Northampton boys basketball builds tournament momentum with win over Amherst

  • Anthony Dejesus, right, of Northampton, moves the ball against Tabor Bowman, of Amherst Regional, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Anthony Dejesus, of Northampton, shoots against Amherst Regional, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Akeme Hilson-Mallory, left, of Amherst Regional, reaches for a rebound against Jaeden Johndrow, center, of Northampton, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. Steven Steele looks on. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael McCarthy, right, of Northampton, shoots against Evan Perry, of Amherst Regional, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Treyvon James-Salus, right, of Northampton, shoots against Akeme Hilson-Mallory, of Amherst Regional, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jaeden Johndrow, center, of Northampton, shoots between Amherst Regional defenders Isa Mahal Castro-McCauley, left, and Akeme Hilson-Mallory, Wednesday, at Northampton High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael McCarthy, top, of Northampton, looks for a shot amid Amherst Regional defenders Akeme Hilson-Mallory, from left, Isa Mahal Castro-McCauley and Sam Leonard, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tabor Bowman, left, of Amherst Regional, shoots against Daniel Lanier, of Northampton, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Justyn Rankins, left, of Northampton, draws a foul from Sam Leonard, of Amherst Regional, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Northampton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 2/20/2019 10:56:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton boys basketball team closed its regular season with a momentum boosting win over cross-bridge rival Amherst 86-64 on Wednesday night.

The rivalry may not have had the same energy this year, with both programs in different stages of development, but there was still a sense of mutual respect for the matchup, including Northampton honoring Amherst coach Jim Matuszko for his last game during the pre-game senior night festivities.

“With Northampton and Amherst the records really go out the window because Amherst and Hamp have had such a great rivalry over the years that I just really enjoy it,” Matuszko said. “I really enjoy the way Rey Harp coaches and I think we have a mutual respect for each other.”

The Hurricanes (3-17, 1-9 Valley league) are closing out their season of developing younger players with their eighth straight loss. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils (10-10, 4-6 Valley League) have battled health and a tough schedule trying to fight their way back to a Western Mass. title game to avenge last year’s loss to Taconic.

Building momentum heading into the postseason was the primary focus for the Blue Devils, who used the energy of their senior night, combined with the rivalry, to come out aggressive from the opening tip.

“It’s good to see a lot of energy in the room tonight,” Blue Devils coach Rey Harp said. “Our seniors have brought energy even when we were struggling all season long. It was nice to end this phase of the season with all of that passion and emotion in the gym but also to be able to execute. I think that was a good opportunity for us to get into the postseason on a high note.”

The senior class was all a part of last season’s disappointing finish and are focused on the opportunity to get back to that point this year.

“We wanted to come off of last season and be on cloud nine coming off a Western Mass. championship and push our way through the state tournament,” Harp said. “That didn’t work out for us, so these are the guys who from day one have been trying to put ourselves in a position to be standing at the end.”

Senior Jaeden Johndrow finished with a game-high 33 points and was vocal on both ends of the court and gained energy with each of his nine first half baskets. Johndrow was purposeful in using his voice to set an example for some of his younger teammates, making sure they’ll be ready for the postseason.

“It’s just to go out there with a bang and to teach the younger guys how to communicate,” Johndrow said. “Get everyone caught up on the varsity level and communicate with the team so we all have the same goal. It would be great to go out with a Western Mass. championship in my last year of high school.”

Northampton seniors Anthony Dejesus and Dillon Diemand added 15 and 13 points respectively, as the senior starters, including Eli Cronk and Michael McCarthy, scored 71 of the Blue Devils’ 86 points.

“It was great to go out with great energy and great teammates,” Johndrow said “They’re my brothers forever.”

Amherst came out with the goal of competing and gaining more experience for their young varsity roster, including five underclassmen and eight returners overall.

“We saw some good things from underclassmen that will really help for the future of this program” Matuszko said. “I won’t be here to have that experience, but someone else will and I feel like our efforts this year will be rewarded in the future.”

Matuszko said it was a point of emphasis to cut the 19-point halftime down to 10 by the start of the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes ended up being a buzzer-beating three away from cutting the lead to 12, instead the shot sparked a 12-0 run for the Blue Devils allowing them pull away for the win.

Junior C.J. Woodfine-Holmes led Amherst with 22 points, while Akeme Hilson-Mallory had 14 and Phat Nguyen 11.

“It’s been a tough battle all year for these guys,” Matuszko said. “But I think our play in the last two games, even if the scoreboard didn’t indicate it, was some of the basketball that we played. If we had played it earlier we would have been looking at maybe a chance to get into the postseason if we had a win tonight. We were thinking about that, if we were 9-10 it would come down to a crucial game like it always does with Hamp and that’s kind of the way we looked at it tonight.”

Seniors Hillson-Mallory, Steven Steele and Sam Leonard played their final games for Amherst.




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