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Brighton downs South Hadley to win state Division 2 basketball championship

  • South Hadley junior forward Nathaniel Flachs (23) shoots in front of Daivon Edwards of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior forward Nathaniel Flachs (23) shoots in front of Daivon Edwards of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley senior guard Evan Marcus, right, attempts a layup over Prince Unaegbu of Brighton in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley senior guard Evan Marcus, right, attempts a layup over Prince Unaegbu of Brighton in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior Avon White, third from left, embraces freshman Austin Ford and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior Avon White, third from left, embraces freshman Austin Ford and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior Avon White, center, embraces freshman Austin Ford and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior Avon White, center, embraces freshman Austin Ford and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley freshman guard Griffin Fitzell, left, gained possession of a loose ball in front of Mark Mojica, right, of Brighton but his momentum carried him out of bounds in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley freshman guard Griffin Fitzell, left, gained possession of a loose ball in front of Mark Mojica, right, of Brighton but his momentum carried him out of bounds in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley fans watch the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley fans watch the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley fans watch junior guard Thomas Fitzell shoot a free throw in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley fans watch junior guard Thomas Fitzell shoot a free throw in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley head coach Jeff Guiel cheers on his Tigers in the first half of a 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley head coach Jeff Guiel cheers on his Tigers in the first half of a 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley players, from left, Cameron Earle, Griffin Fitzell, Evan Marcus, Kevin Garbacik, Nathaniel Flachs and Anthony Bullough watch the final seconds of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley players, from left, Cameron Earle, Griffin Fitzell, Evan Marcus, Kevin Garbacik, Nathaniel Flachs and Anthony Bullough watch the final seconds of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell rights himself after standing his ground against a drive by Malik James of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell rights himself after standing his ground against a drive by Malik James of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley head coach Jeff Guiel takes a time out with the Tigers in the second half of a 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley head coach Jeff Guiel takes a time out with the Tigers in the second half of a 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley senior center Anthony Bullough (24) defends Malik James of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley senior center Anthony Bullough (24) defends Malik James of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell is fouled by Malik James of Brighton on an attempted layup in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell is fouled by Malik James of Brighton on an attempted layup in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley players, from left, Avon White, Thomas Fitzell, Cameron Earle, Anthony Bullough and Evan Marcus, leave the court for substitutions in the last minute of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley players, from left, Avon White, Thomas Fitzell, Cameron Earle, Anthony Bullough and Evan Marcus, leave the court for substitutions in the last minute of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell, left, at 5'10", waits to challenge 6'6" Brighton senior center Prince Unaegbu for the opening tipoff in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. Unaegbu won the matchup.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell, left, at 5'10", waits to challenge 6'6" Brighton senior center Prince Unaegbu for the opening tipoff in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. Unaegbu won the matchup.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell, left, at 5'10", waits to challenge 6'6" Brighton senior center Prince Unaegbu for the opening tipoff in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. Unaegbu won the matchup.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell, left, at 5'10", waits to challenge 6'6" Brighton senior center Prince Unaegbu for the opening tipoff in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. Unaegbu won the matchup.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley sophomore guard Cameron Earle, center, tries to pass around Brighton defender Daivon Edwards (4) in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley sophomore guard Cameron Earle, center, tries to pass around Brighton defender Daivon Edwards (4) in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior guard Avon White (3) lays in two points between Brighton defenders Daivon Edwards, left, and Prince Unaegbu in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior guard Avon White (3) lays in two points between Brighton defenders Daivon Edwards, left, and Prince Unaegbu in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley senior center Anthony Bullough and junior guard Avon White, left and right in background, embrace after greeting junior Thomas Fitzell and senior George Fiore, left and right in foreground, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley senior center Anthony Bullough and junior guard Avon White, left and right in background, embrace after greeting junior Thomas Fitzell and senior George Fiore, left and right in foreground, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior Avon White, center, embraces junior Nathaniel Flachs and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior Avon White, center, embraces junior Nathaniel Flachs and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior Avon White, third from left, embraces junior Nathaniel Flachs and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    South Hadley junior Avon White, third from left, embraces junior Nathaniel Flachs and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley junior forward Nathaniel Flachs (23) shoots in front of Daivon Edwards of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley senior guard Evan Marcus, right, attempts a layup over Prince Unaegbu of Brighton in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior Avon White, third from left, embraces freshman Austin Ford and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior Avon White, center, embraces freshman Austin Ford and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley freshman guard Griffin Fitzell, left, gained possession of a loose ball in front of Mark Mojica, right, of Brighton but his momentum carried him out of bounds in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley fans watch the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley fans watch junior guard Thomas Fitzell shoot a free throw in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley head coach Jeff Guiel cheers on his Tigers in the first half of a 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley players, from left, Cameron Earle, Griffin Fitzell, Evan Marcus, Kevin Garbacik, Nathaniel Flachs and Anthony Bullough watch the final seconds of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell rights himself after standing his ground against a drive by Malik James of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley head coach Jeff Guiel takes a time out with the Tigers in the second half of a 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley senior center Anthony Bullough (24) defends Malik James of Brighton in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell is fouled by Malik James of Brighton on an attempted layup in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley players, from left, Avon White, Thomas Fitzell, Cameron Earle, Anthony Bullough and Evan Marcus, leave the court for substitutions in the last minute of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell, left, at 5'10", waits to challenge 6'6" Brighton senior center Prince Unaegbu for the opening tipoff in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. Unaegbu won the matchup.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior guard Thomas Fitzell, left, at 5'10", waits to challenge 6'6" Brighton senior center Prince Unaegbu for the opening tipoff in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester. Unaegbu won the matchup.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley sophomore guard Cameron Earle, center, tries to pass around Brighton defender Daivon Edwards (4) in the second half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior guard Avon White (3) lays in two points between Brighton defenders Daivon Edwards, left, and Prince Unaegbu in the first half of the Tigers' 59-41 loss to the Bengals in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley senior center Anthony Bullough and junior guard Avon White, left and right in background, embrace after greeting junior Thomas Fitzell and senior George Fiore, left and right in foreground, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior Avon White, center, embraces junior Nathaniel Flachs and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • South Hadley junior Avon White, third from left, embraces junior Nathaniel Flachs and senior Evan Marcus, holding the finalist trophy, following the Tigers' 59-41 loss to Brighton in the Div. 2 State Championship Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

