By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
On Monday, I was in Northampton, MA (Hampshire County) to watch Northampton HS host Monson HS. Northampton was coming off a home win against Holyoke. Monday was Monson’s first game in 1 month.
Monson was ice cold in the first quarter. Monson stand-out player Colby Duggan hit one tough, step-back jumper from the left corner in the waning seconds of the 1st quarter. Noah Martinson hit one FT before that shot for a total of 3 first quarter points for Monson.
Northampton’s offense ran much better than the last time I saw them play. They moved the ball quicker and they hit shots. Seth Finnessey had 7 first quarter points for Northampton. Northampton led after 1 quarter, 11-3.
In the second quarter, the struggles continued for Duggan. His shot wasn’t falling for the most part. He is 6’6”/6’7” so he can get his shot off. Northampton was playing good defense. If Duggan caught the ball in the post, Northampton would double him. When Duggan had the ball on the perimeter, Northampton would send a double at him once he went left or right.
At the 5 minute mark in 2nd, Northampton was up 14-7. Monson made a couple of baskets but they were still cold. Northampton was getting the shots they wanted but they weren’t falling as often as in the first quarter.
Northampton went on a 12-2 run to end the 2nd quarter. The score at halftime was 26-9.
I had never seen Duggan play before yesterday so I was confused. I saw the height and the agility but Duggan was forcing a lot of shots. He wasn’t getting back on defense. He looked gassed 😓 on the sidelines during timeouts. The team, in general, was cold but Duggan looked off. After the game, I found out that he has been recovering from an illness that kept him out of competition. Monday was his first game action in 2 weeks. Add on the illness, now I understand why he started so slow.
The third quarter started with Duggan on the bench. In the moment, I thought it was a motivational strategy by Monson HC Dennis Vacon. Now, I know Duggan was so tired after those first 2 quarters, he needed some extra time before he made one of the greatest regular-season comebacks I’ve ever seen.
At the 2 minute mark in the 3rd quarter Northampton was up 31-13. Monson still couldn’t generate any offense. Northampton’s offense wasn’t great but they were doing enough to maintain their lead. They were still playing good defense against Duggan. The 3rd ended 34-20.
Duggan came alive in the 4th quarter. He drained five 3s in the 4th 😳. He hit back to back 3s to pull Monson within 8, 41-33. After the second 3, Northampton HC Rey Harp called a timeout. On the next Monson possession, Duggan hits a 3 and gets fouled 😳. He hit the FT to narrow the Northampton lead 41-37.
Duggan got another “and-1” basket this time in the paint. He made the FT. That made the score 41-40. Northampton hit a shot to go up 43-40.
On Monson’s next possession, Duggan was in the high post. He passed the ball to Danny Fiester. Duggan stepped out to the perimeter. Fiester passed Duggan the ball and Duggan fired another 3 - all net. The game was tied at 43. Monson had been down 18 points just 9 [game] minutes before that point.
Each team had one possession before the final 2 possessions for each team: Northampton couldn’t score; Monson committed a bad turnover.
The game was still tied at 43. Northampton had the ball. Jacob Cancel dribbled left and then back right. He drove into the lane and made a tough jumper in the paint. Northampton was up 45-43.
Monson called a timeout. They schemed up their out-of-bounds play. Danny Fiester was the inbounder. He threw a great pass to Duggan. Duggan caught the 🏀 on the right wing, turned, went up for 3 and got fouled 😳. He and the Northampton player crashed in to the Monson bench.
Duggan went to the line for 3 FTs. He had to make at least 2 to force OT; 3 FTs would win the game for Monson. He made the first 2 and HC Harp called a timeout for Northampton. There was still 2 seconds left in the game so I imagine Harp was going over a play and also trying to ice 🧊 Duggan.
The teams came back on the floor. Duggan had one more FT; he made it 😳. Monson was ahead for the first time all game 46-45.
Cancel got a decent look at the buzzer but he missed the long shot. Monson had come all the way back and beat Northampton by 1.
Monson led for 2 seconds of the 32 minutes played on Monday.
Duggan ended the game with 32 points. He scored 2️⃣4️⃣ in the 4th quarter 🔥. He also went 5/5 from the FT line with 3 clutch FTs to win the game 👏🏽.
Scorers for Monson:
Colby Duggan - 32 points
Danny Fiester - 9 points
Connor Santos & Luke Hedspeth - 2 points each
Noah Martinson - 1 point
Scorers for Northampton:
Seth Finnessey - 17 points
Jack Power - 9 points
Jacob Cancel - 8 points
Beckett Calkins - 6 points
Justyn Rankins - 3 points
Jasper Coles - 2 points
After the game I spoke with Monson HC Dennis Vacon, Monson Forward Colby Duggan and Northampton HC Rey Harp.
🔵Monson HC Dennis Vacon⚪️
What were you thinking when Duggan went to the line for 3 FTs to win the game?
“That’s the guy we want at the line at the end of the game, there’s nobody else. We gotta give a shoutout to the guys who drew up the play; we drew up the play. We had Danny Fiester inbounding the ball. He delivers a perfect, dime pass...its just gives the opportunity there...That’s who we want in that situation”.
Why didn’t Duggan start the 3rd quarter?
“He is coming back from an illness. He practiced yesterday for the 1st time. He has been gassed. There’s no other way to say it: he was gassed today, he was gassed at practice yesterday. He definitely shot himself into a rhythm. This is a big week for us...he’s coming back. He is a warrior for us”.
What were you thinking after your team’s cold start to open the game?
“We haven’t played in a month. We played the 1st week of the season, so we haven’t played in a month. I just kept telling the guys, ‘That’s what happens when you haven’t played in a month’. We have to have that mindset: we’re gonna play D, we’re gonna box-out. I give the guys credit, they went full man the whole second half pretty much and they got us back in the basketball game”.
🔵Monson Forward Colby Duggan⚪️
How do you feel after that great game?
“Very tired; its hard to run. I’m tired. Yesterday was my first day back so I’m very out of shape”.
What were you seeing from the defense in the 4th quarter?
“I was seeing more face guarding but I’ve faced it before, it’s nothing new. Just move the ball and get it back”.
When you were going to the line to win the game, what were you thinking?
“I was thinking just like practice gotta make my FTs”.
🔵Northampton HC Rey Harp🟡
You were ahead all game, what happened down the stretch?
“That’s an easy one: they rode a really hot hand of a really, really good player. We just failed to shut the door that we opened up earlier. We could have been playing better defense on him a few of those shots that he put up over the top. We could have been better on the offensive end to keep the pressure on them...we were playing great defense on [Duggan]; he definitely earned that one out here”.
You play at Monson on Thursday. What do you have to do to get the victory in their place?
“Make more shots. Come out and compete a lil’ bit better. Our guys struggled a little bit down the stretch with our composure”.