CHESHIRE — If the 2015-16 Hoosac Valley girls basketball team runs into South Hadley in the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament, the Hurricanes learned a valuable lesson on Saturday afternoon.
"We just need to learn to bring our game every game," said Hoosac's Fallon Field. "We can't get too confident because a girl like Sophie [Gatzounas] will kill us if we don't bring our game.
"We have to go into every practice focusing, so we can go into every game focused."
Field earned All-Tournament honors by scoring a team-high 21 points and pulling down seven rebounds. But Gatzounas, the South Hadley sophomore forward, had a double-double with a game-high 30 points and 14 rebounds as the Tigers edged the Hurricanes 60-59 in the championship game of the Hoosac Valley Holiday Tournament. Gatzounas was the most valuable player of the tournament.
The two teams played last year in the Western Massachusetts Division III semifinal, with Hoosac beating South Hadley. They will face each other next month in the HoopHall Classic at Springfield College.
Hoosac had two chances in the final 15 seconds, but shots by Kailynne Frederick and Lexi Mercier did not fall and Hoosac (2-1) had its first loss of the season.
"Maybe it's a wakeup call for players in their own minds a little bit. We knew, going in, that we still had a lot of things to work on," said Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik. "South Hadley is a good team. I just thought it came down to effort tonight. They beat us to loose balls and rebounds."
Historically, Hoosac is the team that does the out-rebounding. Not on Saturday, as the Tigers had a 52-37 rebounding advantage, which erased the turnover battle which Hoosac had won.
"We scrap, but I know a good rebounding team is going to hurt us," said the Hoosac coach. "We're not at the point yet, fundamentally, where we're looking for some things boxout-wise and going to get the ball, where we should be."
Hoosac led by as many as eight point, 24-16 in the second quarter, but South Hadley came back to lead 29-27 at halftime. Then, after trailing by as many as six points in the third quarter, the Hurricanes came back to take a 55-51 lead with 2:08 remaining on a hoop by Field. But South Hadley answered with seven unanswered points, including a huge 3-point basket by All-Tournament selection Marley Medina.
"Nothing feels better than beating this team," said Gatzounas. "They're a great team and they're tough every year. We wanted this one.
"Especially losing to them in the semis last year at the Cage and them going on to win [the Western Mass. Division III title]. This is great."
An 8-2 run by Hoosac gave them the lead with 2:08 left. Field scored off an inbounds pass from Madi Ryan to make it 55-51. But the Tigers answered with those seven points and when Medina caught a pass from freshman guard Mia Kelly and drained a trey, the Tigers were on top for keeps.
Gatzounas helped ice the victory by going 11 for 11 from the foul line in the second half, 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
Ryan added 11 points for the Hurricanes.
South Hadley 60, Hoosac Valley 50
South Hadley (60)
A. Edge 3-0-6, M. Edge 0-1-1, Kelly 3-1-7, Gatzounas 8-11-30, Fitzgerald 2-0-4, Ippolito 0-1-1, Gawron 1-1-4, Conner 0-0-0, Medina 3-0-7, Earle 0-0-0. Totals 20-15-60.
Mercier 3-0-9, F. Field 6-6-21, Garabedian 0-0-0, McMahon 1-2-4, E. Field 0-0-0, Ryan 3-5-11, Mendel 2-0-4, Case 1-0-3, Frederick 3-1-7. Totals 19-14-59.
3-point goals — SH 5 (Gatzounas 3, Gawron, Medina). HV 7 (Mercier 3, Field 3, Case).