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Devils put up a good fight, but fall to Portsmouth in sectional final, 50-43

North Adams’ Justin Knechtly goes up for a score during last Saturday’s sectional championship game at Waverly. In his final game as a Green Devil, Knechtly collected 13 points, including three treys in the fourth quarter as his team fell short, falling to the Portsmouth Trojans by a final score of 50-43.

North Adams ends season at 11-13 –

Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –

Going into their Saturday evening Division III sectional championship game with the Portsmouth Trojans, the North Adams Green Devils were definitely not considered the favorites but no one bothered to inform the young men from North Adams of that fact.  For most of the night, the Devils played like the favorites and gave the Trojans a battle from start to finish, but there was just not enough gas in the tank as they fell short in the end, falling to the Trojans by a final count of 50-43 on the hardwood at Waverly High School.
“I though that the first half we went to the boards hard, but again we missed enough free throws to have a lead,” said North Adams head coach Nathan Copas.  “We knew the second half would be a battle of attrition and staying with the game and keep playing hard would be our plus.  We kind of let down in the third quarter, but we picked it back up in the fourth quarter.”
“We handled their pressure well and point guard Elijah Young was in a tough spot handling the ball out there tonight.  If we had been a better decision making team all year, they games that we lost we may not have lost.  Everybody had to play well tonight and we have nothing to hang our heads about, that is the hardest I have seen us play.  We did the things we wanted to do but we just came up a little short.”
The Trojans may have been a little surprised by the intensity of the Green Devils as the game began as the North Adams defense immediately forced three Portsmouth turnovers, and a Colt Shumaker free throw, a Patrick England three-pointer, and a two-pointer by Justin Knechtly gave North Adams a 6-0 lead.  Portsmouth was held scoreless by a hustling and tenacious Green Devils’ defense for the game’s first 6:27, finally getting on the board on a breakaway layup by Kendal Reynolds.  North Adams answered that with another England trey as both offenses seemed to temporarily awaken.

North Adams senior Patrick England didn’t have a lot of blocked shots on his career stat sheet but he got one here as he rejected this three-point attempt by Portsmouth’s Mike Malone during Saturday’s Division III sectional title game.

The Trojans went inside to burly 6’5” junior Gabe Gambill for back to back buckets, but England’s third three-pointer of the quarter at the buzzer left the upset-minded North Adams squad on top 12-6.
In the second period, it was the Portsmouth defense that took center stage as they held the Devils to just a single point in eight minutes, that being a Logan Rogers free throw at the 3:13 mark.  The Trojans opened the second stanza with consecutive threes from Mike Malone and Reese Johnson that quickly tied the game and two baskets by Reynolds gave Portsmouth the halftime lead, but only at 16-13.
A basket by Elijah Young opened the third quarter, followed by an old-fashioned “and one” by the Trojans’ Johnson as the third stanza saw more points scored than the entire first half combined for the two teams.
England drilled his fourth trey of the game to pull the Devils within 23-21 and a following put back by Austin McCormick tied the game with 4:15 left in the third, but from that point on in the period, it was all Trojans as they went on a 16-4 run the rest of the way, capped by another Malone three that sent the two teams into the final eight minutes with the Trojans now holding a double digit advantage at 39-27.
The Green Devils were not going down without a fight and in the first minute of the fourth quarter had cut the Portsmouth lead in half on a Knechtly three and a three-point play by Ryan Shupert.  The Trojans regained their composure and responded with their own three-point play from Johnson and two Reynolds free throws to go back up by 11.   Five quick points by Knechtly, a senior who didn’t seem ready to call it a career, much like England in the first half, and then two Young free throws and suddenly the Devils were back to within 44-40 with 2:22 to play.  It looked like the Trojans were going to extend their lead on a Malone breakaway but Shumaker came out of nowhere to block the shot and keep the deficit at 4.

North Adams sophomore point guard Elijah Young scord 8 points in the Devils’ season-ending 50-43 loss to Portsmouth in the Division III sectional championship game.

The clock though became the worst enemy of the Green Devils as time was running out.  Knechtly hit yet another long bomb to make it 46-43 Portsmouth with 27.5 seconds left, but that turned out to be the final bucket of the 2016-17 season for the North Adams boys.  Portsmouth finished off their sectional title win with two free throws each from Reynolds and Daniel Jordan and moved on to the Division III district tournament with the 50-43 triumph.
In the loss, the Devils, who finish their year at 11-13,  were led in scoring by two of their five departing seniors, with Justin Knechtly getting 13 points and Patrick England.  The loss was also the final game in the North Adams uniform for seniors Seth Daulton Ben Figgins, and Logan Rogers.
“Justin had two nice tournament games and Patrick played well also,” said Coach Copas.  “I hope all our seniors take from this game how hard they played.  There were guys like Ben and Seth, who didn’t play as much but come to practice every day and they are the behind the scenes guys working their tails off trying to make us better and I so respect them for that.”
“Even though we took a loss, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth and makes it something that we have to build on for next yeat.”
Portsmouth was paced by 19 points from Kendal Reynolds, with Reese Johnson adding 17.  The Trojans, who hit 13 of 14 free throws in the win,  move on to the Ohio University Convo to face South Point on March 5.

North Adams
12  1  14  16  –43
Portsmouth
6  10  23  11  –50

N. Adams (43): England 4 0-0 12, Shupert 1 1-1 3, Knechtly 5 0-0 13, Young 3 2-2 8, Shumaker 1 1-4 3, Rogers 0 1-2 1, McCormick 1 1-2 3, Team 15 6-11 43.
Portsmouth (50): Eley 0 2-2 2, Jordan 0 2-3 2, Malone 2 0-0 6, Reynolds 6 7-7 19, Johnson 7 2-2 17, Gambill 2 0-0 4, Team 17 13-14 50.
Three-Point Goals:
N. Adams (7): England 4, Knechtly 3
Portsmouth (3): Malone 2, Johnson 1

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