Hoosac Valley girls basketball falls to Archbishop Williams in MIAA Division III state final

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PHOTO GALLERY | Hoosac Valley girls defeated by Archbishop Williams

SPRINGFIELD — The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team came out and played like a team that wanted a state championship in the opening exchanges of Saturday's MIAA Division III championship game.

Archbishop Williams absorbed the initial blow, though, then countered with its title-winning best, turning the game on its head to roll to a 62-37 win at Springfield College's Blake Arena.

The Hurricanes (22-3) jumped all over the Bishops to start, and a Skylar Case 3-pointer made it 8-3 Hoosac just over four minutes into the game.

From there, it was all Bishops. Archbishop Williams closed the quarter on a 13-6 run to take a two-point lead into the second quarter, then built up a 32-22 lead going into halftime.

"It's the type of thing where we really had to play a perfect game," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said. "We got off to a good start, then I thought it was partly us, partly them due to their defense a little bit.

"We had some turnovers early, which game them a couple of runouts."

Left with just 16 minutes to save the game, the Hurricanes wanted to come out of the break and try to create an offensive spark.

Instead, it was the Bishops that kept rolling. Asiah Dingle (game-high 15 points) scored the first bucket of the quarter on a nice slicing move through the lane, then a steal turned into a bucket by Shannon Kelley.

By the time the Bishops were done in the third, it was a 44-25 game.

"I think once their run started [in the third], we just got mentally exhausted," senior Fallon Field said. "We gave up for a little while. I think it was a three-minute stretch where we pretty much gave up.

"Coach Aliah ripped us a new one. She's like 'you guys don't give up, and you guys are giving up. You guys have more heart than any team I've ever coached, so you need to go out there and play with heart,' and I think that lapse where we didn't really hurt us."

Hoosac finally stopped the Bishops' run, which was at 8-0, with a free throw by Kailynne Frederick. Field scored the lone field goal of the period for Hoosac, scoring on a drive to the hole with 30 seconds left in the stanza.

"We weren't really focused when we started the game," Archbishop Williams coach Matt Mahoney said. "We told them to just bear down, especially in the third quarter. We told them at halftime, it has nothing to do with our offense, it had to do with our defense."

The Hurricanes did start to sort out their offense in the fourth, but the damage was already done. Field hit a 3-pointer to make it 53-34, but the Bishops responded with seven of the next eight points in the game to help seal their second state championship in three years, and their sixth since 1996.

"I can't explain it," Mahoney said of what it meant to win again. "It's unbelievable."

The loss marked Hoosac's second to the Bishops in as many state title contests against them. In the 2015 game, the Bishops won 69-46.

While Mahoney said that he didn't get to scout a lot of Hoosac's games this season, the 2015 championship game keyed him in on what his side had to do.

"I kind of knew that they were a good shooting team, so we focused on that," he said. "Looking at the scores they were running up, I figured they were a 3-point shooting team. That's what we focused on."

The focus worked. After going 3 for 6 from distance in the first quarter, the Hurricanes went 1 for 16 the rest of the way.

"They play very good defense," Field said. "An open shot was open for maybe a tenth of a second. We just didn't have time to get a really good shot off, so that definitely affected our game."

The disparity in bench scoring also doomed the Hurricanes. Riley Robinson was the one rotation player to play for the Hurricanes in the game, while the Bishops kept throwing bodies in and out. The Bishops outscored the Hurricanes 26-0 in bench points, including a combined 18 from freshmen Jessica Knight and Megan Marcel.

The bench's production allowed the Bishops to absorb both Kelley and Dingle picking up three fouls in the first half.

"That's the whole thing. They are drawing from whatever they do. ... They draw from more communities, we're drawing from three," Wojcik said. "They are getting the pick of the crop, and it's really difficult. You can try and get people in foul trouble, but they are bringing in good players off the bench, too."

Field scored 10 points in her final game for Hoosac, leaving her with 1,293 over her glittering career that included four Western Mass. Division III titles and four appearances in the state championship game. She also added five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Classmate Frederick had nine in her last game, and led the team with eight rebounds. Junior Skylar Case scored eight points, while sophomore Lexi Mercier finished with three points and five steals.

After the game, Field and Frederick touched on their careers, and how even though they ended with a loss, that they were still thankful for the journey.

"I'll always remember the journey," Field said. "It's not even been four years, it's been since I was little with all these girls. It hurts right now, but I know that as time goes on, I'm going to look back and remember all the good things."

"Getting here is always a pleasure," Frederick added. "We didn't get the outcome that we wanted, but we were all together, and the journey was great."

When the two were subbed out for the final time in the dying stages of the game, both drew a loud ovation from the fans in the stands, and Wojcik met both of them for a hug. When the team received its runner-up trophy, Wojcik stepped to the side and pointed to his seniors for one last round of applause. As a duo, Field and Frederick went 16-4 in the postseason, and amassed an 88-14 record overall.

"Unbelievably proud of them," Wojcik said of his captains. "You knew today was the last day, but you never want to see it end. It's just great, great careers. ... What they meant to this program, making it four straight titles and not losing a game in Western Mass. or Central Mass. in their careers is amazing.

"You can't say enough about them, and they are both getting the opportunity to play college ball. I'm unbelievably proud, and it's been a pleasure to have coached both of them."

Sophomore Alie Mendel also commented on the seniors' impact.

"I'm completely devastated," she said. "They've been the two best captains I could ever imagine They've had all of our backs."

Once the sting wears off, the Hurricanes will pick up the pieces. With four of the six players who played today returning, the future remains bright for Hoosac — even if it was a bit cloudy on Saturday.

"We have some really good young players," Wojcik said. "These guys have really set the stage for them, to understand who we are and how we play. ... We are getting a lot of kids every year that have really, really good skills, and that's given us the continuity to try and keep this going."

———

ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS (62)

Kelley 2-0-5, Dingle 4-6-15, Donovan 3-0-8, Manning 1-0-2, Smith 1-0-2, Silvia 0-1-1, Knight 5-1-11, Marcel 2-2-7, Spain 3-0-6, O'Reilly 2-0-5. Totals 23-10-62.

HOOSAC VALLEY (37)

Mercier 1-0-3, Field 2-6-10, Mendel 2-3-7, Case 2-2-8, Frederick 3-3-9, Robinson 0-0-0, Barrow 0-0-0. Totals 10-13-37.

AW     16     16     12     18          62

Hoosac     14     8     3     12          37

3-point goals — AW 6 (Donovan 2, Kelley, Dingle, Marcel, O'Reilly). HV 4 (Case 2, Mercier, Field).

Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254 or @GSmith_Eagle.


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