WORCESTER -- Coming into the MIAA Division III state championship against Hoosac Valley, St. Mary's coach Jeff Newhall said he knew Hoosac was going to come with pressure to force his team into turnovers.
Hoosac came with pressure, but the Spartan guards beat the pressure off the dribble and every other defense the Hurricanes threw at them, leading to a 74-36 win on Saturday.
Overall, Hoosac lost in the turnover battle 19-10.
"Our girls all season have been able to take teams out of their game," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said. "Today, they took us out of our game and made us play more half-court defense. We just couldn't match up with them athletically."
The catalyst of the St. Mary's offense was guard Sharell Sanders. The speedy Sanders navigated Hoosac's pressure, found seams in its defense and attacked the basket early. Sanders scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half.
"She was quick," Wojcik said. "She was composed, and she beat us off the dribble. That left us open in the back for [Brianna] Rudolph."
"I thought we played exceptionally well today," Newhall said. "We've played like this all year. We play in a very strong league. We have the ability to combat most defenses because we have three really good guards."
Sanders had a strong first half, but St. Mary's Rudolph, a UMass-Lowell-bound senior guard, played strong throughout. She finished with a game-high 26 points.
Hoosac guard Meg Rodowicz matched up with Rudolph early on defense, but with Rodowicz drawing her second foul early in the first quarter, she had to sit down. Amber Lesure subbed in for Rodowicz, but generally, the Hurricanes tried using a team approach when guarding Rudolph, especially with Rodowicz out of the game.
Rudolph got her offense going early, scoring 16 of her 26 points in the first half. Wojcik said when a player is shooting the way Rudolph was, it doesn't matter who is guarding her.
"She's an unbelievable player," Wojcik said. "She drives and shoots. We saw that on film. She's going Division I, and she's that type of ball player.
"I think she would've scored on anybody we put out there."
With Rudolph's early scoring, the Hurricanes had to play catch-up throughout the game. Rudolph's scoring and the team's inability to generate turnovers made a comeback nearly impossible.
Rudolph entered Saturday's game riding high after a 31-point performance in the state semifinals against Archbishop Williams on Tuesday. She said she was still feeling her shooting touch against Hoosac, as well.
"I felt like after the win [Tuesday], anything was possible," Rudolph said. "I have a little bit more confidence to shoot the ball when [shots] are going in. More confidence carried over from the Williams game, and it's been up during the tournament run."
Hoosac knew what to expect from Rudolph, Sanders and outside shooter Jennie Mucciarone. The plan was to allow someone else to beat them. However, the trio combined for 45 points.
The Spartans also received strong contributions from starter Gianna Moshella (14 points and eight rebounds), and reserve player Kayla Carter (10 points, five rebounds). Overall, Hoosac struggled to matchup with the athletic ability of St. Mary's.
"We tried to double them, but they're very good ball handlers and very good shooters," Hoosac guard Jenn Gale said. "[St. Mary's] is nothing like we've seen in Berkshire County or in Western Mass."
"I think we could've played a lot better than we did, but they're a great team," Rodowicz said. "They outhustled us, but I'm so proud of where we are today, and so proud of where we came. I couldn't be happier for my team."
Wojcik said it's important to remember the journey his team took to get to this point. He said the last four years with seniors Rodowicz and Gale were memorable.
"If you look back on the journey, you're the first team to have two Western Mass. titles in four years. That's not a bad resume," he said. "It's been a great journey, and Jenn and Meg have been the face of our program for the last four years."
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