Mendel's 22 Help Lift Hoosac Valley Girls into State Title Game

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Allie Mendel was 100 percent on Monday.
 
And at times it seemed like she was shooting 100 percent from the field.
 
Mendel scored 22 points -- including four first-half 3-pointers -- to lead the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team to a 71-41 win over Central Mass champion Lunenburg in the Division 3 state semi-finals at the DCU Center.
 
Lexi Mercier scored 15, and Fallon Field added 13 points and eight assists to help send the Hurricanes to Springfield for their fourth straight state championship game appearance -- on Saturday against Archbishop Williams at a time and place to be determined after the semi-finals in all divisions are completed on Wednesday.
 
Mendel scored the first four points of the game for the Hurricanes (21-2) after Lunenburg (17-7) opened with a 4-0 lead.
 
Her transition basket on an assist from Field ignited a 16-0 Hoosac Valley run that established a cushion that the ‘Canes never relinquished.
 
It also told Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik that what Mendel told him pregame was legit.
 
“I’ll give the girl a ton of credit,” Wojcik said. “She probably wouldn’t tell you this, but she was sick as a dog for [last week’s Western Mass semi-finals and finals]. She really, really was not doing well. But she gutted it out well and played in both of those games. We tried to give her some breaks when we could.
 
“She said she felt great today. She said, ‘Coach, this is the best I’ve felt.’ Well … I guess it is.”
 
After Mendel tied it with an assist from Skylar Case (four assists), Field hit a 3-pointer to give the Hurricanes their first lead, 7-4. Hoosac Valley then forced turnovers on three of Lunenburg’s next five possessions, while Kailynne Frederick (eight points, nine rebounds) hit a pair at the line and Mendel hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 12-4.
 
Field scored in the post, and Riley Robinson scored in transition to complete the 16-0 run.
 
The Knights answered with a 5-0 spurt to make it a seven-point game, 16-9, on Johanna Hudson’s 3-pointer, but Hoosac Valley closed the quarter with an 8-2 run -- six of those points on Mendel triples.
 
She ended up with 13 points in the first quarter and 18 at half-time. In the second half, Mercier scored 10 of her 15, including eight in a row in the fourth quarter. And Frederick, who got into early foul trouble and sat out the second quarter, scored six in the third quarter.
 
At about 9 points per game this winter, Frederick is the fourth-leading scorer in a balanced Hoosac Valley attack that is led most nights by Field but also has sophomores Mercier and Mendel averaging in double figures.
 
“I think that definitely gives us an advantage over most teams because, in the game of basketball, you’re not going to have a great game every night,” Field said. “It’s just happens. You’re not going to shoot well every night. You’re not going to shoot well at every court. If one of us is off, we have each other’s backs. I think that’s really important.”
 
Hoosac Valley went into Monday’s matinee with less than 48 hours to recover after Saturday winning its fifth straight Western Mass Championship and with far less knowledge than it had of, say, South Hadley, the team it beat on Saturday afternoon.
 
“I enjoyed our celebration with the kids on Saturday night,” Wojcik said. “And then because of social media and things, I was fortunate. I went on the Internet, and I think it was on YouTube I saw Lunenburg against Littleton, who we played last year. I watched that until about 1:30 in the morning. So I was wide awake at practice on Sunday.
 
“I saw that [Lunenburg] liked to press and run, so I told the kids, ‘That’s what they do. We’re not really going to change much.’ It was a light workout yesterday just with the shooting to keep our legs under us, because when you play a running team, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
 
Mendel certainly was.
 
“Yeah, I was definitely on tonight,” she said. “My teammates found me when I was open, especially through our offenses and on our fast breaks. … It felt like any other day, but I like a bigger gym.”
 
Hoosac won the state semi-final for the second straight year in the 15,000-seat DCU Center. The Hurricanes’ last loss in the venue came in the 2015 state final against Archbishop Williams.
 
Talking to the players on Monday, it was clear that they are not done yet.
 
“For me, personally, and I know for [co-captain Frederick] and the other girls who have been here, we’re kind of sick of getting the second-place medal put around our neck,” Field said. “For the first couple of years, it was like, ‘Oh, it’s really cool to be here at the state finals.’ But now it’s our last year, and it’s like, ‘OK, let’s get this win, and let’s bring the state title home.’ “