Northampton (D2), Hopkins Academy (D4) earn top seeds in WMass Boys Basketball Tournament

  • Diego Corrada-Mattei, right, of Northampton, shoots against Tate Rietkerk, of Amherst Regional, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 at Amherst Regional. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kyle Murray, center, of Amherst Regional, shoots against Northampton defenders Diego Corrada-Mattei, left, and Michael McCarthy, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 at Amherst Regional. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jon Morrison, left, of Hopkins Academy, celebrates after scoring his 1000th career point with a free throw against Belchertown, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Hopkins. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ant Moynihan, left, of Easthampton, intercepts a pass intended by Justin Forest, of Hampshire Regional, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 at Hampshire Regional High School. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

@kylegrbwsk
Published: 2/24/2018 6:03:15 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Northampton made itself right at home in Division 2.

The Blue Devils will be the No. 1 seed the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Boys Basketball Tournament after the seeds were announced Saturday. Northampton (14-6) moved down from Division 1 after MIAA realignment.

Northampton remained in the Division 1 Valley League, which ultimately helped its playoff seeding in the Walker System, which considers strength of schedule and record against tournament opponents as well as final record.

Both No. 2 Longmeadow and No. 3 Tantasqua finished with identical 14-6 records to Northampton. The Blue Devils edged Longmeadow by less than half a point for the top overall seed, 118.19-117.74.

That small gap makes a difference in the tournament. Northampton received a bye to the semifinals of the seven-team bracket. Longmeadow will host No. 7 Belchertown in a quarterfinal Friday.

“That bye is not necessarily a good thing. Two weeks is a long time to go between games,” Northampton coach Ray Harp said. “Our guys know how to keep themselves up.”

The break will let the Blue Devils attend to their health. There are a couple lingering illnesses that have a chance to clear up in the next few weeks.

Northampton plans to lean on its balance once it returns to the court.

“Anybody that plays us has to prepare for five guys at a time,” Harp said. “Our next big performance could come from someone unknown.”

The playoffs are an unknown experience for every member of Belchertown’s roster. The Orioles (12-8) ended a playoff drought stretching back to 2014 by reaching the postseason. They went 0-40 the previous two years before qualifying this year.

Tantasqua is hosting No. 6 Taconic (13-7).

No. 4 Chicopee (11-9) and No. 5 Quabbin (14-6) play in the quarterfinals, and the winner will play Northampton. The Blue Devils haven’t faced either team this year.

“Quabbin is the only team I haven’t seen. You don’t get that record without being good,” Harp said. “We have a great bracket in front of us. We’ll know that we earned it if we win a championship.”

Division 4

Hopkins Academy, the three-time champion, is the No. 1 seed for the third straight year. The Golden Hawks won the sectional title in 2015 as a No. 2 seed and the next two as the top team.

“It’s good to get that No. 1 seed,” Hopkins coach Angelo Thomas said. “That was a goal of ours. But No. 1, 2, 3, you still gotta win games.”

The Golden Hawks have a bye to the quarterfinals Friday. They’ll host either No. 8 McCann Tech (12-8) or No. 9 Hampden Charter (10-10), who play Tuesday along with the rest of the opening round.

“I like our path,” Thomas said.

Hopkins will need to climb new hurdles with the addition of teams like Drury, a Division 3 semifinalist last season, and Pioneer Regional, which qualified for the Division 3 tournament.

“It’s going to be tougher than it’s ever been,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be a fun and interesting tournament.”

Hopkins’ five seniors have a rare opportunity: they can close their careers with four straight sectional championships.

“You never take that stuff for granted,” Thomas said.

Division 3

Easthampton will attempt to return to the Cage after falling in the first round last season.

The Eagles (15-5) are the No. 2 seed behind Monument Mountain (17-3).

The top four seeds receive a bye to the quarterfinals Friday. Easthampton will host the winner of No. 7 Southwick (14-6) and No. 10 Renaissance (9-11), who play Tuesday.

No. 8 Frontier Regional (13-7) also plays Tuesday. The Red Hawks will host No. 9 Mahar (13-7). Frontier won both of their regular-season meetings.

Amherst positioned itself well with the No. 3 seed. The Hurricanes (12-8) host No. 6 Sci-Tech (12-8) in the quarterfinals Friday.

Being third means they won’t have to play undefeated top seed Central, which swept Amherst in two games this year, until the sectional final, if both make it that far. Amherst has reached three straight sectional championship games, losing to Central last year and Putnam the two previous.

Behind Central (20-0), Putnam (17-3) is seeded second and will face either No. 4 Chicopee Comp (15-5) or No. 5 Westfield (13-7) depending on the outcome of their quarterfinal.

The Hurricanes closed the regular season winning five of their final six games, including a victory at Putnam.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.



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