CHESHIRE -- Hoosac Valley Middle and High School is hosting the seventh installment of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday.
The tournament, started by Hoosac boys coach Bill Robinson as a tribute to his wife Lynne, features three North County girls basketball teams facing off against three Pioneer Valley teams, in an effort to raise cancer awareness and generate funds for the American Cancer Society.
"It's important putting the program together, because cancer has impacted everybody directly or indirectly," Hoosac girls coach Ron Wojcik said. " ... It's an opportunity to take a sport we love and make a positive contribution."
Drury, Mount Greylock and Hoosac represent Berkshire County, and Hampshire, Frontier and Granby represent the Valley.
This year's installment is the first year where boys teams will not be featured, and the tournament will not be a two-day event.
Despite the smaller field, Wojcik said he anticipates bringing in around $15,000 for the American Cancer Society, in addition to funds raised at the ticket gate and referee contributions.
In the past, the refs would donate their time, instead of being paid, which allowed the money saved to go toward the tournament.
This year, every member of the IAABO Board 25 will make a donation to the cancer fund.
Mike Kinne, head of the IAABO, said the relationships his refs developed with the coaches and players over the years made increasing their donation an easy decision.
"It's a way for the organization to show support to Coaches vs. Cancer," he said. "It's our way of giving back to a worthwhile fund.
"We're a small county. We have a closer relationship than you would in most states, so we're doing our part to be involved."
On the court, Wojcik said the relationship between Berkshire County and the Pioneer Valley is beneficial for both sides. He said Valley teams typically bring many fans ,even when they're on the road, and it's a way of expanding the tournament and bringing in more fans.
"[Pioneer Valley has] teams you're going to see in the tournament. [They] offer a different style and a different type of play," he said. "Pioneer Valley has always been represented well in the Western Mass. tourney."
Granby vs. Hoosac Valley
The final game of the night is the tournament headliner, as two of the top girls teams in Western Mass. face off.
Granby enters its matchup against Hoosac a perfect 12-0. Last week, the Rams dealt Sabis its first loss of the season in an eight-point, grind-it-out win at the Hoophall Classic.
Granby is led by sisters Meghan and Kate Sullivan. Meghan is a junior guard/forward, while Kate is a freshman that handles the point guard duties. The Rams also feature a solid post presence in Rebecca Sapouchkey.
"Granby has a big center," Wojcik said. "The two Sullivan sisters shoot the ball well, very talented skill-wise, good defensively and they play together."
For Granby and coach Tom Burke, the chance to play in a Coaches vs. Cancer tournament is about more than just basketball.
Burke is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer four years ago, and has been cancer-free for more than a year. Burke also lost both of his parents to cancer, so any opportunity to raise funds for cancer has a special place in his heart.
"We're really happy to be involved with the tournament because of the cause," he said. "I've always been a fan of Berkshire County basketball. ... Every year, teams in Berkshire County are represented in the Western Mass. tournament, so you've got to play the best to beat the best."
Burke said his team will look to slow down the fast-paced Hoosac attack by using solid half-court sets. He added his team will be selective when using pressure, as they primarily rely on man-to-man defense.
When facing Hoosac's pressure, Burke said his players must work together, and even with a freshman ballhandler, he said Kate Sullivan is not easily shaken.
"The pressure is always a concern. Not just against Kate, but as a team," he said. "We've got to break it as a team. We can't expect to just put the ball on the floor against a good team, but [Kate] is fearless, she's fearless."
Drury vs. Hampshire
The Hampshire Red Raiders enter Saturday's matchup on a six-game winning streak.
Katie O'Connor will be looking to score and is coming off a 21-point performance against Palmer on Wednesday. Laura Whiteley has shown the ability to connect from three-point range.
Drury's Emily Moulton facing off against O'Connor will be an interesting matchup to watch. Olivia Carlson brings a post presence for Drury as well.
Mount Greylock vs. Frontier
Frontier enters its matchup against Greylock with a 4-6 record. Amanda Calvo and Olivia Riordan are two scorers to watch for the Red Hawks.
Wahconah dealt the Red Hawks a 19-point defeat in December, holding them to just 22 points. That game was early in the season, but the Red Hawks have been up and down throughout.
Expect a motivated Greylock team, which is coming off a 19-point loss to Hoosac on Thursday. Stopping Lucy Barrett should be a priority for Frontier. If the Red Hawks can contain Barrett, look for increased offensive production from teammates Arianna Walden, Jenna Benzinger and Mackenzie Flynn.
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
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