Saturday, March 10, 2018

Springfield Central Repeats as Western Mass. Champions

By: Ethan Winter (@EWints)
Amherst, Mass. – The No. 2 Putnam Beavers gave in-city rival No.1 Springfield Central Golden Eagles a brief scare Friday night, but that was all it was, a scare.
The undefeated Golden Eagles were able to come from-behind to capture their second straight Western Mass. title with a 75-66 victory inside the Curry Hicks Cage at UMass Amherst. 
With the win, the Golden Eagles (22-0) will have a rematch with Central Mass. champion No. 1 Franklin (21-2) in the Division I State Semifinals at Worcester State University on Monday. 

The Golden Eagles lost to Franklin 60-54 in overtime in last year’s State semifinals at the DCU Center in Worcester. 
“We played Franklin last year. Once again another good program, we have to come out and play our basketball,” said Central head coach Darryl Denson looking ahead to Monday night’s state semifinal rematch.  
Jorge Torres led the Golden Eagles with a game-high 25 points. Torres, like his team, did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 14 of his 25 points after the break. 
“I just tried to help the team win,” said Torres.
“Jorge has always been our motor,” said Denson. “Basketball Hall of Fame, Western Mass player of the year… It’s not because he is taller, it’s because of his heart and his motor is bigger than this gym, and this is a big gym. He’s a hardworking kid… mentally he has become a more balanced kid and I’m so happy for him.” 
Denson thanked comedian Kevin Hart who was performing at the Mullins Center Friday night for his team’s late arrival and their slow start, but praised his kids for being able to fight through the adversity. 
“Kevin Hart had this whole campus flooded, so we were struggling to get here. We were actually on campus for 45 minutes trying to get into the gym and when we got here, they tried to warm up back here. We have a routine that we use and we couldn’t use it, but that’s called perseverance, working hard and determination and that’s what they did. They didn’t use that as an excuse to win, they didn’t use that excuse to lose, all they did was just come out here and worked,” said Denson. 
Torres felt that they used the first half to warm up, due to their late arrival to the gym before they came out flying in the second half. 
“We came in late and we weren’t warmed up or anything. We talked as a team and said that we had to play as a team, or we weren’t going to be able to beat them and we worked hard too,” said Torres. 
It didn’t look like the Golden Eagles were rusty early on though as they jumped out to an 8-2 lead early, but then Putnam went on a 17-2 run to close out the first quarter and take a 22-14 lead at the end of one. 
Putnam’s Milan Harrison had a big part to do with the Beavers fast start scoring 13 of his 19 points in first half, with 10 of those points coming in the first quarter alone.
Central would close the gap however to 26-25 as they started the second quarter on an 11-4 run, but they could not get over the hump to retake the lead in the second quarter as they went into halftime trailing 37-33.   
The Golden Eagles finally retook the lead about midway through the third quarter and both teams traded leads for the remainder of the frame with Central taking a 53-52 lead into the fourth quarter. They did not relinquish the lead again. 
Riding their momentum from the third quarter, the Golden Eagles bolted to a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 62-54. The burst was capped by a thunderous slam-dunk by Levi White who finished the night with six points.
From then on the Golden Eagles were not stopped, extending their lead to as many as 13 points, before Putnam scored two more buckets late.
“We want the bigger one,” said Denson. “This is what we call city money. Western Mass city checks are good, everybody knows that in the state, the state checks are great and that’s what we want to get is a state check.”
--- --- ---
Putnam   22  15   15   14 – 66 
Central    14   19  20   22 – 75 
Putnam – Jalen Bruce (5-5-16), Naishawn Goldsberry (0-2-4),Cecil Villa (0-1-3), Harrison (0-8-19), Jalen McCoy (2-5-12), Richard Foster(0-1-3), Rudy Hytmia (0-3-9)
Central – Daisawn Craft (0-1-2), Justin Feliciano (0-7-15),Josiah Green (0-2-4), Anthony Kelly (2-6-17), Torres (5-8-25), Hason Ward(0-3-6), White (0-3-6)

Three-pointers: Putnam – 9 (Bruce, Villa, Harrison 3, Foster, Hytmia 3) Central – 6 (Feliciano, Kelly 3, Torres 2) 

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