SPRINGFIELD — Does the Hoophall know how to pick its basketball games or what?
Tonight, the Hoosac Valley and Pittsfield girls basketball teams will make the trek to Springfield College to participate in the 2016 Spaulding Hoophall Classic, and both programs are matched up with other top contenders in their respective divisions.
For Hoosac (9-1), the game will be a rematch with South Hadley (8-0), a team that beat the Hurricanes 60-59 in the Hoosac Valley Holiday Tournament in December. The teams also met in last year's Division III playoffs, with Hoosac advancing over the Tigers in the Western Mass. semifinals.
Pittsfield (6-2), meanwhile, will play undefeated Longmeadow (8-0), in a game many thought would happen last year. In the Western Mass. Division II tournament last season, Longmeadow was seeded No. 1 while Pittsfield was No. 2.
"It's certainly a privilege for us to go down," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said. "They really treat [the players] great. Everything they get to do, from right when you step off the bus [is great]. You feel like you're professionals."
The Hoosac and Pittsfield games are in the middle of the four-game girls' schedule today. Tipping off first is SABIS and Granby at 4 p.m., followed by Hoosac - South Hadley scheduled for 5:30 p.m., then Pittsfield and Longmeadow at 7 p.m. with set for 8;30 p.m. between Springfield Central and Christ the King (N.Y.)
Hoosac is making its second straight appearance in the Hoophall — the Hurricanes lost to SABIS last year — while Pittsfield will make its debut in one of the country's premier basketball showcases.
"The kids are real excited," Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said. "It's an honor to play there. It's the only girls show going on throughout that whole weekend. The kids are excited, the parents are excited to go. We are looking forward to it. The boys have been in the past and they filled us in on some of the itinerary."
While both programs are enthusiastic about being invited to the showcase, the fact remains that both are searching for resume-building wins.
"We are excited about [playing South Hadley]," Wojcik said. "We felt we didn't play well in [the loss] and South Hadley did.
"They are a good team. Getting a second opportunity, you usually don't get that against a team outside your league. We are excited about it. We feel we are playing much better than we were earlier in the season."
Wojcik lamented that his team missed on too many easy shots in the game. Part of that, he said, was the team's relative inexperience going into the game. With the Hurricanes still trying to work in a host of new players to the rotation, Wojcik thinks his team now is better prepared to handle a talented Tigers team.
"I think we've gotten stronger from that loss. It was a good wake-up for everyone, kids and coaches," Wojcik said. "I think the kids have really pushed themselves. The biggest thing going into that game, my concern, was the number of young players that hadn't played enough games in our system and gotten enough practices in. ... Now, I feel differently and hopefully we'll have a better showing."
For the Generals, the match up against Longmeadow comes as Pittsfield is on the rebound. After dropping games to Hoosac Valley and Monument Mountain last week, the team bounced back with a win over Drury earlier in the week and Racicot wants to see the momentum continue.
"It was one of those things where hopefully everything went wrong at one time," Racicot said. "Basically, we've addressed that and we'll see if all the adjustments are going to be working.
"Hopefully this will be a preview of things to come," he added. "Longmeadow, they have a good coach, they've been one of the top teams in our division since the transition [to four divisions]. Basically, we were looking for a big showdown game last year – it looks like this will be the start of our showdown."
There will also be another Berkshire County player participating in the tournament. Lenox's Bailey Patella, who transferred to Vermont Academy this season, will lace up on Sunday against Brewster Academy (N.H.) at 12:30 p.m.. That is one of eight games scheduled for Sunday. In total, 29 games will be played over the five days of the showcase. Thursday featured top area boys teams, Friday will feature the girls, then the weekend and Monday's games will feature some of the top high school and prep programs in the country. For more on the tournament, visit www.thehoophallclassic.com.
The Eagle will be at both games tonight. For live updates from the Hoosac game, follow @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter, and for the Pittsfield game follow @HowardHerman.