Devils place four in double figures in semi-final win –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
After licking their chops for weeks waiting to get their shot at each other, the North Adams Green Devils and the West Union Dragons met face-to-face for the one and only time this season on Tuesday night at Peebles High School It was a semi-final match up in the 2016 McDonald’s Classic and a full house was on hand to witness a battle that not only would send one team to the Classic championship game , but also count as a win or loss in the standings of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference.
With a lot on the line, the two teams seemed to enter Tuesday night’s fray with much different momentum. The Green Devils had lost three of their last four and struggled offensively, while the Dragons were coming off a loss, but in that loss they had battled and taken the Peebles Indians into overtime. Even in a loss, West Union head coach Josh White hoped that the momentum of that game and a good week of practice could carry over into the Classic semis, but basketball can be a funny game.
Though at times, the contest was close in the first half, it was the Green Devils who led from wire to wire and punched their ticket to the Classic title game, placing four players in double figures on their way to a 68-53 triumph.
“We have been so up and down this year, especially on the offensive end, so this was a good win for us tonight,” said North Adams head coach Nathan Copas on the radio post game. “We have four losses this year and in all four losses we have shot like 28% inside the three-point line and it’s tough to win like that but we shot well enough behind the arc to win tonight. We weren’t afraid to make that extra pass tonight and they are always rooting for each other to knock shots down.
The tone for the night was set very early as the North Adams five came out firing on all cylinders and scored the game’s first nine points, five of them to begin the game from senior Patrick England. It took nearly two minutes for the Dragons to score as they began a comeback with two Craig Horton free throws, followed by a Garrett Vogler three-pointer that brought the West Union faithful to their feet. A floater in the lane by England quickly quieted the Dragon crowd, but their boys continued to scrap and a drive to the rim and score by Horton made it 13-10, but again North Adams answered, this time with a three off the wing by Ryan Shupert.
Shupert dialed long distance once more right at the first quarter buzzer and that sent the Devils into period number two holding a 20-15 advantage.
North Adams upped that lead one minute into the second stanza on a stick back basket by Isaiah Anderson, who would go on to lead all scorers with 19 points. Shupert hit another trey a minute later and the Devils’ lead had reached double digits at 26-16. A bucket by Seth Daulton stretched the lead to 12 before West Union’s Eli Fuller temporarily stopped the bleeding with a nice tip-in score. Again, though, the Devils had a quick answer and again it was from beyond the arc, as England fired in a pair of threes, sandwiched around two more Fuller baskets for the Dragons, to put North Adams up 34-22 with 2:15 to go in the first half.
The Devils got a put back from Justin Knechtly and the Dragons got a bucket from Jared Fenton to end the first half with North Adams seemingly in control and in front, 36-24.
The intermission did nothing but give the Devils even more energy as they opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run, fueled by a bucket in the paint from freshman Austin McCormick and seven points from Anderson as they opened up a big 45-26 advantage against the bewildered Dragons.
To close the third frame, the Devils went on a 7-2 spurt, with another Shupert three and the quarter closed with North Adams having things well in hand and leading 52-32.
Things did get a bit dicey for the leaders in the fourth quarter as they allowed the Dragons a 7-0 run, with all of the points coming from the free throw line with the clock stopped. That made it 56-41 with 4:36 to play and the Devils responded with back to back buckets by Knechtly and England, which preceded another West Union run, this time of 10-0, started by a D.J. Welch three and ending with the same from Elijah McCarty. That cut the North Adams lead to single digits at 60-51 with 2:37 toi go, but from that point on, the Devils sealed the deal from the foul line, getting two from Knechtly, and four from Anderson to finish off an impressive 68-53 win and earn their berth in the Dec. 30 championship game.
“We haven’t won this tournament since 2012,” said Copas. “Last year we were in the championship game and came up short and you don’t get a lot of opportunities to play for any kind of championship throughout your career, but we had to get past tonight and we stayed focused on that.”
In the win, the Green Devils (5-4, 2-3 SHAC) placed a quartet of players in double figures, led by Anderson’s 19. England added 15, Shupert 12 (all on three-point goals), and Knechtly 10. North Adams hit a total of eight three-point shots in the win.
The Dragons (1-6, 1-4 SHAC) put three players in double figures, paced by 11 points each from McCarty and Vogler, plus 10 from Welch.
North Adams moves on to the Classic championship game at 7:30 on Dec. 30, where they will face off with the _______________. The Dragons will face ______________ in the Dec. 29 consolation contest, also with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
15 9 8 21 –53
20 16 16 16 –68
W. Union (53): Welch 3 3-4 10, Fuller 3 0-1 6, Vogler 3 4-6 11, McCarty 5 0-0 11, Campbell 0 3-4 3, Rothwell 1 0-0 2, Kramer 0 2-2 2, Horton 2 2-3 6, Fenton 1 0-2 2, Team 18 14-22 53.
N. Adams (68): Anderson 6 6-9 19, England 6 0-0 15, Shupert 4 0-0 12, Knechtly 4 2-2 10, Daulton 2 0-0 4, Young 0 2-3 2, McCormick 3 0-0 6, Team 25 10-14 68.
W. Union (3): Welch 1, Vogler 1, McCarty 1
N. Adams (8): Anderson 1, England 3, Shupert 4