DALTON — Seven days ago, the Wahconah and South Hadley boys’ basketball teams found themselves in a nail-biter in Pioneer Valley that Wahconah won. Wednesday night, the two teams did it again, but with a different result.
The visiting Tigers made 12 three-pointers in the game, taking a definite lead early in the third quarter. The Warriors didn’t leave and had a chance to send a second game to overtime. But Pat McLaughlin couldn’t convert a traffic drive through with less than 10 seconds remaining. South Hadley’s Eddie Wykowski made one of two free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining, and a desperation shot from Luke DiCicco was no good as the visitors took a measure of revenge with a 66 win -63 in front of a raucous crowd in the new gymnasium in Wahconah.
The loss was the first of the year for Wahconah, now 7-1. When those teams played South Hadley a week ago, the Warriors scored 36 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat South Hadley.
“You have to credit them. They did a good job of keeping us off any type of pace I think,” Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher said. “I will say if we score 63 points we should win a football game. I am not satisfied with our defensive response. We gave up too many threes tonight and didn’t close particularly well.
The Tigers shot 12 for 21 from outside the arc. Compare that with Wahconah going 3 for 14 from long range. It seemed like every time Wahconah had the basketball, South Hadley made it really hard to score. And when the Warriors didn’t score, the Tigers did a better job of rebounding the basketball. South Hadley had 41 rebounds to Wahconah’s 25. Eddie Wykowski had a record 15 boards and scored 12 points for a double-double. He was one of four Tigers to score in double figures.
“We just did the same thing we’ve done all year, we just played ‘D’,” South Hadley coach Chris Gerber said. “Half-court, man. You know what you’re going to get when you play against us.
Pat McLaughlin had a game-high 27 points, while Brody Calvert had 25.
“They absolutely outplayed us on the boards, so thanks to them,” Belcher said. “We didn’t do the difficult things tonight. That doesn’t mean we haven’t given it our all. The effort was there. The little things you have to do to win a basketball game, we haven’t done. We didn’t bounce the ball and we didn’t react in defense to go out on their shooters.
After trailing by no less than 11, Wahconah was down 48-41 after three and trailed 51-43 with 6:24 left in regulation. McLaughlin, who had 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, scored five straight points to cut South Hadley’s lead to three. From there, the Tigers continued to extend the lead to seven or eight and the Warriors continued to reduce the advantage.
With 2:20 to play, Chase Mathers, who had 20 to lead South Hadley, was fouled by Calvert. It was Calvert’s fourth foul and Mathers hit both free throws for a 64-56 lead. McLaughlin responded with a hard drive to the rack and after Mathers traveled, McLaughlin drained a triple of his own. All of a sudden it was a 64-61 game.
The Tigers brought the ball into the forecourt, but pressure from Wahconah forced Mathers to travel. McLaughlin scored on the next drive and it was 64-63.
Wahconah took a time out to set things up. Instead of getting a turnover, Calvert fouled trying to take a charge and sent Colin Quinn to the line. Quinn missed the first free kick and got the second, giving Wahconah the chance to tie with a two or take the lead with a three.
McLaughlin collected the ball at the top of the key, drove through traffic, but the shot didn’t fall. Wykowski got the rebound, made one of two at the line, and buzzer beater DiCicco just inside half court hit the backboard.
Wahconah led this Bi-County East game 17-9 after one quarter. The Tigers came out second and scored 14 straight points, making five of their first six shots. Even a timeout from Belcher couldn’t stop the race. With 4:48 to go, South Hadley had turned an eight-point deficit into a 23-17 lead.
Wahconah leveled the score late in the half on a Calvert free throw, but Liam Quinn drained a 3-ball with 17 seconds left to give South Hadley a 31-28 halftime lead.
The home side began chasing points when South Hadley came out on a 7-0 run to open the third quarter. Colin Quinn had five of seven and Wykowski scored on a 3-point miss from Quinn. This forced Belcher to take a time out to prevent the match from escaping.
The Warriors trailed up to 11 points with three minutes left in the third quarter. The Tigers couldn’t put the Warriors aside, however.
“It’s all about getting better every day,” Belcher said. “It’s just a good learning experience for us. We will do better in the long run, but we have to recognize the things that hurt us tonight and improve.
The Warriors are scheduled to face Pittsfield High on Saturday and Taconic on Monday.
SOUTH HADLEY (66)
Dawson 0-0-0, LaPorte 0-0-0, C. Quinn 5-3-15, Mathers 5-5-20, Mendoza 2-0-4, L. Quinn 5-0-15, Wykowski 5-2 -12, Fitzell 0-0-0. Totals 22-10-66.
Payson 0-0-0, Calvert 8-7-25, DiCicco 0-0-0, Melle 1-0-3, Noyes 4-0-8, McLaughlin 9-8-27. Totals 22-15-63.
South Hadley 9 22 17 18 — 66
Wacona 17 11 13 22 — 63
3-point goals — SH 12 (Mathers 5, L. Quinn 5, C. Quinn 2). O 4 (Calvert 2, Melle, McLaughlin).