Photo Gallery: Hoosa Valley girls' basketball defeated by St. Mary's
WORCESTER - The last two seasons, the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team has made a living making other teams play outside their comfort zone.
In Saturday morning's MIAA Division III state championship game, the Hurricanes were taken out of their game. Hoosac's alternative wasn't good enough to shut down the athletic, high-powered St. Mary's of Lynn offense, and it lost, 74-36.
"It is tough to get a feel for [their athleticism] on tape because you can see it," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said, "but unless you can experience it first-hand, we wouldn't know until we walked out on the court.
The Hurricanes were making their first-ever appearance in a state championship, a journey that began four years ago when Wojcik took over as coach. Seniors Meg Rodowicz and Jenn Gale were on the team his first year and won the South Division crown.
They're a long way away from that title, but still remember the road they took.
"It's just such a great journey to be a part of making history for Hoosac Valley girls basketball," Rodowicz said.
"It's very impressive," Gale said. "We've [taken] baby steps from freshman year to senior year to get here. Hopefully the girls keep going and want that state title, want to be back here."
St. Mary's pressured the ball all over the floor early, but it gave Hoosac fits once it crossed half court. The Spartans used their quickness and overall athleticism to deny on the perimeter. They denied both drives and passes.
McKenzie Robinson and Madi Ryan found moving the ball around the outside challenging, which seldom opened a teammate up for an open look.
"It was very difficult," Ryan said. "One of our plays, Kenz just hands it off to me, but if it was a drive, her girl stepped up. If it was a shot, my girl was in my face. They were just in our face everywhere."
Going into the game, Wojcik thought Hoosac would be able to utilize Emily Rosse on the inside because St. Mary's doesn't start anyone taller than 5-foot-9. But 5-9 forward Gianna Moschella played strong in the post against the Hurricanes' big.
"For them to just guard Rosse, even though I thought we would have an edge with her inside, they're used to paying that kind of defense on those kind of bigs," said Wojcik, citing the Spartans' effort against four 6-foot-tall players in the state semifinals. "They just did a good job fronting her, getting around her and getting in passing lanes.
"The other side of it, the other way you combat getting the ball inside is good pressure on the guards so they have a tough time making those entry passes."
The St. Mary's defense caused long scoring droughts for Hoosac, which helped the Spartans build their lead throughout. The lead topped out at 44 points midway through the fourth quarter.
The Hurricanes were within five (19-14) with 6:38 left in the first half on a Fallon Field drive to the basket, but Hoosac didn't score again until Field hit on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 3:33 left in the half, a span of 3:35.
St. Mary's didn't waste the opportunity to pull away. The Spartans scored 10 points during that stretch to push their lead to 15. It was 17 at the break.
Hoosac's style has often led it to 20-point runs throughout the season. St. Mary's was forcing the Hurricanes out of their pressure and into a zone, but Hoosac was back pressuring the ball to start the second half.
It gave Hoosac opportunities, but the Hurricanes weren't able to convert. Hoosac committed a turnover on an entry pass and missed a layup and St. Mary's - like it did all morning - took advantage.
"We talked at halftime about the first goal was to get it to single digits by the fourth quarter," Wojcik said. "But we had to get stops, and then our end, we had to finish. The third quarter starts and we miss two layups, and they start off with the first five points. Now it goes from 17 to 22."
That was beginning of another dry spell for Hoosac. The Hurricanes didn't get their first points until Rodowicz made two free throws with 4:47 left in the third quarter. They barely scratched the surface of St. Mary's lead, which was now 43-19.
An 8-2 St. Mary's run from that point forced Wojcik to call his second timeout of the quarter, his team now trailing 51-19. When Hoosac broke the huddle, Robinson's face said it all.
"It's amazing to see a small town from Berkshire County like us make it this far," she said. "I can't take anything away from this season. There's only a couple teams practicing still. I just got to focus on my senior year next year. I want one like Jenn and Meg [had]."
To reach Josh Colligan:
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