AMHERST - On Thursday night it seemed as if the fourth-seeded North Middlesex Patriots had all of the comforts of home with them in the Curry Hicks Cage - but in the end, a win simply was not in the cards.
A sizzling second half by Longmeadow left the Patriots reeling, as they fell in the Division 2 Western Mass. Semifinals,54-33.
Towards the tail end of the first half on Thursday night, the Patriots held a slim lead, but ultimately kept things close.
Then, North Middlesex was hit with a sizeable scoring drought that seemingly hampered them for the remainder of the game.
"We gained momentum at the end of the half and gained the lead," North Middlesex coach Erik Dellasanta said. "We never gained traction from that point.
We talked a lot this season about closing halfs and closing quarters and getting momentum on our side, I never felt like we got that traction going."
In the final 7:30 of the first half, the Patriots did not make a single field goal and hit just a pair of their four free throws in the stretch.
The second half of Thursday night's contest opened with Longmeadow's Daniel Kofman draining a trio of shots in succession to swing the momentum fully in the Lancers' favor.
Kofman, along with teammate Mike Lemke scored matching game-highs of 12 points for the Lancers.
Dellasanta said that North Middlesex typically wins games where they keep their opposition to under 55 points, but the shots simply would not fall.
The Patriots had trouble maintaining a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.
"We've identified ourselves as a defensive team, and we grind things out," the North Middlesex coach said. "We like to turn our aggressive defense into offense. The ball wasn't falling."
The Patriots saw significant contributions from seniors Mark Rossi and Tyler Thomas.
Both guards hit huge three-pointers in hopes of spurring a comeback that never materialized.
Thomas's contributions as a leader for the Patriots certainly did not go unnoticed, despite early foul trouble against South Hadley and Longmeadow during the squad's postseason run.
"He's tough as nails. I'd go to war with that kid any day of the week," Dellasanta said of Thomas. "He's as good of a competitor as I've had. He's a great leader, keeps his team together. We'll miss him."
The senior guard tallied a team-high nine points in the defeat.
A raucous crowd made the trip west to cheer on the Patriots and for a stretches made it seem as if the home-court advantage was theirs.
"Those kids made the long trip, and I knew they would - I love them," Dellasanta said. "They make us proud, and we tried to pull one out for our kids, and it didn't work out."
North Middlesex ends its season with an overall record of 10-11.