CHESHIRE, Mass. -- When a team digs itself a 15-point deficit after one quarter of play, it usually takes a complete effort from the entire team to mount a serious comeback.
Luckily for the Hoosac Valley girls' basketball team, both its starters and second unit were up to the challenge against Lenox on Tuesday night. The Millionaires almost threw the knockout punch to the Hurricanes early on, breaking the hosts' full-court press time and time again on its way to an 18-3 lead after the first quarter.
Hoosac completely flipped the switch in the second quarter, however, outscoring the visitors by an even bigger 22-3 margin to take a four-point lead into halftime. Lenox never recovered in the second half, eventually losing 47-35 in a battle between the top two teams in the South Division.
It was a big win for the Hurricanes, who lost all three games against the Millionaires last season on their way to a second-place finish in the South. Ron Wojcik's squad now improves to 7-2 overall, 4-0 in the South, while Lenox falls to 5-2 and drops to second place in the division with a 2-1 record.
"Before the game, our coach showed us a video from the last 43 seconds of the last game we played against them," Hoosac junior Jenn Gale said. "We lost that game, but we could have won. We were down by one at the end. It really pumped us up for the game."
Despite Coach Wojcik's pregame pep talk, Hoosac got off to an awful start. Down 4-0 early on, Gale got her team on the board by swishing a 3-pointer from the left wing. That would be the hosts' only basket of the quarter, however, as the Millionaires played decisive and fast, scoring six different lay ins off of the Hurricanes' full-court press. Lenox forward Liz Mitts was a particular problem spot for Hoosac, scoring eight of her game-high 15 points in the first quarter alone.
"Lenox was doing a great job in the first quarter, breaking the traps, passing and finding the open girl underneath," Wojcik said. "But I felt Lenox was getting tired. I didn't know if we could come back, honestly, at that point. We dug ourselves a big hole, but I felt if we could stay with it, we could clean up a few things. They were getting the ball into the middle of the floor and that's one thing we really needed to start taking away."
The first-quarter buzzer couldn't have come any sooner for the Hurricanes, who seemed to find new life once the second quarter began. A strong tongue lashing from their coach might have also helped Hoosac wake up. Wojcik was much more vocal and demonstrative in the second quarter than he normally is in other games, but his words seemed to ignite his team in what was its biggest game of the season so far.
"Honestly, we're still young in some ways," Wojcik said. "When things get a little down, we can put our heads down a little bit with that inexperience. Sometimes I think maybe if I can pick them up a little bit, be a little bit loud, it will get them going and pick them back up."
Hoosac responded all right, breaking off an 11-0 run to start the second quarter. Junior forward Megan Rodowicz started the burst with a three from the left corner and then found senior Tori Rumbolt for a basket in the lane the next time up the court. The Hurricanes' passes became quicker and more precise, leading to consecutive fast-break lay ins from sophomores Emily Rosse and Amber Lesure. Mitts went 1 for 4 from the foul line during the same stretch, allowing the hosts to pull within five points midway through the second quarter.
Changing lineups didn't hurt the Hoosac rally either, as Wojcik's second unit continued the march with an 11-2 run to end the first half. Senior Erika Lucia hit a runner to tie the game at 19 points apiece, right before Lesure gave the hosts their first lead of the game with a triple from the left corner with 1:53 left in the second. A timeout by Lenox coach Nicole Patella didn't stop the bleeding either, as Lucia banked in another 3-pointer from the left wing right after play resumed.
"We stopped finding the open person, and we didn't score on any more baskets," Patella said of her team's struggles in the second quarter. "When we don't score, we can't set up our press. When we can't set up our press, we can't get into our flow. The last few games we've had really one good quarter. Today, unfortunately, it was the first, and I don't know where we were in the third and fourth of this game.
"We weren't together. We didn't pass well, and we were late on every reaction today."
If the second quarter was the comeback quarter, the third quarter was the one that put the game away for the Hurricanes. Once again, it was the second unit that helped spark a 7-0 run that gave Hoosac a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Rumbolt started the run with a stop-and-pop jumper, and Lesure ended it with a lay-up in transition off of a pass from classmate Sydnee Gallup. Rumbolt led the 'Canes with team-high eight points and six boards, while Lesure and Gale chipped in with seven points apiece.
"The second unit was phenomenal tonight," Wojcik said. "Their effort was huge in the second quarter. When Amber hit that shot to put us up three, you could just feel the energy on the bench at that point. We needed that energy tonight, and I just thought they did a great job."
The effort by the second unit left the whole team feeling like it was in a good place, both Tuesday night and moving forward the rest of the season.
"We're in first place, so it's a pretty big win," Gale said. "We showed that we can play with anybody."