’s 55-28 win over Hopkins on Jan. 2.

In Friday’s rematch, Sapoukey picked up right where she left off, outmuscling and outjumping her opponents on the offensive end and altering shots on defense.

Though the relentless defensive pressure of the Golden Hawks’ forwards made life difficult for Sapoukey, she proved too much to handle.

“They’re kind of short,” Sapoukey said. “So I had the advantage most of the night. I mean, I play against 5-foot-6 girls in practice, so it’s not that difficult.”

Sapoukey was at her best when her team needed her the most. After a lackluster start by Granby to open the second quarter, Hopkins flipped the game’s momentum with a quick scoring run and took a 21-20 lead.

With her team back on its heels and confidence wavering, Sapoukey took over and scored the final eight points of the quarter to give the Rams a 28-21 halftime lead, an advantage it would carry through to the final buzzer.

“We needed someone to step up, and I knew I had the physical advantage down low,” Sapoukey said. “So, I just boxed them out and got the rebounds.”

Added Burke, “We just started settling for shooting 3s, and we can’t do that, not with the advantage we have with Becca inside. We tried to use it as much as we could throughout the game.”

Unable to match up in size, the Golden Hawks resorted to fouling Sapoukey, but her 7-for-8 performance from the free-throw line rendered the tactic ineffective.

Without a reliable answer on the block, Hopkins could only watch as Sapoukey played her team’s way into a semifinal showdown in the Curry Hicks Cage against Lee on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

“Last time they tried to double me when I got the ball,” Sapoukey said. “This time I think they just put one girl on me and hoped it worked.”

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