MIAA basketball championship: St. Mary's style will look familiar to Hoosac Valley girls
CHESHIRE -- Heading into Saturday's Division III state championship game against Saint Mary's of Lynn, the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team is preparing for a team that plays a similar style of basketball.
Both teams like to pressure full-court, and run when given the opportunity. The key for Hoosac will be keeping up with the Spartans' athletes, particularly UMass-Lowell-bound senior Brianna Rudolph.
Rudolph is coming off a 31-point performance against Archbishop Williams on Tuesday in the state semifinals. The 31 points accounted for all but 16 of the team's points.
Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said regardless of opponent, the main focus for his team is execution.
"[St. Mary's] is a better matchup for us than an Archbishop Williams, which has three or four girls over six feet [tall]," he said. "What it will come down to is whichever team executes better. If they're a lot quicker than us -- and we won't know that until we get on the court -- than we'll have to adjust the way we press a little bit."
Randolph may be the go-to scorer for the Spartans, but St. Mary's has capable role players as well. Senior guard Sharell Sanders is a speedy guard, and Jannie Mucciarone is a 3-point specialist. Both Sanders (Caldwell College) and Mucciarone (Tufts University) are college-level athletes, as well.
"They have three great ball players, and they all can score," Wojcik said. "It's a matter of keeping them in check; and when we get the ball, it's about handling their pressure as well.
"We've played against quite a few college ball players, so I think we'll be OK."
St. Mary's has perimeter athletes, but they're are not very big down low. One player that could create a mismatch in the post is Hoosac forward Emily Rosse.
Against Bellingham on Tuesday, Rosse showed the ability to battle against bigger players. Her play in the post, and the ability to step out and hit jumpers and run the floor, will be valuable assets, especially if St. Mary's does not have a player to match her physicality.
"Coach said they don't have that many bigs. They have one that's going to match up with me," Rosse said. "I feel like I can have a good impact if I just keep up the pace, and post every time I can get the ball."
Saturday's title game will be a new experience for Hoosac Valley, playing in its first state championship in program history. St. Mary's has played on the stage before, most recently beating Lee, 64-54, in 2011. Rudolph came off the bench and scored 11 points as a freshman against Lee, while Mucciarone started as a freshman and scored two points.
The experience St. Mary's has will help early on when nerves can factor into the game.
Despite not having state championship experience, Wojcik said his team will play with an edge Saturday.
"Typically for Western Mass. teams, it's more of an underdog role when you go down to Boston," he said. "It helps us, and I think it's an advantage.
"There's a difference from being confident and cocky. Once any team becomes cocky, you lose some of your edge. ... I don't know them personally, but the Eastern teams look at the Western teams as not being as strong as them."
Making sure the team knows which personnel is on the floor, and not letting them beat you in the way they're accustomed to is another point of emphasis for the Hurricanes.
Hoosac guard Jenn Gale said strong defense will help the team get comfortable early and translate to the offense.
"[Nerves factor in] a little bit," she said. "But defense always calms the nerves."
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