Boys basketball: Greenfield defeats Lenox to take Hampshire League South crown

Greenfield’s Petru Cojocaru (10) puts a shot up over Lenox’s Chris Lyon (2) during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield.

Greenfield’s Petru Cojocaru (10) puts a shot up over Lenox’s Chris Lyon (2) during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s David Jung-Hernandez (33) puts up a shot over Lenox’s Jon Mielke (11) during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield.

Greenfield’s David Jung-Hernandez (33) puts up a shot over Lenox’s Jon Mielke (11) during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield’s Grayson Thomas (5) tries to get a shot up while being fouled by Lenox’s Max Shepardson (20) during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield.

Greenfield’s Grayson Thomas (5) tries to get a shot up while being fouled by Lenox’s Max Shepardson (20) during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Greenfield players celebrate a fast start to the game against Lenox during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield.

Greenfield players celebrate a fast start to the game against Lenox during the Green Wave’s Hampshire League South victory on Friday night at Nichols Gymnasium in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 02-09-2024 9:28 PM

GREENFIELD — It could have gone one of two ways after the Greenfield boys basketball team suffered its second league loss of the season to Pioneer on Jan. 19. 

The Green Wave held a second half lead against the defending Hampshire League South champion Panthers, but Pioneer stormed back to win. 

With five games remaining in an ever-competitive HL South, Greenfield knew it would likely need to win the rest of their league games — and get some help with other teams pulling out wins over Drury, Pioneer and Mahar — if it wanted to have a chance to win its first league title since 2019. 

The Green Wave started by defeating Frontier (68-59) and Hopkins Academy (94-45). After gaining confidence with non-league wins over Easthampton and South Hadley, Greenfield entered this week with a trio of league games. It started off with Drury and Mahar on back-to-back nights; the Blue Devils entering with an identical 8-2 league record and the Senators one game back at 7-3.

Still, the Green Wave managed to claw out a 41-38 victory over Drury to take the driver’s seat for the title. They followed it up with another tough win over the Sens (58-52) in Orange, putting Greenfield in position to win the league title outright with a win Friday night against Lenox.

The Wave did just that.

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Greenfield scored the opening 20 points of the game before cruising to an 81-41 victory at Nichols Gymnasium to close out the HL South slate with a 10-2 record. Drury finished 9-3 in the league while Pioneer has three losses with one game to go. Mahar has suffered four losses in the league.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Green Wave coach Angelo Thomas said. “The expectation and first goal was to be league champs. We’ve reached our first goal. I’m very happy and very proud of them. They’ve worked their tails off.

“It’s a culmination of what we’ve been preaching since the end of last year,” he added. “They’re finally starting to get it. My seniors are realizing this is the end for them. My juniors and underclassmen are playing so much better in practice which is translating to games. Our league, in my humble opinion, from top-to-bottom is the best league in Western Mass. You’re in for a rock fight every night. Anything can happen on any night. It’ll be the same thing next year.”

Once Greenfield realized it still had a chance to win the league, the entire Green Wave squad dialed in to make sure they would accomplish the goal. 

“Once we found out we were very close to winning the league we locked in,” Greenfield junior Caleb Thomas said. “We figured out we had a chance and made the most of it.” 

Winning the HL South is no small feat. In the latest batch of MIAA power rankings only Lenox would be left out of the state tournament if the season were to end today. In Div. 5, Pioneer is ranked No. 2, Drury sits at No. 3, Mahar comes in at No. 5 while Hopkins is ranked No. 24. Frontier is the ranked No. 23 in the Div. 4 field. 

Playing so well in their league is one of the main reasons the Green Wave are ranked No. 11 in the Div. 4 field. 

“It’s big,” Greenfield junior Caleb Murray said. “We lost to Pioneer twice. We’ve had this goal since the start of the season so it’s great to have accomplished it.” 

Greenfield had success last winter, reaching the Western Mass. Class C championship game and making it to the Round of 16 of the MIAA Div. 5 state tournament. 

It did that with a young roster that started four sophomores and a junior. With nearly the entire team back, the Green Wave have taken the expected next step forward in their development. 

Breor, a junior, once again leads Greenfield in scoring, going into Friday’s game averaging 17 points per game. Caleb Thomas is a big time scorer on the wing with 13.4 PPG while Murray is once again leading the offense at the point guard spot while also tossing in 11.3 PPG. 

Ollie Postera and Jacob Blanchard are returning seniors who have played big roles for the Green Wave. Eighth grader Grayson Thomas and sophomore David Jung-Hernandez were players who played JV last year and have had an impact at the varsity level this season. Grayson Thomas has come on strong down the stretch and is putting up 10.8 PPG. 

Against the Millionaires, Grayson Thomas led the way with 22 points off six 3-pointers. Breor tallied 18 points, Caleb Thomas scored 15 points, Jung-Hernandez finished with nine points while Blanchard had seven points. 

With the momentum built, Greenfield is hoping it carries over to the postseason. 

“We had a lot of tough games these last couple weeks with Drury, Mahar and South Hadley,” Breor said. “I think coming out of that we were worried we would drop and not play as well after three tough games. We just have to use it and continue that momentum into the playoffs.”