East Longmeadow boy’s basketball (6-10, 2-5 Valley Wheel) defeated Northampton (5-12, 1-6) in a 47-46 thriller on Tuesday night at Northampton High School. Spartans’ senior Nathan Lindsay knocked down a go-ahead fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give the visitors a much needed victory for East Longmeadow to have a chance to make the postseason.
“It was exciting,” said Lindsay after the game,“We were done if we lost this game. Our season would have been over. But we grinded it out and hopefully we can win a couple more games in a row and hopefully make the playoffs.”
After the Blue Devils had taken their first lead of the game, 46-45, the Spartans got the ball back with 29 seconds left to play. Lindsay got the ball in front of his team’s bench and was immediately pressured by Northampton senior Aidan Hirsch. Unable to find an open teammate as the game clock ticked away, Lindsay stepped back and threw up a jumper that swished through the net as the final buzzer sounded and the senior was instantly mobbed by his teammates.
“We drew up a play, but Northampton played great defense on it and the play broke down,” said Lindsay. “We just had to improvise. We came up, our team spread out, we knew what to do, and I just knocked down the shot.”
“It’s tough,” said Blue Devils head coach Rey Harp, “I think every loss hurts and that’s what we’ve been trying to say all along. These guys are competitors. Even though this game doesn’t knock us out of the playoffs or hurt our seeding or anything, I think it hurts. We put everything into that game and a big shot at the end by a great player…that certainly stings.”
After the game was tied briefly in the first quarter, East Longmeadow was able to take the lead and hold it into the third quarter. The Blue Devils stuck around and they were able to tie the game at thirty-three late in the third.
The Spartans quickly took the lead back, however, as they went on a 10-3 run that extended into the fourth quarter and gave them a 43-36 lead. It took Northampton 4:06 to get their first points of the final period.
The Blue Devils kept the game close though, and Hirsch led a furious comeback for the home team in the final minutes of the game. With Northampton trailing 45-42, Hirsch came up with a steal, drove the length of the court, and got fouled while going up for a layup. The senior made both of his free throw to get the Blue Devils within one point of the lead.. .
On East Longmeadow’s ensuing possession, Northampton junior center Pat Grygorcewicz drew a charge, giving the Blue Devils the basketball with less than a minute remaining in the game. Hirsch was then once again fouled while driving toward the basket and made two big free throws to give Northampton their first lead of the game, 46-45, with 29 seconds left on the game clock.
“I think we did a really nice job of executing some of the sets that we have,” said Harp of his team’s fourth quarter comeback. “[East Longmeadow] went to a zone in the second half and we started to get some looks against that zone. We attacked the basket and got to the foul line. And most importantly, there was a stretch where we weren’t really moving our offensive spot forward and we had them held on 43 points for a long time. We were able to step up and play the way that we thought we should be playing game in and game out.”
Even though the Blue Devils came up just short, Harp was very proud of the effort of his players. “We got guys who won’t quit,” he said, “It just reinforces what we know about the program that whatever happens we’re gonna get out there, we’re gonna compete, we’re gonna play hard. With a couple of basic exceptions, that’s what we’ve been doing all year long. We compete, we play hard, and we give ourselves a chance at the end. We’re trying to figure our way through this last week. Guys are playing hard and playing in a way that I think this school can be proud of.”
The Spartans have four games left on their schedule and they must win all of them to qualify for the postseason. East Longmeadow’s final three games are all against teams that have beaten them by double digits earlier this year.
“We just can’t stop,” said Lindsay. “We just gotta grind this out. We gotta play together and when we play together we play great.”
Northampton is out of the postseason run and have three games remaining on their schedule.
Sophomore Jeric Cichon led the Spartans with 13 points, the only East Longmeadow player to reach double digits in the game. Lindsay was second on the team in scoring.
Hirsch led Northampton as he scored nearly half of the Blue Devils’ points with 22. No other Northampton player reached double digits.