Class C finals: No. 1 Mahar shuts down No. 3 Granby to take home first Western Mass. title since 2012 (PHOTOS)

Mahar celebrates after receiving the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship plaque Saturday against Granby at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar celebrates after receiving the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship plaque Saturday against Granby at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar poses for a team photo after winning the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday against Granby at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar poses for a team photo after winning the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday against Granby at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Marshall Ames (21) blocks a shot attempt from Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Marshall Ames (21) blocks a shot attempt from Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2), left, goes up for a breakaway layup defended by Granby’s Gavin Moreno (21) in the second quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2), left, goes up for a breakaway layup defended by Granby’s Gavin Moreno (21) in the second quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Lian Lopez-Baez (3) puts up a shot in the paint over Granby’s Riley Goodhind (1) in the second quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Lian Lopez-Baez (3) puts up a shot in the paint over Granby’s Riley Goodhind (1) in the second quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Riley Goodhind (1) pulls down a rebound against Mahar in the second quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Riley Goodhind (1) pulls down a rebound against Mahar in the second quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) drives in for a layup against Mahar in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) drives in for a layup against Mahar in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Cody White (23) goes up for a breakaway layup against Mahar in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Cody White (23) goes up for a breakaway layup against Mahar in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Cody White (23) drives to the hoop between Mahar defenders Jayden Delgado (22) and William Barnes (23) in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Cody White (23) drives to the hoop between Mahar defenders Jayden Delgado (22) and William Barnes (23) in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) drives the ball against Mahar in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) drives the ball against Mahar in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) puts in a layup against Mahar in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) puts in a layup against Mahar in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2) drives the ball past Granby’s Colin Murdock (4) in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2) drives the ball past Granby’s Colin Murdock (4) in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) drives through the lane past Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2) in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) drives through the lane past Mahar’s Morgan Softic (2) in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Lian Lopez-Baez (3) puts up a shot against Granby in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Lian Lopez-Baez (3) puts up a shot against Granby in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) drives down the court against Granby in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) drives down the court against Granby in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Granby’s Colin Murdock (4) dishes a past to Cody White (23) past Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Granby’s Colin Murdock (4) dishes a past to Cody White (23) past Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) in the third quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) pulls down a rebound over Granby’s Ben Berger (33) in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar’s Lucas Isrow (4) pulls down a rebound over Granby’s Ben Berger (33) in the fourth quarter of the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mahar head coach Chad Softic huddles up with his team in the fourth quarter against Granby during the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College.

Mahar head coach Chad Softic huddles up with his team in the fourth quarter against Granby during the Western Mass. Class C boys basketball championship Saturday at Holyoke Community College. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 02-24-2024 8:29 PM

Modified: 02-24-2024 8:50 PM


HOLYOKE — Some teams might panic after only scoring 16 points in the first half of a Western Mass. championship game. 

But when you play defense like the Mahar boys basketball team does, there’s no need to worry. 

With the Class C title on the line Saturday, the top-seeded Senators scored just seven points in the second quarter but still held a 16-14 lead over Granby at the break. 

The No. 3 Rams scored the opening five points of the second half to take a 19-16 lead but the Mahar defense locked in from there, not allowing Granby to score another point the rest of the quarter. 

The Senators offense found a rhythm, going on a 12-0 run to close out the quarter and extending it to an 18-4 run midway through the fourth to take a 34-23 lead. The Rams were unable to truly cut into the deficit the rest of the way, as Mahar took home the sectional title with a 47-34 victory at Holyoke Community College. 

It’s the Senators’ first Western Mass. title since 2012. 

“In those early 2010s you think you’ll be there every year,” Mahar coach Chad Softic said. “You don’t realize how tough it is to get here. I told the kids to enjoy every second of it because you might never have another chance. It’s a special moment. With our town and community here, it’s thrilling.” 

Saturday’s victory was the fifth game in a row that the Senators (16-5) have held opponents to 50 points or less. 

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With the talented scorers Mahar possesses, that’s a recipe that adds up to championships. 

“I said all year that we’re a talented group,” Softic said. “One thing we really morphed into was a great defensive team. That really was our calling card all season and certainly the last month of the season. That’s what we did, that’s who we became and that’s why we won.” 

It takes a team buy-in to compete on the defensive end the way Mahar does. Guard Morgan Softic noted it’s the thing the Senators drill down the hardest. 

“The biggest thing we talk about is defense,” Morgan Softic said. “Everyone consistently competes on defense and doesn’t slow down. It’s helped us a lot. Everyone bring energy when we’re on defense.” 

Granby (15-6) was limited to just those five points in the third quarter and with three minutes to go in the fourth, it had been limited to just eight points in the second half. 

Rams coach Dylan Dubuc credited Mahar’s size — Will Barnes, Jayden Delgado and Marshall Ames — for consistently making it challenging to finish around the rim. 

“They pack it in really well,” Dubuc said. “It’s what makes it hard to drive. They have three bigs back there and their length protects the rim. Even if you get a step on the guards, you have to finish over the bigs. They’re a tough group and they play good defense.” 

Gavier Fernandez and Colin Murdock knocked down 3-pointers in the opening quarter to give Granby a 10-9 lead after eight minutes. 

Morgan Softic converted an and-one and Lucas Isrow got to the rim for Mahar before Murdock made a pair from the line and Cody White scored for the Rams. Lian Lopez-Baez hit a runner in the lane to give the Senators their 16-14 lead at the break. 

With players like Isrow and Ames on the bench for the majority of the second quarter, Mahar had no problem draining the shot clock offensively and setting itself up for a big second half when the reinforcements arrived. 

Fernandez opened the second half with a 3 and a tough shot in the paint to give Granby a 19-16 lead early in the third. 

Isrow got Mahar going offensively with back-to-back baskets, Softic made one from the line, Barnes made a pair of free throws, Isrow scored another tough basket in the paint, Delgado made a free throw and Ames made a basket inside while fouled and suddenly Mahar held a 28-19 lead going into the fourth quarter. 

It was Morgan Softic’s turn to get going in the fourth. He scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the final frame, six of those coming at the free throw line. 

Softic used his ball handling skills to get the Sens out of trouble and drain clock late to come away with the victory. 

“We just had to make some plays,” Chad Softic said. “We had to get to halftime with the foul trouble we were in. I wanted to take the air out of the basketball. Lucas made some big shots, Morgan made some big plays. Our backcourt came alive in the second half and did a good job of controlling the basketball.” 

That’s not to say the Rams didn’t make it interesting at times in the fourth. 

Riley Goodhind got a basket to open the frame and Fernandez followed with another with just under six minutes to go that cut the lead to 30-23. 

Softic got in the paint for two, knocked down a pair from the line and after a Fernandez basket, added another two points from the charity stripe to put Mahar up, 36-25, with just under four minutes to play. 

Murdock cut the lead to 38-29 but Isrow scored with two minutes to go before Softic, Isrow and Barnes closed out the game by making their free throw to give the Senators the Class C title. 

“It’s pretty crazy,” Morgan Softic said. “At the start of the season you don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s what we worked for all season. We came together, worked together and listened to our coach and how he wants to play. We focused on all the little things.” 

Isrow scored 12 points, Barnes tallied nine points, Delgado finished with five points while Ames and Lopez-Baez each had four points in the win. 

Fernandez finished with 19 points, Murdock scored nine points and White added four points in the loss for Granby.

The Senators now turn their attention to the MIAA Division 5 tournament, where they are seeded fifth in the field.