Granby boys basketball picks apart Palmer zone to advance to Class C semis

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) goes in for a breakaway layup against Palmer earlier this season.

Granby’s Gavier Fernandez (5) goes in for a breakaway layup against Palmer earlier this season. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE


Staff Writer

Published: 02-19-2024 9:41 PM

GRANBY — Led by strong passing from Gavier Fernandez and smart off-ball movement, the Granby boys basketball team picked apart league foe Palmer’s 3-2 zone for a 51-36 home win on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Western Mass. Class C Tournament.

Granby completed the season sweep with its third win over Palmer this year, having beaten them 53-41 in December and 60-56 in January. Despite a move up from Class D to Class C this year, the third-seeded Rams advance to the semifinals of the Western Mass. Tournament, where they’ll travel to No. 2 Drury next.

Granby studied film from its previous two games against Palmer and saw that big man Stephen Fredette was coming up at the bottom of the zone when they attacked the rim. 

“You’re picking your poison if you’re going to sit in zone,” Granby coach Dylan Dubuc said. “Either you’re going to give up threes or you’re going to have to fly out in the high post and we’re going to get the ball inside.”

The Rams didn’t have much success initially and the two teams mostly traded buckets until a 7-0 run to end the second quarter gave Granby a 20-14 lead at the break. At halftime, Dubuc told his team to attack the rim even more, and Fernandez really broke through in the second session.

He scored a couple of tough buckets on drives, including a trifecta of and-ones. His pressure on the rim resulted in nine free throw attempts, all in the second half. He finished with 15 points.

But his passing was more impressive – he hit Cody Breault for a couple corner threes and dumped it off to Cody White and Sawyer Clarke for several backdoor cuts that led to easy baskets.

“Our guys are starting to  learn to cut off him as he’s getting deeper,” Dubuc said. “Guys are either spotting or diving to the hoop and he’ll find them. If guys are cutting with their hands up, they’re going to have easy twos or threes, they’ve just got to knock them down.”

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On Monday night, they had no problem knocking them down.

Palmer improved on its 1-19 campaign from a year ago with a 10-8 record this season as they head into the state tournament. Stephen Fredette led the Panthers with nine points. Tayden Haley added seven and Dylan Doherty and Angel Torres each scored six.

Granby plays Hampshire South champion Drury next for a berth in the Western Mass. Class C championship game, and Fernandez is confident about the Rams’ chances.

“I think we can really beat them if we come together and play defense like we did today,” Fernandez said. “We’ve just got to score the ball.”

So is Dubuc. Granby has checked a few items off its season wishlist, but it still has a few more to go.

“This has been a goal,” Dubuc said. “We wanted a league champ, we were able to do that. We want to play for a Western Mass. and then try to make a run in states. That’s been the goal and we’re two away.”