Player of the Week: Gale thrilled about crown
It's been more than a day since the Hoosac Valley girls beat Drury to claim the Western Massachusetts Division II championship. To the players, the dream continues.
"It hasn't [sunk in] yet, no," Hoosac's Jenn Gale said Sunday night.
The Hoosac junior scored 16 points and helped clinch the 47-35 victory by going 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Her performance earned her the Eagle's Player-of-the-Week honor.
Gale and her teammates won the first basketball title for the school since the boys won in 2009. It was the first time the Hurricanes got to a Western Mass. final since they lost to Taconic in 1992.
For Gale, winning a Western Mass. title is an "awesome" feeling. It puts her team in the company of 1,000-point scorers like Nicky Vallieres, Kerry Mularczyk and Paula Hayden -- none of whom did what Gale and her teammates did.
"A lot of people say we're the best Lady ‘Canes that there ever were," she said. "I'd like to think that, but I haven't seen any of the other Lady ‘Canes who have played. I feel that we're a great team to be reckoned with."
Coach Ron Wojcik's Hurricanes earned a No. 7 seed in the Western Mass. Tournament, beat Palmer 49-36 and needed two overtimes to knock off perennial power Hampshire Regional 65-61.
It was a sixth seed vs. a seventh seed in the Western Mass. semifinal, and the Hurricanes knocked off No. 6 Mahar 57-37, setting up Saturday's game with the archrival Blue Devils.
And as the final seconds ticked away, Gale said she didn't look at the clock first.
"I actually was looking at the [Drury] girls' faces, watching them," she said. "Then I finally realized that the time was ticking down and we won. It just felt awesome and we beat our rival."
Gale said that when the first day of practice rolled around the Monday after Thanksgiving, accomplishing a Western Massachusetts championship was possible.
"I was thinking that we definitely possibly could be," said Gale.
Some of her teammates felt the same way, which was a far cry from when they took the court in November 2011.
"Last season, we went in thinking it would be a miracle if we won. This season, we went into every game thinking that we could do it," she said, "and that was just an awesome feeling to do it.
It was not only the first win for Hoosac, but it was the first Western Mass. title for Wojcik. He took Pittsfield teams to the Cage, but could not get a banner to hang. Gale gives the credit for the win to her coach.
"I don't know how to explain how thankful we are that we have him as a coach," she said. "He's brought us so far. We're looking to improve and do better next year."
Before next year comes around, the Hurricanes get a 6 p.m. game tonight against Central Massachusetts Division II champion Nashoba Regional at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Like the Curry Hicks Cage, the DCU Center provides some challenges for players who haven't been there before. Unlike the gym in Cheshire, there is a lot of open area behind the baskets in the Cage, which changes the depth perception of shooters. There's even more open area at the DCU Center.
"Playing in the Cage the first time, when I shot the ball I thought it was going in and it was an air ball," Gale said. "I was just in shock that my depth perception was so off. It just takes a little bit of time to adjust to.
"I am looking forward to Worcester."
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