Class D semis: No. 3 Duggan hits shot with six seconds to play to knock off No. 2 Pioneer (PHOTOS)

Pioneer’s Hugh Cyhowski goes up for a shot against  Duggan during the first half of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Hugh Cyhowski goes up for a shot against Duggan during the first half of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer shoots a free throw against Duggan during first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer shoots a free throw against Duggan during first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Alex McClelland is defended by Duggan’s Jason Dulude in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Alex McClelland is defended by Duggan’s Jason Dulude in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Josh Wood is defended by Duggan’s Caleb Murphy in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Josh Wood is defended by Duggan’s Caleb Murphy in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer is defended by Duggan’s Allen Miranda in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer is defended by Duggan’s Allen Miranda in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Kurt Redeker is defended by Duggan’s Daniel Click during a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Kurt Redeker is defended by Duggan’s Daniel Click during a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer passes the ball past Duggan’s Daniel Click in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer passes the ball past Duggan’s Daniel Click in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Pioneer’s Jackson Glazier goes after a loose ball vs Duggan in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday.

Pioneer’s Jackson Glazier goes after a loose ball vs Duggan in first half action of a Western Mass. Class D semifinal contest at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 02-21-2024 9:05 PM

NORTHFIELD — There will be a new Western Mass. Class D boys basketball champion this year. 

It was a battle for the entire 32 minutes between second-seeded Pioneer — the defending Class D champs — and No. 3 Duggan on Wednesday at Messer Gymnasium. Pioneer’s Brayden Thayer sank a pair of free throws to give Pioneer a 49-48 lead with 15 seconds remaining in the semifinal contest. 

After a timeout, the Jayhawks raced the ball up court and Allen Miranda drove into the paint. Drawing the Panthers defense to him, he found Kyle Combs open under the basket, who laid it in with just six seconds remaining. Thayer threw up a heave from inside half court as time expired and the shot hit off the rim and out, with Duggan pulling out a 50-49 victory. 

The Jayhawks will face top-seeded No. 1 Hoosac Valley in the Class D championship game on Saturday. 

“It was a hard fought game both ways,” Pioneer coach Scott Thayer said. “It was going to be a rock fight. We were just too inconsistent. We had stretches where we did things the way we wanted and stretches where we didn’t. We got down early and we had to spend so much energy to get back in it. We never got in a flow offensively. We missed a lot of shots and those things happen. That’s part of competitive athletics. You have to enjoy it both ways.” 

Duggan (18-2) held a 40-38 lead going into the fourth quarter but Pioneer’s Hugh Cyhowski scored the opening basket of the frame to knot the game up. 

Later in the quarter, following a basket from Duggan’s Caleb Murphy, Brayden Thayer swished a 3-pointer to tie the game at 44. Cyhowski scored on the ensuing possession to give Pioneer a 46-44 lead, its first advantage since the second quarter. 

Miranda, who finished with a game-high 25 points, knocked down a pair from the line and with one minute to go, stole a pass in the Panther backcourt and laid it in to give Duggan a 48-46 lead. Alex McClelland made a free throw with 40 seconds to go for Pioneer (15-5). 

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The Jayhawks couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game.

Jaylen Edwards made a 3 early before Miranda closed out the quarter on a tear, as he made got going with a jumper before knocking down three 3’s to close out the quarter. His final trey banked in at the buzzer, giving Duggan an 18-8 lead after eight minutes. 

Pioneer returned the favor to open the second. Thayer got to the line and made both, Kurt Redeker got in the paint for two, McClelland swished a 3 and Cyhowski made a jumper as the 9-0 run cut the lead to 18-17. 

Josh Wood later hit a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 22-21 lead, their first of the game, but Miranda responded with a 3 of his own. Cyhowski followed with a bucket for Pioneer but Miranda made a pair of free throws to close out the half and give the Jayhawks a 26-24 lead at the intermission. 

Thayer got going offensively for Pioneer in the third quarter, scoring seven of his team-high 18 points in the frame. 

Edwards made back-to-back baskets for Duggan late in the quarter to give it a 38-31 edge. Thayer answered with a basket of his own, McClelland knocked down a 3 and Cyhowski made a pair from the charity stripe just before the quarter came to a close, cutting the Jayhawk lead to 40-38 going into the fourth. 

“We’ve been chasing all year,” Scott Thayer said. “This was a microcosm of our season. We started out well, we went down and have been struggling for whatever reason.”

Cyhowski and McClelland each scored 12 points and Wood added five points in the loss. 

Pioneer, which sits at No. 4 in the latest MIAA Div. 5 Power Rankings, will get a chance to make a run at another trophy when the state tournament gets underway next week.

“The season isn’t over,” Scott Thayer said. “We fought hard to give ourselves a chance to win. We just didn’t get it done tonight.”