Sunday March 10, 2013

AMHERST -- Hoosac Valley guard Jen Gale stood at the foul line with time running down in Saturday's Western Mass. Division II girls basketball final.

In front of her, the Hoosac Valley High School student body stood behind the basket, chanting.

"MVP! MVP!" they roared.

Gale smiled and sank two free throws, her fifth and sixth in a row.

The junior guard sank 7 of 8 free throws in the second half, scored 16 points and helped the Hurricanes to their first Western Mass. girls basketball championship ever, 47-35 over rival and top seed Drury.

As good as Gale was, the Hurricanes had a number of heroes. Sophomore Emily Rosse scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half and pulled down 10 rebounds. Junior Megan Rodowicz scored eight points and played outstanding defense on Drury guard Danielle Racette.

And after senior Tori Rumbolt went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter, Erika Lucia, Madison Ryan and McKenzie Robinson took over Hoosac's ballhandling duties.

"Everyone has their job on this team," said Rodowicz. "I don't score a lot, but my job is defense. If I do my job, and everyone else does theirs, we'll win."

"This team is amazing," said Hurricane coach Ron Wojcik. "When they get hit in the face, they just get up. And believe me, Tori getting injured was a big whack in the face."

Wojcik said Rumbolt is probably out for the postseason.

"They played a great game," said Drury coach John Franzoni. "Give them credit. I thought we had a couple of chances to pull away, but they responded."

The Blue Devils led 7-6 after a quarter in which both teams defended each other to distraction. Drury hit a pair of buckets to pull out to an 11-6 lead early in the second, but the Hurricanes responded with a 6-0 run, capped by a Rosse hook shot to lead, 12-11. Hoosac led 14-13 at halftime.

"I thought we had a few chances to pull ahead by more when we led 11-6," said Franzoni. "We had, what, four or five possessions where we didn't convert. And they came back."

The Hurricanes began to slowly pull away in the third quarter. Rodowicz was frustrating Racette on the perimeter and the Hurricanes were battling Drury's bigger players underneath.

"I'll tell you, Megan Rodowicz had an incredible tournament," said Wojcik. "She's a great weapon. She's quick, she's long, she deflects passes. She did a great job on Racette today, and she stopped [Mahar star Jill] Valley in the semis. She's been very tough."

Racette ended up with four points, all on foul shots.

A Rosse hoop and an Erika Lucia fast break hoop pushed the lead to 30-23 after three periods.

But the Blue Devils are a veteran squad. They did not fold. Shannon Garvey scored eight points and added seven rebounds after intermission and Emily Moulton had a basket and six rebounds.

The biggest problem was that the Blue Devils were getting to the line, but not converting. Drury was 10 for 18 from the line in the second half, while Hoosac was 14 for 18. Four of those Drury misses were the front end of one-and-one trips.

"We were certainly not very good from the line," said Franzoni.

Gale drilled two free throws and Rosse scored in low and suddenly, with about four minutes left, Hoosac was up by nine. At Franzoni's behest, Racette began pushing the ball. But Drury still struggled to score.

"Right now, I don't know, I still can't believe it," said Lucia after the game. "From the beginning of the season, we all thought we would be here, but it's still hard to believe."

Garvey's 10 points and nine rebounds led the Blue Devils.