LOWELL — After weeks of running rampant through much of the Division V field, the Blue Raiders were the one team to weather the Hurricanes.
Third-seeded Hopedale lifted the MIAA State Championship trophy with a 55-45 win over the top-seeded Hoosac Valley girls at Tsongas Center on Sunday.
Bri Frongillo was the catalyst for the Blue Raiders and she wasted no time getting to her spot at the top of the key.
Photos: Hoosac Valley girls basketball plays in MIAA State Championship game
On Sunday afternoon at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team was beaten 55-45 by Hopedale in the MIAA D-V State Final.
To view a full 62-photo gallery, or purchase photos from the championship, click here.
The 2,000-point scorer hit from the mid-range before coming off a screen for a straight-away trey. Not only did Hopedale jump out to a 5-0 lead over top-seeded Hoosac, it maintained the lead from start to finish.
“We had to work harder and with more focus,” Hoosac senior Rylynn Witek said of trying to contain Frongillo. “She is more skilled than all the other point guards we played this year, it was hard to catch up to that after not playing against the same competition.”
Averie McGrath cut the deficit to 7-6 with a pair of free throws and made the score 15-13 with back-to-back buckets at the end of the first quarter. McGrath had a team-high 16 points for the Hurricanes, Witek was right behind her with 15.
“The outcome isn’t what we wanted, but we stuck together and ended the season together,” McGrath said. “This team gave me a family for four years and each year we brought different people into that family. I was fortunate enough to be a captain of the team and I’m so glad I got to live this with these girls, they earned this.”
Hoosac’s offense was streaky from the start and Hopedale’s strength on the boards kept the Hurricanes from manufacturing extra looks.
Nora Hodgens was fouled on an offensive rebound and made both attempts. Phoebe Carroll got to the rim with a quick first step before Frongillo found Hodgens for a triple.
The Blue Devils now led 21-15, before Alyssa Garabedian made two free throws off an offensive rebound, stole the ball on the next possession and dished to Witek for a pair — making it a 24-23 game. However, a 5-0 burst by Hopedale derailed the run and left Hoosac trailing 29-23 at the half.
The Hurricanes were out-rebounded by four in the first half and 33-22 on the night. Carroll commanded the boards with a game-high 15 rebounds while Gabby Billetz brought down nine boards for Hoosac.
With that in mind, coach Holly McGovern’s squad came out of the half with one more push left in the arsenal.
Witek found Alyssa Garabedian for two and McGrath hit Hoosac’s first triple with two minutes gone in the frame. The Hurricanes trailed 31-30 before Witek took a charge and Billetz blocked a shot, but nothing was falling at the other end. The Hurricane drought opened the door for a 10-4 run by the Blue Devils to end the quarter.
Hopedale led 41-34 with a quarter to play and Frongillo guided the ship to the ‘chip with nine points in the fourth quarter. Frongillo’s day came to an end with a game-high 23 points, five assists and three rebounds. Sunday marked Hopedale’s first appearance in the state title game. It was also Hoosac’s sixth shot in the title game since 2014 (2019 champions, 2020 co-champions).
Hoosac Valley’s season ends with a record of 22-4, a Class D Western Mass. title and a third-straight year as State Tournament finalists. Four month ago, when a group of girls entered the gym for the first time, it didn’t take long for McGovern to realize the type of roster she was working with.
“I think from Day 1 when we went through the tryouts, we knew these players wanted to win and were willing to do whatever it takes,” McGovern said. “I believe they learned from wins and losses — they always take something away and they’ll do the same thing tonight.”
While the sting of the loss may remain, it is a pain the Hurricanes are getting through together — with the help of an upgraded ride back to Cheshire.
“We got surprised with a coach bus this morning and we’re super excited about that,” Witek said of the trip to Lowell. “We were all just jamming out to music and happy to be here. It was a great experience.”
Hoosac’s last ride will also feature one last stop.
“Texas RoadHouse,” McGrath said of how they’ll cap championship Sunday. “We’ll put on some music and sing a little and maybe cry a little… but we’ll see.”
And while the season is over, Cheshire’s storm isn’t one to dissipate.
“Family — really, we’ve stuck together win or lose,” Witek said of how she wants to remember this team. “It was a great ride and I’m happy we created this bond together.”