Boys basketball: Belchertown holds off Granby in battle of unbeatens

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2022 11:06:00 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 11:05:07 PM

GRANBY – Two teams walked into the Granby High School gymnasium with perfect records Thursday night. Only one of them left with their mark untarnished. 

In a duel that stretched all the way to the dying seconds of the fourth quarter, visiting Belchertown outlasted Granby, 64-58, in a Bi-County West contest.

Both teams headed into Thursday night’s contest knowing that it was going to be a close matchup between two sides that, on paper, look quite similar. The Orioles have struggled playing in Granby’s gym in the past, but head coach Matt Stenuis said that Thursday, all the pieces came together. 

“(Granby is) well coached, they played hard,” Stenuis began. “Our goal was to match their intensity, and I think we did. And that was the difference in the game. The last few times we’ve come in this gym, Belchertown has not put (forth) their best effort. Tonight was our best effort.”

The Orioles (6-0) jumped out to a fast start, taking the lead early and holding onto it through the first half, but Granby was never out of the contest. The hosts clawed their way back from a 22-9 deficit in the second quarter, going on a 10-0 run to pull back within three points, and entering halftime down just four points. 

“We were there,” Granby head coach Dylan Dubuc said. “We were there after a slow start. We didn't start playing our Granby basketball until maybe six minutes into the game.” 

Granby’s offense played in fits and starts, riding the emotional highs and lows the entire contest. Whenever the hosts hit a big 3-pointer, the home crowd and bench would leap to their feet and the Rams would get a boost of adrenaline to carry them through. But though there were moments where Belchertown looked rattled, it was always able to calm back down and play its style of basketball, occasionally taking advantage of Granby's celebrations to strike back quickly.

“It was a super intense game. Their fans really came out and made it a lot more fun. I think if you can handle that pressure, the game is wicked fun,” Belchertown’s Joe Bianco said. “Some people just play better and pressure than others do. I thought we handled it wicked well tonight.”

Both Bianco and teammate Tyler McDonald finished with 17 points apiece in the win, followed closely by teammate Carson Boscher with 15. 

Belchertown’s team has a large group of seniors who have been playing basketball together for the majority of their lives, back to their elementary school days. It’s clear when watching them on the court that they know where everyone is going to be, and their passes were quick and crisp. That chemistry, as well as their experience and maturity, paid dividends in the final quarter, where they are able to build up a sizable 62-49 lead and stave off another late comeback attempt by Granby to hold on.

Like many teams around the area, the Rams (4-1) have also been dealing with a significant number of postponements in both their practice and game schedule. But for this team, it stretches back even further than that, according to Dubuc.

“Everybody's in the same boat. We have six seniors, we have two juniors that have a lot of experience. But missing last year was a huge, huge lapse in the growth of our players, and we're seeing it,” Dubuc said of the program not playing during the 2020-21 campaign. “It's early in the season, [Belchertown is a] good ball club, and hopefully we learn and improve from this. But last year they would have been in seven or eight of those games and those are out the window because that season didn’t exist.”

One of the team's strengths, their endurance, has also taken a hit because of long stretches of time without games or practices. Coming into Thursday’s contest, Granby had a six-day break, one day back on the court, and then another four days with no playing time. 

“One of our strengths was our conditioning, and that went out the window when everybody gets sick, and yeah, you have a six day layoff – after a two day layoff, you lose your legs, you lose your lungs, never mind six,” Dubuc said. “That's not an excuse, because everybody's in the same boat. There's people missing time everywhere. But did it show tonight? Absolutely.”


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