SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -– Keying defensively on Cathedral star guard Darrick Boyd, Holyoke (7-3) was able to hold off a late run from the Panthers on Friday night at the Hoophall Classic.
Boyd, one of the best guards in Western Mass., was held to just four points in the first half. Despite a late run from Boyd and the Panthers, the Knights were able to pull out a 59-48 victory.
The Knights jumped out to a 31-19 first half lead, thanks in part to the play of guards Adonis Camby and Luis Vasquez. Even though they committed 17 first half turnovers, Holyoke was able to build an early lead because of their dominance on the glass and defense on Boyd.
“That’s what we talked about, just trying to cut down on our turnovers and continue to play good defense. I thought we’d have a good chance to win the game as long as we didn’t turn the ball over and create some scoring opportunities for us,” Holyoke coach William Rigali said. “We tried to double-team [Boyd], obviously their best player—get the ball out of his hands and make the other guys create their own shot. It was a little bit of man-to-man and a little bit of zone.”
Cathedral (4-5) made a somewhat successful defensive attempt at slowing down Holyoke’s guards in the second half, but the extra attention on the point guards only opened things up for 6-foot-2 junior swingman Devante Wardwell (21 points), who scored 16 points in the second half.
“Our game is along the baseline," Rigali said. "Devante’s a very good all around player and Justin and Adonis are pretty good around the basket. What Devante gives the team is chemistry...He kind of gives us a little bit of everything else."
To his credit though, Boyd (15 points) helped light a fire under his team offensively in the fourth quarter. Finish an acrobatic lay-up in transition and a few minutes later knocking down a deep three from the right wing, Boyd was able to create a stir in the Holyoke defense in the fourth quarter.
“It held him down a little bit through three quarters, but he started to make us very nervous when he was hitting those threes,” Rigali said. “He’s a heck of a player and we have a lot of respect for him, and that’s why we paid special attention to him.”
The Knights were able to hold off the Panthers despite having star forward Justin White on the bench. A victim of foul trouble for the majority of the first three quarters, White managed to be the only other Holyoke player in double figures when he knocked down a short jumper from the paint in the fourth quarter.
“He’s such a good athlete, he’s active and he wants to have a good game," Rigali said. "He just needs to calm himself down a little bit on certain plays so that he can stay on the court for us, because obviously we’re a better team when he’s out there."
Despite a tough start to the year where the Knights dropped games to Pittsfield, Longmeadow, and West Springfield, their coach hopes that beating Cathedral, especially a win over a strong Northampton team on Monday, may be just the step in the right direction that the Knights needed.
“After 32 years in this league, you can’t tickle people to death," he said. "You really have to have something, and one of the things I’m most proud of the Holyoke kids is that after 32 years they’re the only non-Springfield team to play in this league. I have a lot of respect for our kids because they play hard.”