AMHERST >> The Drury girls basketball team had Hoosac Valley where it wanted throughout the first half of Saturday's Western Mass. Division III championship game at the Curry Hicks Cage.
But the Blue Devils knew it would take more than a half to stop the second-seeded Hurricanes, who were chasing after a fourth straight Western Mass. championship.
And the four-seed still couldn't stop the comeback.
The Hurricanes came out of halftime down three, but immediately grabbed the lead back through its swarming defense in the third. When Fallon Field took a steal the length of the court for a finish midway through the period, the basket put Hoosac up for good en route to a 51-40 win.
"I think, to me, it's about getting our team up," Field, who scored a game-high 24 points, said of her outburst. "If it's me scoring, then the team gets up. If it's someone else, [we get up]. ... Sometimes it's Alie [Mendel], sometimes it's Madi [Ryan], but as soon as that one person gets going, our team gets up, and that's what helped us today."
The third quarter was a marked turnaround from what had transpired in the previous 16 minutes. Drury came out looking more like the defending champions than Hoosac did, and two Brooke DiGennaro (12 points) triples in the opening four minutes up Drury up 10-2. The Blue Devils eventually worked the lead up to 14-4.
From there, though, it was a slow burn as Hoosac started whittling down the lead.
"We really pushed that lead," Drury's Liv Carlson said of the opening barrage. "They were the ones that got frustrated first, and that was really to our advantage. But you have to give [Hoosac] credit, they caught up. They ran their stuff and they played their game. We let them play their game."
Lexi Mercier stopped the bleeding for Hoosac with a 3-pointer with 1:08 to go in the first. After one, Drury led 17-9.
Field opened the second with a three to get Hoosac within five, but then Drury pushed back and DiGennaro's third triple — she ended with four — made it 21-12.
"They were hungry for us," Field said of Drury. "Most teams are. But we are rivals and we beat them twice this season already. They came out hard and we didn't really bring it in the beginning."
Drury's offense, though, went cold after the three. Hoosac tied things up at 21-all with 2:05 to go in the second on a free throw from Ryan. Drury mustered four more points before the half to go up 25-22, but the lead was even tighter than that.
In the halftime break, Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik let his team have it. Displeased with the way the Hurricanes played defense in the half, Wojcik challenged his girls to play "Hoosac basketball" in the second half.
"We talked about the first four or five minutes of the second half, [and how] we need to turn it up and start playing Hoosac basketball," Wojcik said. "We threw in another press we run ... and I thought that helped. More than anything it's the kids themselves, it's the all pressure, it's the rotations. Once we started scoring, Drury were back on their heels a little bit."
Hoosac forced 11 of Drury's 21 turnovers in the third. Swarming the press higher up the court, the Hurricanes took advantage of a tiring Drury team to start creating chances.
The teams exchanged opening baskets and then an Alie Mendel free throw cut the deficit to 27-25. That's when Field started her own run to push Hoosac back over the top. Field had a pair of steals during the 7-point outburst, and her final three came on an and-one drive to the hole off of a Drury turnover.
"They took us out of our game," Carlson said of Hoosac. "We couldn't run our offense, we couldn't get it over the half court, we started rushing our passes and they took advantage."
After three, Hoosac led 37-29. In the fourth, Drury didn't let Hoosac run away, but the Hurricanes kept a healthy seven- or eight-point lead throughout the frame. As the clock started winding down, the Hurricanes waited to start celebrating. By the time the whistle finally blew, it was a special mix of emotions for the Hurricanes.
"It's probably one of the best feelings in the world," Field said. "We are going to go to practice tomorrow and we are going to keep going, and I feel very lucky that I get to go to practice tomorrow."
For seniors Ryan and McMahon, the win means they will finish as four-time Western Mass. champions.
"It was a pretty good feeling," McMahon said about hearing the final whistle. "It's really cool because we played them freshman year, too. But they definitely gave us a game today."
Field finished with nine rebounds and four steals to go with her points. Ryan had eight points, three assists and four steals. Frederick had seven points, five rebounds and two blocks.
For Drury, Carlson had three points and a game-high 21 rebounds. Katie Toomey finished with six points and 11 boards.
Drury coach Brian Flagg stated the obvious when he said his team was sad to have its season ended this way, but he still wants his team to remember the championship game.
"Well, I told them, especially the seniors, let your emotions show," Flagg said. "Be sad that it's over, but don't be sad about your performance."
For Hoosac, now comes the fun part. The Hurricanes will play Central Mass. champion Littleton in the Division III semifinals on Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester.
"I never though I'd want practice, but I live for it," Ryan said. "I want it every day."
DiGennaro 4-0-12, Lamarre 0-0-0, Giron 0-0-0, Crosier 0-0-0, M. Moulton 2-5-9, Wissman 0-0-0, Crews 0-1-1, Toomey 3-0-6, J. Moulton 2-3-7, Carlson 1-1-3. Totals 13-10-40
HOOSAC VALLEY (51)
Mercier 2-0-5, F. Field 6-11-24, Garabedian 1-0-2, McMahon 1-0-3, E. Field 0-0-0, Ryan 3-3-8, Mendel 0-3-3, Case 0-0-0, Barrow 0-0-0, Frederick 3-1-7. Totals 14-19-51.
3-point goals – D 4 (DiGennaro 4), HV 4 (Mercier, Field, McMahon, Ryan).
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.