High schools: Postseason picture coming into focus for Hampshire County schools 

  • Caleb Steineger and the Northampton boys basketball team are hoping a challenging regular season schedule will pay dividends come postseason time. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer 
Published: 2/17/2022 6:22:14 PM
Modified: 2/17/2022 6:22:04 PM

The MIAA released its most recent basketball and ice hockey power rankings in what will likely be the final update before the MIAA state brackets are revealed around Feb. 25-26.

There are a number of local teams who should qualify for the postseason tournament in the new statewide format. While the Western Mass. tournament is slated for next week, here’s a look at who sits where statewide heading into the final few days of regular season play.

Boys ice hockey

The local ice hockey teams are on the outside looking in when it comes to power rankings, though a few schools are aiming to punch their postseason ticket by securing a .500 record or better (teams qualify automatically with a .500 mark or better, regardless of where they fall seed-wise in the power rankings).

The highest-ranked local hockey team is currently Belchertown, which is sitting in the No. 40 spot overall in Division 4 with a 8-7-1 record. South Hadley sits just a few spots behind them in Division 4 at No. 43 (7-7-2), but both are seeking to get into the Div. 4 field thanks to the .500 rule.

In Division 3, Amherst and Easthampton are neck-and-neck as the regular season wraps up. Amherst is sitting in the No. 41 spot (3-12-2) while Easthampton is right behind in the No. 42 spot (6-10-0), but both will need their share of help from other schools to move into the top 32.

Girls basketball

On the girls basketball side, there are a number of local teams who should qualify for the 32-team postseason across every division excluding Division 1, where no local schools are represented. 

In Division 2, Holyoke and Amherst are battling it out for the top local spot; the Purple Knights currently sit at No. 17 (12-5), just edging out No. 18 Amherst (13-3). Most recently, Holyoke bested Amherst at home in a 68-48 win.

Still in contention for a postseason spot is No. 29 Northampton (9-9), which sits a bit precariously on the edge of the bracket bubble.

The lone team in Division 3, Belchertown, currently occupies the No. 30 spot (11-7) with their regular season finished as well. The Orioles have clinched a postseason berth thanks to their winning record.

Three other local squads, as of Thursday, have a spot in the postseason secured. South Hadley is the lone girls team to crack the top 10 in Division 4 in this iteration of the rankings, sitting ninth (12-5). Just four spots back is Easthampton in the No. 13 spot (17-1), a single loss against Lee the only ‘L’ the Eagles have taken all year, while Frontier’s Franklin County League North championship campaign has the Redhawks currently at No. 21 (14-3).

Hampshire may still earn a postseason berth during a rebuilding year, as the Raiders are No. 31 (4-13) and hover right on the qualification line. 

In Division 5, which features the most schools of any division, Granby is the lone school currently in the top 32, sitting at No. 29 despite a 2-14 record. Behind the Rams is Smith Academy at No. 39 (8-9), Hopkins Academy at No. 41 (9-8), Smith Vocational at No. 61 (8-8), Gateway at No. 72 (5-7) and PVCICS at No. 85 (3-11) in their first year of official MIAA play. A lot can change for the Div. 5 schools between now and bracket release, with Western Mass. tournament and non-qualifier games slated for next week.

Boys basketball

Division 2 could feature some of the deepest postseason runs on the boys side of things. Both Amherst and Holyoke are in the top 10 in the most recent power rankings; Amherst has the No. 3 spot (14-4) with Holyoke hot on its heels at No. 7 (12-5). In their clash earlier this season, the Hurricanes stormed away with a 60-45 victory.

Not far behind but still a team to watch this postseason is Northampton, which has the No. 16 spot (9-6). The Blue Devils beat Amherst in their opener 39-34, and lost to Holyoke by just four points in a 76-72 game before falling to the Purple Knights again, 63-57. ’Hamp’s difficult strength of schedule, playing in the toughest league in Western Mass., should pay dividends come postseason time.

Belchertown is just outside the top 20 in Division 3, sitting at No. 21 (13-5) as they look ahead to the postseason.

Over in Division 4, Frontier and South Hadley are right beside each other in the top 15. Frontier has the highest seed locally at No. 13 (14-4) while South Hadley is right behind at No. 14 (9-8). The two teams didn’t meet during the regular season, but could see each other in the playoffs.

Outside the cutoff mark right now is Easthampton, just five spots out at No. 37 (1-16) and Hampshire, just behind at No. 38 (8-9). 

In Division 5, both Hopkins Academy and Granby are inside the top 10 with state tournament berths locked up. Hopkins is sitting at No. 6 (13-4) while Granby is at No. 7 (14-3); they didn’t face off during the regular season.

Also looking at a postseason berth is Smith Academy, currently ranked No. 25 (10-8). Smith Vocational is in thanks to a winning record despite currently locked into the No. 42 seed, while both Gateway (No. 73, 4-8) and PVCICS (No. 82, 2-15) appear on the outside looking in.

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