Designated Hitter: The biggest nemesis for Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo? How about Monument Mountain

SPRINGFIELD — Rebecca Lobo didn't need much prompting. Bus rides to Berkshire County when she was in high school did not have fond memories for the newest member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Monument Mountain was our nemesis," Lobo said. "We never beat them.

"That's when Monument Mountain had their little dynasty."

Lobo was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday night. She and the rest of her class received their blazers on Thursday, and then met with members of the media.

Lobo and her Southwick girls basketball teams played Monument four times during her four years, and Lobo's teams went 0-4.

That included a pair of regular-season losses, and two losses in Western Massachusetts Division II championship games. In both of those wins, Monument completed undefeated Western Massachusetts seasons.

And what did she remember?

"That we couldn't beat them and they were very, very good," Lobo said. "They were fundamentally sound, well coached, just a good team."

Dave Kinne was the head coach of those Monument teams, and while Lobo went on to attain stardom at UConn, the WNBA and now ESPN, the Spartans were not just a good high school team — they were great. In fact, Lobo played against future Division I players Dawn Gilmore (Boston College), Julie Gabriel (Pennsylvania) and Amy Ross (Holy Cross), along with Division III players like Kristen Kinne (Ithaca), Laura Lavery (Wesleyan) and Cathleen Miller (Williams). I'm certain that I have missed others, but you get the idea.

The two years Monument and Southwick played for Western Mass. titles, in 1988 and 1989, the Spartans were the top seed and the Rams were the No. 2 seed.

In 1988, Monument beat No. 5 Wahconah 68-43 in the semifinal, while Southwick downed Easthampton 73-60.

In the final, Kinne scored 22, Lavery and Ross had 12 in a 71-46 win. Lobo had 15 points and 11 rebounds — and she was only a freshman.

The next year, Monument rolled Southwick 76-20 in the regular season. Then in the Division II semifinals, Monument beat Easthampton 60-25, while Southwick defeated Hoosac Valley 80-47. In that game, a number of Hoosac starters were on an European trip.

Then in the final, Monument won 66-43. It was the Spartans' fourth title in six years. Miller had 20 points, six assists and five steals, while Lavery had 14 points. Lobo scored 21 in a losing effort.

For the record, Southwick finally broke its Berkshire County skid in 1991, when Parade All-American Lobo scored 35 points and pulled down 25 rebounds in a 51-37 win over Taconic in the D-II final. That Taconic team was coached by current Pittsfield girls coach Joe Racicot.

Rebecca Lobo played in tiny high school gyms throughout Western Massachusetts. Now she is a basketball immortal.

She also has seen the women/girls game grow exponentially.

"Even filtering down to my [three daughters]. I signed up to play basketball in my town when I was in third or fourth grade, and they said they couldn't have a girls' team because they didn't have enough girls," she said. "Now, my kids sign up and in one town, they're able to field a whole league of teams."

Lobo coaches her girls, and one of her opponents is Lisa Salinetti Ross, who was a standout at Lee High School and later at Amherst College.

The newest Hall of Famer was not a hoop lifer. She also played field hockey at Southwick, and told a story about being called for high sticking penalties and her mother complaining that she wasn't high sticking, she was 6-4. Ask her about the current trend of specialization, and Lobo doesn't hold back.

"My kids play a different sport every season. I think that helps you in a lot of ways," she said. "I'm completely against coaches, especially in youth sports, who try to pressure kids into playing one sport. It's unhealthy. It's not fair to them. Kids should be out having fun, exploring all those opportunities to try other things."

Spoken like a true Hall of Famer.

Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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