CHESHIRE -- Point guards are a hot commodity in basketball. A good one makes the offense work much smoother. Two? Well, now you're just being greedy.
The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team has been operating with two talented point guards all season. Madi Ryan and McKenzie Robinson are far from identical players, but they combine the best of two types of point guards.
As most lineups do, this one started out as an experiment. It didn't begin until after it had already been deployed in the 2013 Western Massachusetts final against Drury. It wasn't until Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik reviewed the game film that he got the idea.
"At the end of the game, when they were kind of pressing to get back into it, I made that switch a couple of times and I had both of them in there," he said. "I could just see such a huge advantage in having two point guards in there. We're a little small size-wise, but the way we play the game, with pressure and running, it really doesn't impact us that much.
"The overall games and the advantages of having them both on the court certainly outweigh the disadvantages."
Last year, Ryan was a freshman and came on to spell Robinson, then a sophomore, throughout games. Now, they're running the show together. It gives the Hurricanes options.
Robinson's established herself as a passer, and her time spent playing with Emily Rosse on an AAU team has helped that relationship evolve into an almost automatic combination at times.
She's also the more experienced guard, and she knows that alone has helped define her role in pressure situations.
"Like my coaches tell me all the time, I'm the one that I need to get the ball," she said after Tuesday's state semifinal win. "I need to calm us down."
Ryan gives Hoosac a more attack-the-basket mentality. Robinson readily admits her fellow guard is better at driving the lane than she is.
When the defense looks primed to give up a drive to the hoop, the two will often switch so Ryan is at the top for an easier drive.
"So if we need a quick layup or something," Robinson said, "Madi's going to take the ball, and Madi's going to get that quick layup for us."
What the two have in common -- aside from shooting the 3-pointer -- is their ability to dribble and control the ball under duress. They and their coach all said that ability has had a big impact on Hoosac's ability to break an opponent's press defense.
That will certainly be put to the test today as the Hurricanes square off against St. Mary's of Lynn in the MIAA Division III state championship game at the DCU Center in Worcester. Game time is slated for 10:45 a.m.
The Spartans like to press all over the floor, but do so with man-to-man coverage, Wojcik said after watching a few game films. When teams do that, it places a lot of pressure on the ball-handler to not commit a turnover.
"We have two dribblers, so either one of us can just take the ball up," Ryan said. "It's just easier."
Often times, teams will have their best defensive player shadow the other team's best offensive player, making it difficult to get the ball to her. It's especially true if the vast majority of the offense runs through that person. If that's a point guard, it can make coordinating the offense that much more difficult and take a team out of its comfort zone.
With two players capable of running the offense, accomplishing that becomes a far more challenging task.
Wojcik's experiment has yielded enough results for him to stick with it beyond today.
"We have another good freshman, Lily [Kronick], coming up," the coach said. "We're developing her as a point guard. I'm thinking down the road when you got Kenzie graduating eventually. Madi moves up into that spot ... It may be something we may stay with for a while."
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