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Smith Vocational falls to Westfield Tech, earns share of Tri-County South

For the Gazette
Published: 2/17/2020 11:42:18 PM

WESTFIELD — The Smith Vocational boys basketball team had a shot at the outright Tri-County South title, Monday night.

Trailing by three with just over three seconds left at Westfield Technical Academy, coach Akara Holder called a timeout and drew up a play for a last second 3-pointer that could send the game to overtime.

The ball was inbounded to Andrew Pierce, who found Isaiah Ortiz to his left. Trying to create space, Ortiz pump-faked, dribbled once and threw up an off-balance 3 jumping off his left foot.

The Smith Vocational fan section rose to its feet, trying to will the ball through the net. But the shot missed everything as the buzzer sounded.

The Tigers beat the Vikings 41-38. The two teams will share the league title.

“In the end of the third and the fourth it was finding the right mix of players who were willing to look for each other and have their heads on a better swivel,” Smith Voc coach Akara Holder said. “We weren’t swinging the ball, and we weren’t looking for the open man. Possibly just nerves I guess, knowing how much pressure there was on this game.”

Smith Vocational (9-10, 8-2) trailed early.

With a cheerleading battle taking place at the bottom of the bleachers, Matteo Sanchez (15 points) sunk a 3-pointer that extended the Westfield Tech lead to eight points two minutes into the second quarter.

Trailing 26-15 at the half, the Vikings sped up the game.

Ortiz cut the deficit to five when blocked a shot and retained possession. He got the ball to his teammate and made a break for the basket on the other end of the floor. His teammate caught him in stride, leading to a shifty up-and-under layup that cut the deficit in half.

Ortiz finished with six points, five assists and seven steals. Pierce added 14 points to go along with 21 rebounds.

The game remained close as the defense picked up late in the game. The Vikings were within three points of the Tigers with just under two minutes remaining.

However, due to a series of turnovers and missed shots, the score never wavered.

The Vikings turned the ball over 19 times.

Smith Vocational will play its regular-season finale against Hampshire Regional, Tuesday at home.

“If we can move the ball and hit our open layups, and get some 3s down, we should be pretty competitive against them,” Holder said. “The question is, ‘What is our emotion and our temperament going to be after such a loss like this? Can we pull ourselves together and show up to really play?’”

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