High school basketball: Trio of local teams seek Western Mass titles on Championship Saturday

Northampton’s Anna Oravec (11), right, and Ava Azzaro (13) fight for a rebound against South Hadley’s Kate Phillips (24) earlier this season in Northampton. Both teams will play for sectional titles in their respective division on Saturday.

Northampton’s Anna Oravec (11), right, and Ava Azzaro (13) fight for a rebound against South Hadley’s Kate Phillips (24) earlier this season in Northampton. Both teams will play for sectional titles in their respective division on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-23-2024 5:50 PM

It’s Championship Saturday for three local high school basketball programs.

The South Hadley and Northampton girls, and the Granby boys will look to add some hardware on Saturday when they both take the floor to play in Western Massachusetts championship games.

The Tigers get a tripleheader of games started at Holyoke Community College, when they play the opening tilt at 1 p.m. against top-seeded Pittsfield in the Class B girls final.

Northampton will also try to take down the No. 1 seed in the Class A girls final, when they meet Central at 4 p.m. at Westfield High School.

Granby closes it out in the Class C boys final at HCC, tipping off with No. 1 Mahar at 5 p.m.

Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s title tilts:

Class A girls: No. 2 Northampton vs. No. 1 Central, 4 p.m.

The Blue Devils (17-3) get a third crack at Central (16-3) this season, as the Golden Eagles handed ’Hamp two of its three losses on the year.

Central beat Northampton twice (61-48 and 52-33), but the Devils haven’t lost a game since the most recent defeat back on Feb. 2. They’ve won six in a row since that time, including Class A tourney wins over Agawam (63-28) and Minnechaug (43-39).

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It’s the 14th WMass finals appearance in program history for Northampton, which is 5-8 all time in championship games. The Devils last won sectional titles when they went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.

Central, which has won two straight WMass titles and six of the last eight, hasn’t lost a game to a team from Massachusetts this season. They’ve also racked up 13 consecutive victories, including Class A tourney wins over Westfield (51-25) and Chicopee Comp (70-32).

Class B girls: No. 2 South Hadley vs. No. 1 Pittsfield, 1 p.m.

The Tigers have never won a WMass title, and Saturday could be their best chance to break through with how well they’ve been playing the last two months.

South Hadley is 0-5 all time in WMass finals, with its most recent appearance coming in 2022. Pittsfield hasn’t won a sectional title since going back-to-back in 2001 and 2002.

The Tigers (17-3) were 3-3 at one point in the season, but since a Dec. 29 loss to Northampton, they’ve racked up 14 consecutive victories. In a loaded Class B bracket, they took down Easthampton (60-39) and Springfield International Charter School (65-59) to book a spot in Saturday’s final at HCC.

Top-seeded Pittsfield (15-5) lost all five of its games to Class A schools, including a pair against Northampton. In the postseason, the Generals have defeated Hampshire Regional (66-28) and Pope Francis (73-52). They’ve toppled the 60-point mark on offensive in 10 of their 20 games, and it’ll be interesting to see how their offense stacks up against a stout South Hadley defense that has allowed more than 40 points just seven times all season.

Class C boys: No. 3 Granby vs. No. 1 Mahar, 5 p.m.

Mahar (15-5) will look to get past a Granby team that went into North Adams and pulled out a win over No. 2 Drury on Thursday night. The Rams haven’t played in a WMass final since 2005, when they won the Division 3 title.

Granby (14-5) has won three games in a row and seems to be peaking at the right time, picking up playoff wins over Palmer (51-36) and Drury (51-46). Expect this game to be low scoring, and a grind to find much offensively with two good defenses setting the tone.

It hasn’t been quite as long for the Senators since their last sectional final appearance, but it’s been over a decade since they played in a WMass title game. That would be 2012, when Mahar navigated its way through the Division 2 bracket and won the state title.

The Sens beat South Hadley, 47-31, in the WMass final that year, and eventually took down Brighton in the state final.

Defense has propelled this year’s Mahar team. The Sens have allowed more than 50 points just five times this season, and limited Athol to just 37 in their semifinal win on Thursday night in Orange.