At approximately 2 p.m. today, either the Hoosac Valley Hurricanes or the Bishop Fenwick Crusaders will hoist its first state championship in girls basketball.
All that's left now is to see which program gets its shining moment at the MassMutual Center.
The Hurricanes and the Crusaders meet in the MIAA Division III state championship game at noon, kicking off the first of four state championship games to be played at the MassMutual Center. With the bright lights shining on these two teams first, it will be a nervy moment for both sides. For a Hoosac Valley team coming off back-to-back state championship losses, that might not be a bad thing.
"It's [the seniors'] last game, ever, for Hoosac," senior Cassidy McMahon said. "I just think we want it more than we have in the past years. That's just kind of what it feels like throughout practices and everything."
The Hurricanes will get a third shot at taking down a Catholic Central League opponent after falling to St. Mary's of Lynn in 2014 and Archbishop Williams in 2015. The pressure is on Hoosac to try and end its title-game skid, but with the emotions of last year's loss still stewing beneath the surface, the Hurricanes are as ready as ever.
"I'd say that we accepted [the loss], but there's still a little bit of anger left," Hoosac's other senior, Madi Ryan, said. "We want it a lot more because of what we've dealt with the past few years."
There's a difference between wanting and getting, though. If the Hurricanes are going to hang up their first state championship banner, they have to stop a streaking Crusaders team to do it. While Bishop Fenwick doesn't present the challenges that St. Mary's and Archbishop Williams did — most notably a lack of Division I prospects for the Crusaders — the team is willing to match Hoosac's intensity. Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik expects his team to be in a dogfight.
"They hustle, they shoot the three well, they work hard," Wojcik said, "but I wouldn't say anyone is way, way above [us]. Where we had to contend with these tremendous D-I athletes the last two years, we don't have to contend with that now.
"But, we have to contend with a solid, hard-nosed basketball team that puts five really good players on the court, and they work their tail off. They are one of the hardest working teams I've seen."
The Crusaders have only won one other sectional title in school history, an Eastern Massachusetts North title in 1990. For coach Adam DeBaggis, though, the magnitude of the occasion is offset by the overall experience of his team.
"The seniors this year, a lot of them have been on the team for four years and have been incredible leaders," DeBaggis said. "We had high expectations this year, for sure."
The Crusaders present another interior problem for the Hurricanes. Fenwick's 5-foot-10 Colleen Corcoran and 5-foot-9 Mikayla Porcaro both hold a height advantage over Hoosac, and Wojcik has laid a marker down for his side on what they have to accomplish against the duo.
"We have to stay even on the boards," Wojcik said. "If we are in one of our presses or traps, we aren't necessarily in good rebounding position.
"If we find we are getting beaten on the boards, we may have to adjust accordingly during the game."
Both teams can also generate offense from the perimeter. Hoosac can get perimeter shooting from players such as Fallon Field, Alie Mendel and Ryan, while the Crusaders have knock-down shooters of their own in Sydney Brennan, Fredi DeGuglielmo and Sam Mancinelli.
"[Fenwick] can put a good solid three or four shooters on the perimeter," Wojcik said. "We are going to have to extend our coverage a little bit. We are planning on doing that, seeing if we can get a hand in their face and not make it easy."
DeBaggis also touched on the importance of the 3-point shot.
"The 3-pointer has really come along as a big thing in basketball," the Fenwick coach said. "It's always one of the talking points, closing down shooters.
"A lot of times we are in a half-court man trying to focus on playing help defense — communicating on defense no matter what we are doing."
Both coaches noted the similarities between their teams. If the matchup really is as close as both coaches think, much of Saturday comes down to one concept — execution.
"If we can come out and play our game, we can be there and be competitive with them," Wojcik said.
One team will leave the MassMutual Center in pure ecstasy, the other in pure heartbreak. The only thing left to do is figure out which team finishes where.
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.