Basketball players at all levels are often told to close out on shooters; running to the player with the ball and attempting to get a hand in his or her face.
Close-outs are effective against spot-up shooters, but if the player can attack the basket off the dribble, a solid pump fake could leave a defender woefully out of position.
Hoosac Valley's Jenn Gale had always been known as a good shooter, but as she learned to attack the basket she became an even deadlier player.
Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said it was the work Gale put in during the offseason that allowed her become a better driver to the basket, making her a more complete player and leading to her All-Eagle MVP honor for the 2013-14 season.
"When she first came in [to the program] she was more of a stand-still shooter," he said. "She spent a lot of time in AAU ball and in the summer working on driving.
"We saw that in the tournament this year. She was getting to the line a lot. She was really the whole package for us. Great leader on and off the court."
"At practice we always practiced our drives and weaving to the basket," Gale said. "It wasn't hard to [shoot or drive] or do whatever was open."
Gale was a four-year varsity player and co-captain along with Meg Rodowicz. The guard shot the ball very efficiently for the Western Mass. champion Hurrricanes.
Gale made 38 3-pointers, shooting 37 percent from behind the arc.
Mount Greylock coach Paul Barrett said, when facing a shooter like Gale, her presence alone can affect what the defense is trying to do.
"You couldn't be too far off her help-wise and closing out on her, because she penetrated pretty well," he said. "She makes you be honest in terms of closing out on her and you've got to respect that. She's gotten better and better, as she's gotten older. She's definitely that dual-threat because of her shooting and driving."
In addition to being a strong player on the court, Wojcik said he respected the work Gale put in to become a leader and a good teammate. He said Gale would organize team dinners and other functions that helped increase team bonding.
"It's very important to know your team inside and out," Gale said. "Bonding can help the team more than you can think of.
"If you're a family off the court, it's easier to be a family on the court, and you're willing to do whatever it takes for one another."
Overall, Wojcik said Gale's sense of team and the importance of making sure everyone was working together is one thing that he'll remember about her.
"The importance of team," he said. "Jenn really preached that along with Meg. Being together as one. ... Sticking together and being there for each other."
Wojcik calls seniors Gale and Rodowicz the faces of the Hoosac program over the last four years. By winning two Western Mass. titles in that time, the Hoosac seniors will be tough to replace. Given the positivity and leadership Gale showed as a teammate, it's impossible to say the program isn't in a better place than it was before she arrived.
Overall, Gale said she's happy with the legacy she left at Hoosac and hopes her teammates can continue to grow the program.
"[Hoosac's] legacy is going to be continuously growing," she said. "The girls are going to work to advance from this point and do better than this year. From winning the South ... to winning Western Mass., it's been baby steps to get to where we are today."
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.