The Tigers were down 12 and needed a quick run to give themselves a chance. Out of the break, Evan Marcus drove to the basket but missed. Anthony Bullough kept the play alive but T.J. Fitzell missed a 3-pointer.

Brighton hit two free throws on the other end, then forced a South Hadley turnover on the next possession. The Bengals went 4-for-6 from the line down the stretch to seal a 59-41 victory at the DCU Center.

“We just go out and play our hardest all the time,” Tigers senior Evan Marcus said. “They were a quick team, they were fast. We tried to match that but we had some trouble with that. Overall they were the better team today.”

South Hadley was within striking distance of Brighton throughout even though the Tigers trailed by double digits for most of the game. South Hadley struggled to get stops and offensively had a tough time beating the Bengals.

“For some reason there was like a lingering sense that we were down 20,” Tigers coach Jeff Guiel said. “It was 11, 12, 13 with 10 minutes left in the game. It just seems like there was an air that we were down much more.”

With four minutes left in the third Brighton held its largest lead, 44-26, but an 8-3 run pulled the South Hadley within 47-34 entering the fourth.

The lead never got below 12 as the Bengals avenged a loss to Mahar in the state final last season.

“We did struggle getting over that hump and it never happened,” Tigers junior Avon White said. “We always talk about being mentally tough in the program and that’s exactly what those guys were today.”

Brighton (21-6) played tremendous man-to-man pressure defense, forcing South Hadley into 19 turnovers. Making matters difficult for the Tigers (17-8) was that Marcus sat on the bench for 15 out of 16 first-half minutes with two fouls.

“When he’s not in the game, it shows how much he glues us together,” Guiel said. “His leadership is almost indescribable. Sometimes it’s vocal, sometimes it’s intangible, sometimes it’s the way he plays. We’re a far different team without him.”

White and Cam Earle carried South Hadley in his absence. Earle had 11 of his team-high 16 points in the first half, while White had six of his 10. Earle hit three 3-pointers, while the rest of the team was cold from the outside.

“Other than Cam, offensively we really didn’t hit our shots we usually do,” Marcus said. “We average a good amount of 3s in a game but I don’t think we hit any other than Cam. They disrupted our offense and it threw us off. They played well. All the credit goes to them.”

When Marcus returned, he struggled to find a rhythm. He finished with three points, his lowest total since he scored one against West Springfield in the second game of the season.

“Coming back in in the third I gave it all I got but I couldn’t catch a rhythm, flow for the game,” Marcus said. “It was tough.”

Defensively the Tigers could not slow the Bengals. Malik James had 16 points, while Nick Simpson added 11 (including nine free throws), Daivon Edwards scored 10 and Nate Hogan eight for Brighton.

“We knew extremely well first-hand how good and talented Brighton was and they proved to be all of that,” Guiel said. “I think Malik James will play Division I somewhere and they have a bunch of big strong shooters and scorers.

“Give them credit. You know what they are going to do. They’re going to spread the floor. They’re going to put their shooters on the wing but knowing what they’re going to do versus being able to stop it is another thing. We worked for days on different gimmicks and things to try.”

South Hadley is the first Hampshire County team to reach the state Division 2 championship game.

“It’s that Tiger pride. We don’t care who we play — we want to win,” White said. “We’re a little down right now but once we realize what we’ve done and how far we’ve come, I think everyone will walk out of here with their head up.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

Division 2 state championship

Brighton 59, South Hadley 41

Tigers (17-8)

White 5-0-10, Marcus 1-1-3, G. Fitzell 0-0-0, Maryea 0-0-0, T.J. Fitzell 0-1-1, Fiore 0-0-0, Reed 0-0-0, Ford 0-0-0, Flachs 1-0-2, Bullough 2-3-7, Garbacik 0-2-2, McKennna 0-0-0, Sears 0-0-0, Earle 6-1-16. Totals: 15-8-41

Bengals (21-6)

James 7-2-16, Hogan 3-0-8, Mojica 1-0-3, Edwards 3-3-10, Unaegbu 3-0-6, Simpson 1-9-11, Johnson 1-0-2, Jones 1-1-3. Totals: 20-15-59

S. Hadley 10 12 12 7—41

Brighton 19 13 15 12—59

3-pointers: South Hadley 3 (Earle 3); Brighton 4 (Hogan 2, Mojica 1, Edwards 1)

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