The drive from Hoosac Valley Regional High School to the Curry Hicks Cage is roughly 45 miles each way. It's a drive that's become familiar for the Hoosac girls basketball team, driving the winding roads of Route 116 before ending up in Amherst.
But it's a drive that the team has grown accustomed to making twice each season. If the second-seeded Hurricanes are going to make that second drive on Saturday — and potentially cap a four-peat of Western Mass. championships — they'll have to take care of No. 3 Hampshire, and its tandem of 1,000-point scorers Chelsea Moussette and Katy O'Connor, in the D-III semifinals first.
"I've seen them three or four times now ... they are both legit," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said. "O'Connor brings it at you in the paint, goes after offensive boards with reckless abandon.
"Moussette is arguably the fastest guard we've seen all season. She really attacks."
The key, as ever with the Hurricanes, comes on the defensive end.
Hoosac's pressure schemes will be tested by Moussette's speed, and Wojcik said that's an area of concern.
"We have to adjust," Wojcik said. "Frankly, our biggest issues this year, in my opinion, has been our ball containment. Our biggest thing is ball containment. If we can contain the ball with pressure on it, and make kids make decisions, make other kids have to make decisions, that's when we can usually get some things going."
The Hurricanes have been picking up steam over the last three games. After returning from a road trip out east with a pair of losses, the Hurricanes have responded with three wins while holding opponents to an average of 43.3 points per game. Offensively, the team has reached 55-or-more in all three.
But in the team's 59-51 win over Granby, the Rams were able to score points partly due to breaking the Hoosac press for easy buckets. Wojcik said that's something his team can't let happen against Hampshire.
"You won't see us stay in anything long if we are giving up easy layups, because I think points can be hard to come by there," Wojcik said. "While you want to stay true to who you are a little bit, when you have a guard like this and an inside presence, you have to be a little careful."
Hoosac's familiarity with the Cage could also be a benefit. While only four of the players have seen significant minutes there, those four are Madi Ryan, Cassidy McMahon, Fallon Field and Kailynne Frederick — arguably the four most important players for Hoosac.
"Madi, Fallon, [Frederick] have all been there through the wars," Wojcik said. "It's a big venue, it's a big court. I think kids, you come out with all this nervous energy [and] you can get tired really quickly."
Field enters the game off of a 23-point performance against Granby and will again be a focal point with her driving to the basket.
Ryan will also be a key cog for Hoosac. Wojcik said he expects to see a few different defensive sets from Hampshire, and the senior point will have to recognize and react accordingly to set the offense.
"For us, it comes down to execution," Wojcik said. "One of the things I'm going to mention to the girls is that you can't just come down, especially at the Cage and against a good-size team, and start chucking up threes.
"We like to take a lot of threes, but they have to be within the realm of the offense."
Luckily for Hoosac, those threes can come from anywhere. Freshmen Alie Mendel and Lexi Mercier can get shots in the flow of the offense, and Skylar Case hit a pair of big threes against Granby to keep the Hurricanes going.
For Hampshire, Nicole Buzzee, Caroline O'Connor and Katelyn Pickunka will have to provide complimentary scoring for Moussette and Katy O'Connor.
The winner of this game will play No. 4 Drury on Saturday for the championship. Drury dispatched No. 9 Mount Greylock, 41-38, on Tuesday afternoon.
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.