Basketball state tournament: Northampton sweeps doubleheader

  • Northampton’s Kelvin Perez lofts a layup off the glass against Nashoba Tuesday in Northampton during the MIAA Division 2 boys basketball state tournament preliminary round. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton’s Jack Kelleher-Mochak drives against Nashoba Tuesday during the Division 2 preliminary round. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton’s Chloe Derby drives toward the basket against Agawam on Tuesday in the Division 2 state tournament preliminary round. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton’s Riley Allen fires a pass to Chloe Denhart against Agawam on Tuesday in the Division 2 state tournament preliminary round. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton’s Ava Azzaro attacks the basket against Agawam on Tuesday in the Div. 2 preliminary round. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton boys baskebtall coach Rey Harp chats with his team during a timeout Tuesday during the MIAA DIvision 2 state tournament. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2022 9:58:55 PM
Modified: 3/1/2022 9:58:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON – All season, the Northampton boys basketball team was able to rely on its effort. The results weren’t always there, nor was the offense, but the Blue Devils continually played hard.

That ethos carried through to the Division 2 state tournament. No. 25 Northampton beat No. 40 Nashoba 65-52 on Tuesday in the preliminary round. The Blue Devils will travel to No. 8 North Quincy at 7 p.m. Saturday.

It was Northampton’s first playoff win since 2019. None of the current Blue Devils were on the roster then.

They still showed up to Feiker Gymnasium with playoff-level intensity. The two unfamiliar foes held each other in check for the first half, as the Wolves held a two-point lead.

“At times playing hard has been ugly for us, but we play hard anyway. That’s one area we have not had a major issue with this year,” Northampton coach Rey Harp said. “Sometimes we don’t execute well. We’re playing loose right now. They locked into each other.”

Northampton’s offense caught its effort in the third quarter. Nate Kelleher-Mochak tied it at 25 with a double clutch layup 1 minute, 8 seconds into the third quarter. Then Jacob Cancel gave Northampton the lead back, 27-25. The advantage stretched to 30-25 before Nashoba reined the Blue Devils back in.

Nashoba’s Silas Khan sank two free throws that cut the Blue Devils’ lead to 33-32 with 3:25 left in the third. That’s as close as the Wolves got.

Northampton erupted on a 10-2 run. Cancel capped the run with back to back baskets: a floater at 1:58 then a step through following an offensive rebound 28 seconds later. He scored seven of his team-high 19 points in the third quarter.

“We had a shaky end of the season. Coming off that we knew we didn’t want to let that happen,” Cancel said.

Kelvin Perez (eight points) rattled in a 3 with 7 seconds left in the third quarter to put Northampton up double digits   for the first time 48-37. The advantage stretched as far as 14 with 1:34 remaining.

Even though the Blue Devils didn’t score for nearly three minutes in the fourth quarter, their defense prevented the Wolves from pulling any closer.

“This is a lot of scouting. We spent a long time preparing for a tough team to game plan for. They do some things we don’t necessarily see all the time,” Harp said. “That’s five guys on the court that didn’t let that happen.”

Both Kelleher-Mochak (14 points) and Connor Tobin fouled out for Northampton. Two players also fouled out for Nashoba, indicative of the game’s physicality. 

The lead stretched as far as 14 with 1:34 remaining after a Cancel free throw. 

Though none of the Blue Devils have been to the basketball tournament, some played on Northampton’s sectional champion baseball squad and leaned on that experience.

“This was really exciting getting our home crowd, getting the Devil’s Den in there,” Kelleher-Mochack said. “It really gives us a big energy shift. I give some credit to them for the energy to be honest.”

With the first one down, now it’s just about how far it can go. 

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. As long as we stick with our principles and our goals, we’re good,” Cancel said.

Blue Devils hold off Agawam

Ava Azzaro scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the first quarter, as the Northampton girls basketball team downed Agawam 59-47 on Tuesday in the Division 2 state tournament.

“That came from excitement to start the tournament off,” she said. “When we play together we work our hardest. We worked out butts off and it paid off.”

The No. 26 Blue Devils will travel to No. 7 Westwood on Friday.

Northampton (11-10) jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first quarter, capped by a Sofia Ciaglo (11 points) 3 with 3:45 left in the first quarter.

The 39-seed Brownies responded with a 6-1 run to pull within five, and they trailed 19-13 at the quarter mark.

Riley Allen (nine points) splashed two 3s in the second quarter to push the lead back out to 11 with 1:44 to halftime. It stayed at that point for the rest of the game.

Agawam never cut it closer than nine, Northampton never pulled away much more than 11 or 12. It was a tightly officiated contest that featured 55 combined free throws. Neither team could generate much of a rhythm with all of the stoppages.

“That’s tournament basketball, you’ve got to deal with what you’ve got to deal with,” Northampton coach Perry Messer said.

Chloe Derby hit two 3s in the fourth quarter to snuff out an attempted comeback.

Chloe Denhart added 10 points for Northampton.

“You’ve got to play with no fear. You can’t let the tightness of a tournament game get to you, you’ve got to go out there with no fear and defend like you’re capable of,” Messer said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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