The Berkshire Eagle LOWELL — It’s not every group of senior athletes who can start and finish their careers in state championship games. “I’d been in states two years. I hoped and wanted the girls to have the experience I did.” Averie McGrath said that to reporters after the MIAA Division V State Championship game Sunday afternoon at the Tsongas Center.

The experience for the current underclassmen came up a touch short, as the top-seeded Hurricanes were beaten by No. 3 seed Hopedale 55-45 in the second of four games Sunday afternoon near the shores of the Merrimack River. Since 2014, the Hoosac girls have been the gold standard for girls high school basketball in Western Massachusetts with four state final appearances in four years before missing in 2018. The Hurricanes came back to win it all, beating St. Mary’s of Lynn 66-49, and were poised to play the Gaels in the rubber game when COVID-19 shut down sports in 2020. So the Hoosac seniors — McGrath, Rylynn Witek and Alyssa Garabedian — get to graduate with one championship, one co-championship and one finals appearance in four years. Ask those seniors to go into the wayback machine and what do they remember? “My freshman year was definitely a learning experience,” said Witek. “It was great to be put through the process of learning [how to be] a state champion and winning Western Mass. Just being here today, really brought back memories. “Even though we couldn’t pull out the win, it was definitely great to be a part of it.” McGrath, who had 16 points — eight in each half — remembered one thing. “The dogpile,” after the win over St. Mary’s. For all three seniors, the postgame celebration in the gymnasium at Worcester Polytechnic Institute was the first thing that came to their minds. As to asking them to wrap their arms around the four-year journey, Witek could be speaking for all of them when she said the following. “It’s been a great journey. We went really far this season. I’m proud of all of us,” she said. “As a younger player, having older influences, it gave us learning experiences, skills and techniques.” Hoosac coach Holly McGovern was not there at the start of the journey for the Class of 2022. But as a former standout basketball player, she understands the road to Lowell.

“Most teams don’t see the players behind the scenes, which is just as impactful for our team. When you look, especially at those three, they gave their heart and soul out there,” said McGovern. “They have a never-say-die attitude. They always believe they can come back from anything. They showed that today.” ——— Watching Sunday’s game made me think of another matchup featuring a Berkshire County team against an opponent with a future Division I player. It was March 19, 1988 at what is now the DCU Center in Worcester. It was a Division III boys state championship and St. Joseph represented Berkshire County and all of Massachusetts west of I-495. The Crusaders of Paul Procopio were going to play Cohasset High School. Why did this game come to mind? The rosters, of course. Cohasset had a player, Bryan Edwards, who was closing in on 2,600 points and got a full scholarship to play for Boston College in the rough-and-tumble Big East Conference. Hopedale had senior Bri Frongillo, a 2,000-point scorer herself, who is signed to play basketball at Division I Bryant. Neither Hoosac on Sunday, nor St. Joe back in ‘88 had players sign to get D-I scholarships. Three decades ago, Edwards was everything he was cracked up to be, and then some. He scored 34 points in the game, outscoring any single player on the Crusaders roster. That was similar to what happened Sunday, when Frongillo had 23 points, outscoring any single Hoosac player. The difference? Frongillo had help. Lilah Casey had nine of her 14 points in the second half, while Phoebe Carroll had eight of her 11 in the first half. Those points were crucial, keeping the Hurricanes at a distance. In the St. Joe game, no other Cohasset player scored more than eight points, while Paul Culpo had 26 and Chris Unsworth had 16 for the Crusaders. In fact, McGovern said to me after the game that holding Frongillo to 23, 12 over the final three quarters, was part of the game plan. Had Casey and Carroll been held to single digits on Sunday, Hoosac might have gone home with the championship trophy. It was quite a ride in 1988, and it was quite a ride Sunday.

LOWELL — It’s not every group of senior athletes who can start and finish their careers in state championship games.

“I’d been in states two years. I hoped and wanted the girls to have the experience I did.”

Averie McGrath said that to reporters after the MIAA Division V State Championship game Sunday afternoon at the Tsongas Center.

The experience for the current underclassmen came up a touch short, as the top-seeded Hurricanes were beaten by No. 3 seed Hopedale 55-45 in the second of four games Sunday afternoon near the shores of the Merrimack River.

Since 2014, the Hoosac girls have been the gold standard for girls high school basketball in Western Massachusetts with four state final appearances in four years before missing in 2018. The Hurricanes came back to win it all, beating St. Mary’s of Lynn 66-49, and were poised to play the Gaels in the rubber game when COVID-19 shut down sports in 2020.

So the Hoosac seniors — McGrath, Rylynn Witek and Alyssa Garabedian — get to graduate with one championship, one co-championship and one finals appearance in four years.

Ask those seniors to go into the wayback machine and what do they remember?

“My freshman year was definitely a learning experience,” said Witek. “It was great to be put through the process of learning [how to be] a state champion and winning Western Mass. Just being here today, really brought back memories.

“Even though we couldn’t pull out the win, it was definitely great to be a part of it.”

McGrath, who had 16 points — eight in each half — remembered one thing.

“The dogpile,” after the win over St. Mary’s.

For all three seniors, the postgame celebration in the gymnasium at Worcester Polytechnic Institute was the first thing that came to their minds.

As to asking them to wrap their arms around the four-year journey, Witek could be speaking for all of them when she said the following.

“It’s been a great journey. We went really far this season. I’m proud of all of us,” she said. “As a younger player, having older influences, it gave us learning experiences, skills and techniques.”

Hoosac coach Holly McGovern was not there at the start of the journey for the Class of 2022. But as a former standout basketball player, she understands the road to Lowell.

“Most teams don’t see the players behind the scenes, which is just as impactful for our team. When you look, especially at those three, they gave their heart and soul out there,” said McGovern. “They have a never-say-die attitude. They always believe they can come back from anything. They showed that today.”

———

Watching Sunday’s game made me think of another matchup featuring a Berkshire County team against an opponent with a future Division I player.

It was March 19, 1988 at what is now the DCU Center in Worcester. It was a Division III boys state championship and St. Joseph represented Berkshire County and all of Massachusetts west of I-495. The Crusaders of Paul Procopio were going to play Cohasset High School.

Why did this game come to mind? The rosters, of course.

Cohasset had a player, Bryan Edwards, who was closing in on 2,600 points and got a full scholarship to play for Boston College in the rough-and-tumble Big East Conference. Hopedale had senior Bri Frongillo, a 2,000-point scorer herself, who is signed to play basketball at Division I Bryant.

Neither Hoosac on Sunday, nor St. Joe back in ‘88 had players sign to get D-I scholarships.

Three decades ago, Edwards was everything he was cracked up to be, and then some. He scored 34 points in the game, outscoring any single player on the Crusaders roster. That was similar to what happened Sunday, when Frongillo had 23 points, outscoring any single Hoosac player.

The difference? Frongillo had help. Lilah Casey had nine of her 14 points in the second half, while Phoebe Carroll had eight of her 11 in the first half. Those points were crucial, keeping the Hurricanes at a distance. In the St. Joe game, no other Cohasset player scored more than eight points, while Paul Culpo had 26 and Chris Unsworth had 16 for the Crusaders.

In fact, McGovern said to me after the game that holding Frongillo to 23, 12 over the final three quarters, was part of the game plan. Had Casey and Carroll been held to single digits on Sunday, Hoosac might have gone home with the championship trophy.

It was quite a ride in 1988, and it was quite a ride Sunday.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.