Hoophall: West Side downs East Hartford

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- For eight of the nine seniors on the West Springfield High School boys’ basketball team, Saturday morning’s game in the Hoophall Classic was a long time in the making.

“It was the first time we played here,” West Side head coach Chris Gerber said after the game. “…They’ve been asking for a long time ‘when are we going to play at the Hoophall?’ So they’ve been excited for a long time.”

Fortunately for the Terriers, the team came through on the occasion, and downed East Hartford, 61-47, to kick off the second day of the tournament.

West Side’s Victor Aytche (15 points, 11 rebounds) poured in another solid performance, but he -- unlike the other Terrier seniors -- was making his third appearance in the Springfield tournament (the previous two with Springfield Central High School). For the other seniors though, this game was special.

Mikhal Asad turned in perhaps the best game of his career, leading the Terriers with 17 points and also adding 10 blocks, three steals, and three blocks. The 6-foot-1 guard came off of the bench and was able to stretch the West Side lead when Aytche needed a rest.

“It feels good,” laughed Asad about his game. “It’s something new.”

The senior guard outshined Aytche and fellow terrier Musa Elsir (12 points, five rebounds), shooting 6-of-9 from the floor, and hitting 4-of-5 shots from the free-throw line.

“Mikhal Asad has played four years in our program and to be honest, today was probably his best game,” Gerber said. “He was fantastic.”

East Hartford had trouble dealing with West Side’s size, and the Hornets countered with a successful trap in the first half. West Side outrebounded the Hornets 50-27 in the game.

Guards Cane Broome and Shaumel Early led the Hornets with 18 and 12 points respectively. Broome was 7-of-23 from the field and was depended upon to carry the load offensively.

At halftime West Side held a 29-23 lead, and the Terriers held that margin for almost the entire second half.

“We played together as a team, and tried to play great defense.” Elsir said. “[Cane Broome] was a great player offensively but we had weakside help every time and were able to guard the ball well on defense.”

In the fourth quarter West Side starting point guard Chris Hill went down with an ankle injury, but the bench was able to fill in for the senior. Hill (10 points, six rebounds, five assists) missed the team’s first game against Amherst-Pelham Regional High School, and it turned out to be the Terriers’ only loss of the year so far.

“He’s vital to our success offensively, defensively and on the ball setting guys up and making shots,” Gerber said about the point guard.