Hoosac Girls Turn Game with Defense in Western Mass Semis
AMHERST, Mass. -- For the second straight game on Tuesday night, the Berkshire County team's locker room was an uncomfortable place to be.
And for the second straight game, the local girls responded by making life uncomfortable for their opponents in the second halves of the Western Massachusetts semi-finals at Curry Hicks Cage.
Hoosac Valley completed a 2-0 night for the county by allowing just two points in the third quarter of a 55-45 win over South Hadley in the Division 3 semis.
"We just needed to pick it up and make stops," Hoosac's Madi Ryan said. "We weren't going to let a sophomore beat us.
"It was just coach getting in our face and telling us to pressure everyone a lot harder than we were and get in their heads."
After going into the locker room behind, 33-32, the Hurricanes' defense was the difference, holding the Tigers to 12 points to earn a date in Saturday's sectional finals. South Hadley sophmore Sophia Gatzounas, who scored 13 points in the first half, had just three after half-time until the final two minutes of the game and ended up with a game-high 19.
Perhaps the 'Canes drew some inspiration from Tuesday's opener, where the Pittsfield girls trailed, 30-29, only to beat Quabbin, 66-52, and move on to Saturday's D2 Western Mass title game.
In the second of three games on Tuesday night, Emily Rosse scored 16 points -- including seven in the third quarter alone -- to lead Hoosac (20-2).
But she did that in spite of getting into foul trouble that sent her to the bench with four personals at the end of the third quarter.
"It was a little [difficult]," Ryan said of the situation when Rosse sat down with Hoosac holding a 41-35 edge. "Kailynne Frederick stepped up for us and played a good big."
Hoosac, which led by as many as 13 midway through the second quarter, took back the lead for good when Rosse scored in the post to make it 34-33 with just fewer than six minutes left in the third.
She then scored twice more on Hoosac's next two possessions -- once on a feed from McKenzie Robinson and once after being fouled in the post. Rosse hit one of two at the line to make it 37-33.
A couple minutes later, Fallon Field set up Rosse in transition to push the lead to six points. After South Hadley (16-7) scored its first second-half points with a minute left in the quarter, Field got to the line in transition and converted both shots to give Hoosac a 41-35 lead going to the fourth.
The Tigers rallied to draw within three early in the fourth, but Hoosac went on a 9-0 run to put the game away.
Ryan scored a basket and set up Field with an entry pass. Then Frederick scored in transition and Field (12 points) got a steal and lay-in to make it 52-40.
Field's conversion was a welcome sight for Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik, who early in the third quarter saw Rosse miss a similar bunny when the 'Canes still trailed by one.
"It worries you, but we talk about how you have to finish those steals in transition," Wojcik said. "In Boston, we lost a game where we came back to get within two. We had a half a dozen steals and transition chances. We had 3-on-1s, 3-on-2s. Granted, they were good players, but we didn't score on one of them.
"We talked to the girls. I said, 'You've got to score. You've got to finish it off.' You worry [when Rosse missed] that it could be not your night, but we feel that our defense is the biggest key. If you stay with it, stay with it, eventually you'll wear the other team down."
That defense has the Canes on the brink of a third straight Western Mass title. They'll go for that on Saturday when they take on Granby (22-0) on Saturday afternoon at the Cage. Granby defeated Athol, 54-43, on Tuesday night