NORTH ADAMS -- The Drury girls' basketball team watched South Hadley score 68 points in its first round victory over Easthampton.
The one positive to watching the Tigers score that many points was that the Blue Devils' defense wasn't on the court. No team has reached that plateau against Drury this season. And if the No. 1 seeded Blue Devils want to advance to the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinals for the first time since 2007, they'll have to keep it that way.
"Defense is going to be our key, against Easthampton they scored 68 points," senior Danielle Racette said. "That can't happen. I don't think that will happen. Not against our defense."
The Blue Devils gave up an average of 34.5 points this season. Only once did a team score more than 50 points on them. Drury has held opponents to under 30 points six times.
It's safe to say the Blue Devils biggest strength is defense.
"[South Hadley] made 11 3s when we watched them on Monday night," Drury coach John Franzoni said. "We've watched teams in that [first] round score 60, 68, 70 points before and we've said ‘they didn't score that on our defense.' "
While South Hadley hasn't faced the Blue Devils defense this year, it still has put together some impressive numbers. No. 8 South Hadley enters the quarterfinal game averaging 56.7 points per game. Its season high is 71.
The Blue Devils aren't putting to much thought into the high numbers
"Just keep playing our good, solid defense," Ali Tatro said. "Really just putting the pressure on every team we play and go against. It's worked so far."
The only common opponent for these teams was Taconic. South Hadley topped the Braves 45-39. Drury swept the Braves this year, beating them 52-18 early in the year and then 48-40 later on.
"It's definitely different going up against a team we haven't played," Shannon Garvey said. "We went to see them play, and I think we know what we are getting into. I think we are ready."
While defense has been the focus for this version of the Blue Devils, this year's team has featured an improved offense.
Garvey has led the way offensively this year, averaging 12.1 points per game for the Blue Devils. Racette has been the catalyst for the offense. She's distributed the ball well, but can also find the basket when she needs to. She averaged 10 points a game and nearly six assists.
Drury's season high came against Pittsfield, as it scored 63 points in a late-season win. The Blue Devils have scored 50 or more points eight times this season. Last year, they topped 50 points just twice.
"The good thing about this team this year is we really have scored some points," Franzoni said. "We're not looking to get in a shootout, but we know we can score, too."
Franzoni led the Blue Devils to the Curry Hicks Cage for the semifinals in his first five seasons as the head coach. The team advanced to the finals in the 2004-2005 season, as well as the 2005-2006 season. Drury hasn't been back to the semifinals since 2007.
This group of Blue Devils has yet to win a quarterfinal game in their career. Last season, Drury earned the No. 3 seed and lost at home to Athol. Drury has been knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals every year since 2009.
"I think the key now is that we are ready to get over that hump," Franzoni said. "South Hadley is a very good team. They are a tough team and we are going to have to play our best [today] in order to advance."
A win will earn the Blue Devils a trip to the Curry Hicks Cage on the campus of UMass-Amherst for the semifinals. They will play the winner of the Wahconah and Belchertown game.
Having not gotten past the quarterfinals yet and earning the No. 1 seed might add a little pressure to tonight's contest for Drury's seniors.
"I don't think so," Tatro said. "I think we're a level headed team and we know what we have to do and what we are capable of doing."
The essentials ...
Who: No 8. South Hadley at No. 1 Drury girls
What: WMass. D-II Quarterfinal
Where: Drury High School
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
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