Hoosac Valley girls basketball's championship run commemorated
Ceremony at Adams Town Hall marks first title in 74 years
ADAMS — The communities of Cheshire and Adams have had a little pep in their step this week.
Not because Wednesday marked the first day of spring, but because the towns are still celebrating the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team, which brought home the area's first state title since the Adams boys back in 1945.
"After the championship, we got a police escort back home and it was amazing to see the support throughout the community," senior captain Alie Mendel said. "Even though we are rivals during the season, it was incredible to see the support we have gotten from the different teams. Even the energy level at school has been incredible."
On Wednesday night the state champs gathered at the Adams Town Hall to be honored for their success on the court.
"It's been 74 years since the town of Adams won a state championship," Vice Chairman on the Adams Board of Selectmen, Joseph Nowak said. "All of [the Hoosac girls] hard effort will go down in the history books."
The Hurricanes received certificates from the town of Adams highlighting their success and signed a banner that will be given to the Adams Historical Society. Nowak then called coach Ron Wojcik and the three captains, Mendel, Riley Robinson, and Lexi Mercier to the front of the room.
"Coaching is so much more than just writing X's and O's on a white board," Nowak said. "Wojcik and his coaching staff help exemplify the meaning of hard work. In the scope of life hard work will always pay dividends. Ron, you're a shining light leading the way on the basketball court, but more importantly you're caring and understanding of life's paths after basketball that you pass on to your athletes is your lasting legacy."
Nowak then turned his praise to the girls who spent a bus ride home on Saturday singing and dancing to "We Are The Champions" and "All We Do Is Win."
"Mendel's style of basketball was on the court for all to see," Nowak said. "Her ability to hit the 3-point shot forced her opponents to guard her closely, yet her ability to lure her defender with an up-fake and drive to the basket made her a dual-threat. A formula which served her and her teammates well."
"Mercier was the go-to gal due to her ability to drain 3-point shots," Nowak said. "She was not tepid to launch her rainbow down-town bombs. Her quick release from all areas of the court created many headaches for those defending her. Mercier's ability to defend and smother opponents was also a strong component of her game."
"Lastly, Riley Robinson, who was the heart and soul of the championship team," Nowak said. "She excels in all aspects and fundamentals of basketball. She is the real thing by pitching in scoring, rebounding, dishing out assists and taking charges. She has demonstrated her ability to do what is needed to get into the win column."
Wojcik, who has led the program to five Western Massachusetts championships in his nine years of coaching the girls, was given an opportunity to speak.
"It's an honor to be here," Wojcik said. "It's a really really great group of kids and I couldn't be prouder. They put in a lot of time and it certainly was a team effort. They're always making each other better. These girls put in a lot of time, and there's a lot of travel, youth and AAU coaches that put in the time as well. That's what makes a program like this, it just doesn't happen overnight. I've been very blessed to have such a great, hardworking group of kids."
Robinson, who will be remembered for her impressive performance in the final, which included nine points and just a handful of stitches, took the mic.
"This season was unforgettable," Robinson said. "I had the best teammates that became my sisters and I am lucky enough to come back and play with them again. To my two fellow captains, you've been great and I wish you the best of luck in the future."
To go with the banner and certificates, it was also announced that an anonymous donor wrote a check to purchase the girls championship jackets to commemorate the success of the Hurricanes.
"It's awesome," Wojcik said. "Our booster club is extremely supportive and hard working but any donation to help these kids get jackets is great. The community support we have gotten continues to be awesome."
After 111 days of sneakers squeaking and whistles echoing through the gym, Wojcik escaped to the forest to help reflect on the championship run.
"It's surreal," Wojcik said. "Sunday I took a long walk in the woods with my dog and the excitement of everything just kind of hits you. Trying to absorb everything from the ride through the county and all the support. It's amazing what these girls were able to accomplish. [Winning a state championship] is not easy to do and things need to go right. It's challenging, but it's great that these girls will go down in history."
Jake Mendel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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