Trio in double figures leads North Adams to 56-36 victory –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
After going into overtime in 9 of their 22 regular season games, the North Adams Green Devils went into sectional tournament play looking to pick up a win that didn’t warrant extra time being put on the scoreboard. Across the floor from the Green Devils on Tuesday night at Waverly High School for their Division III sectional opener was a familiar foe in the West Union Dragons as the two county squads had the unfortunate draw that saw them matched up in their tourney opener.
As it turned out, the Devils would have no worries about going into overtime on Tuesday night as they used a big third quarter to break open a close game and then cruise to a 56-36 win over the Dragons to advance to a Feb. 25 sectional championship game, where they will battle the Portsmouth Trojans, who downed Lucasville Valley in the game preceding North Adams and West Union.
“We came out focused a little bit better knowing that is was one and done,” said North Adams head coach Nathan Copas in a post game radio interview. “We got off to a good start, kind of got a little stagnant, and then picked it back up. We wanted to attack and not force things and we did that and got some easy baskets. We had quite a few assists tonight and that means we are passing the ball well and making shots. We are not a high-scoring team and we know that we have to work it around for the best shot that we can get.”
Whenever two Adams County teams face each other in any sport, emotions run high and there is always that little extra “urge” to play well and that showed in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game as the Devils fired the first salvo and behind three-pointers from Ryan Shupert and Justin Knechtly, raced to an early 8-0 advantage. It took nearly half of the first period for the Dragons to get on the board with a three-point play from Craig Horton seeming to shake off the West Union cobwebs.
The Horton “and one” was the start of a 6-0 West Union run, broken by a basket by Knechtly that put the Devils up 10-6, but the Dragons answered with buckets by Ryan Rothwell and Eli Fuller that left the two teams deadlocked at the end of eight minutes of play.
The story fo the second quarter was written from about 20 feet from the basket as the two teams combined for seven three-point goals. The first four scores of the second stanza came from behind the arc, three of them belonging to the Green Devils, two by Shupert and one by Knechtly. The Dragons got a trey in between from D.J. Welch but the 9-3 spurt put North Adams in front 19-13 midway through the second.
A three-pointer by Patrick England put the Devils up 22-15, but with 1:33 left in the half a triple from the corner by West Union’s Horton drew his team within 24-20, but England countered with another trey to push the lead back to seven. After a basket by Janson Kramer for the Dragons, a stick back by Colt Shumaker and a fallaway jumper at the buzzer by Shupert send the Devils to the locker room with the momentum and a 31-22 lead.
The third quarter turned out to be the decisive one in this sectional tussle as the Devils held West Union scoreless for nearly seven minutes to begin the second half. In the meantime, the Devils’ Shumaker took over the game, getting another put back for a score, then an old-fashioned three-point play, sandwiched around another Knechtly three and suddenly the game was totally in the control of North Adams as the Devils upped their lead to 40-22.
Finally, with 1:20 to go in the third frame, a basket by Fuller broke the long West Union drought and he followed that up with a three-point goal from the corner, but it was Shumaker finishing off his big quarter with a bucket in the paint, and after three quarters, it was North Adams cruising with a 42-27 advantage.
Both teams cored on their first possessions of the final period, but a 6-0 North Adams run, with two scores by Shumaker and another by Austin McCormick stretched the margin out to 50-29 and it was pretty much time for the fat lady to sing on the West Union season.
The Dragons got a late three from Welch , but the North Adams offense went into “patient” mode, content to just run the clock and get out with the win. The final two baskets of the game for the Devils came from Elijah Young and Shupert and time expired on the Dragons’ season as they saw their county rival move on to the sectional title game with the 56-36 win.
The winning Green Devils (11-12) placed three players in double figures, led by 16 points from Colt Shumaker, who turned in one of his best performances of the entire season. Justin Knechtly scored 15 and Ryan Shupert 13, as those two combined for six of the eight three-pointers that the Devils drained in the game. The other two belonged to Patrick England, accounting for all 6 of his points.
“We can’t replace Isaiah Anderson, but we have had some guys step up by committee and fill the void,” said Coach Copas. “We’ve started to be able to use screens and create some shots. Colt is just one of our energy guys and he is so athletic and when he hits the offensive glass hard, we are in good shape.”
West Union finishes the season at 7-16 and was led by 11 points from Eli Fuller and 8 each from D.J. Welch and Craig Horton, and with the loss the Dragons bid farewell to seniors Horton, Welch, Andre Wolke, Janson Kramer, Casey Mullenix, and Andrew Weeks.
The Green Devils now move to the Division III sectional championship game on Saturday at 6 p.m., back at Waverly High School against a talented Portsmouth Trojans team. A win there will send North Adams to the Convo for district play on March 5.
“We have to guard them, but not long because they tend to take quick shots,” Copas said of the Trojans. “A key will be handling their pressure, not turning the ball over, and being patient.”
10 12 5 9 –36
10 21 11 14 –56
W. Union (36): Welch 3 0-0 8, Fuller 5 0-0 11, Vogler 1 0-0 2, McCarty 1 0-0 2, Rothwell 1 0-0 2, Kramer 1 1-2 3, Horton 3 1-3 8, Team 15 2-5 36.
N. Adams (56): England 2 0-0 6, Shupert 5 0-0 13, Knechtly 6 0-0 15, Young 2 0-0 4, Shumaker 7 2-6 16, Rogers 0 0-1 0, McCormick 1 0-0 2, Team 23 2-7 56.
W. Union (4): Welch 2, Fuller 1, Horton 1
N. Adams (8): Shupert 3, Knechtly 3, England 2