Hoosac Valley girls celebrate Senior Night with win over Pittsfield
CHESHIRE — Senior Night is always a bittersweet event for high school athletic programs. The night offers seniors time to reflect on their careers. Time to look back on all the blood sweat and tears spilled during practice, far away from the bright lights of their home gym and the applause of adoring home fans.
For the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team, Senior Night allows the Hurricanes time to appreciate the progress of the program. The current group of seniors (Skylar Case, Jess Halverson and Kayla Garabedian) have been a part of three Western Massachusetts championship and state runner-up teams. They've followed in the footsteps of the seniors before them and hope to leave a lasting legacy of their own. On Thursday against Pittsfield, the Hurricanes used their trademark pressure defense and team-oriented basketball to earn a 67-55 win.
"It's definitely challenging," Case said on being part of the powerhouse program. "A lot of girls that have gone through, they've left a really high bar. We need to continue to work and be confident and work up to that stature. I think we're doing a really good job so far.
"As a senior I've realized that it's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun at the same time."
The Hoosac (16-1, 6-1 Berkshire North) press was at its smothering best in the first half. The pressure forced 17 first-half turnovers, generating points off the miscues and points in transition. When Pittsfield (10-5, 3-3) did break the press — playing without post player Lexi Garvey (flu) — they lacked that safety valve underneath to dump the ball to. The 'Canes closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run. Lexi Mercier (13 points) started the second quarter with a 3-pointer coming off multiple offensive rebounds.
Pittsfield battled back using 3-pointers by Lachazity Shaver and Bella Aitken (21 points) to cut Hoosac's lead to three. Kendra Castagna and Taea Bramer (12 points) converted 3-point plays, putting the Generals up one with 2 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first half.
The 'Canes did not panic during Pittsfield's hot-shooting streak. They continued to attack the rim, exploiting Garvey's absence for points in the paint and trips to the free-throw line. Mercier sank two foul shots with 1:21 left, giving Hoosac back the lead. Riley Robinson (19 points) added a layup at the buzzer off a hard drive to the basket. Hoosac would not trail again.
"We planned in practice how we were going to go against Garvey," Robinson said. "I think me and Sarah Field, the other sophomore, were trying to go down low. [Coach Ron Wojcik] told us we needed to attack more and we did. We attacked the gaps and we were able to take advantage of them."
Pittsfield had much more success beating Hoosac's press in the second half. The visitors moved the ball well, created looks but struggled to finish at the basket, forcing them to settle for 3-pointers. Their strategy worked for part of the half, as Bramer found Aitken for an easy basket. Bramer followed with a trey, cutting the deficit to one. After four straight Hoosac points, Aitken answered with a three late in the quarter. Pittsfield's offense fell quiet in the fourth as Hoosac out-scored the Generals 20-12. Field finished with 12 points. Alie Mendel scored 11 of her 17 points from the free-throw line. Hoosac had a 24-7 advantage in made free throws.
"Things were looking positive even though we were throwing the ball away a lot," Pittsfield coach Joe Racicot said. "The big thing about breaking the press is you've got to make those bunnies. It comes back to haunt you as it did tonight."
Adding to the bittersweet feeling of the night is the realization that the current group of seniors have a limited number of games left at Hoosac. Wojcik said he's proud to see his players graduate and move on to the next step of their lives, but the plan is always to extend the season as long as possible with a deep postseason run.
"At the end of the season I'm more disappointed — after the last four years its been the state finals — because that's the last game you get to coach and work with those girls. Hopefully that doesn't come too soon for us."
Curry 1-2-5, Shade 0-0-0, Castagna 1-2-4, Bramer 5-1-12, Perkett 1-0-2, Aitken 8-2-21, Buda 0-0-0, Shaver 1-0-3. Lummus 4-0-8. Totals: 21-7-55.
Canales 0-0-0, Mercier 4-2-13, Halverson 1-0-2, Garabedian 0-0-0, Robinson 5-9-19, Hugger 0-0-0, Mendel 3-11-17, Case 1-2-4, Field 5-0-12, Levesque 0-0-0. Totals: 19-24-67.
Pittsfield 10 18 15 12 — 55
Hoosac 20 11 16 20 — 67
3-point goals — P 6 (Curry, Bramer, Aitken 3, Shaver). H 5 (Mercier 3, Field 2).
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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