Eagles soar over Pioneers in district semifinals
By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
WORCESTER — A Cinderella run by the Southbridge Pioneers came to an end in front of what felt like a home crowd while on the road.
The thirteenth-seeded Pioneers couldn’t keep pace with the top-seeded Worcester Tech Eagles in the Central Division 4 District Tournament semifinals at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Harrington Auditorium on Monday night. Surrounded by well more than 100 red-clad Southbridge fans, the Pioneers fell 77-50 to a much larger, stronger, and faster Eagles team.
Southbridge appeared overmatched early in the game, quickly falling behind on a 10-0 run while making a number of poor passes. The Eagles rolled to an 18-1 advantage before Jared Figueroa began taking command for the Pioneers, ending the first quarter with a 20-6 Worcester Tech advantage. Southbridge came on a bit stronger in the second quarter, but was unable to catch up and went into halftime trailing 46-23.
The Eagles maintained their stranglehold on the game in the second half, outscoring the Pioneers 18-9 in third quarter to build a 64-32 lead as the two teams geared up for the final eight minutes of the game. Southbridge managed to outscore Worcester Tech in the fourth quarter, 18-13, as both teams cycled in players off the bench to wrap up the contest.
While the Eagles fans in attendance spent the final 90 seconds of the game chanting, “We want Maynard!” in reference to a finals match-up with the Tigers, Southbridge fans responded with a bout of positive Pioneer Pride, chanting, “We are Southbridge!”
Figueroa and Worcester Tech’s Brendan Hamilton paced all scorers with 23 points each. Figueroa picked up 12 of his points in the second quarter. Hamilton spread his points out fairly evenly throughout the night, scoring 13 in the first half and 10 in the latter half. Victor Florentino picked up 17 points for the Eagles, all but three of which came in the first half. Jose Bonilla and Josh Falero added 11 and 10 points for Worcester Tech, respectively. Elian Aponte and Justin Reyes chipped in with six points each for Southbridge.
With the victory, Worcester Tech advances to the finals against the third-seeded Maynard Tigers. That title game will be played on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at Harrington Auditorium. The loss ends the season for Southbridge, who last made a deep district tournament run 18 years ago, falling to the Algonquin Tomahawks in the district championship game at Harrington Auditorium.