Hoosac Valley Girls Fall in State Final

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Every year, the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team gives coach Ron Wojcik everything he could want.
 
And for four straight years, the Hurricanes have played in every game that they possibly can play, making it all the way to the state final.
 
On Saturday, for the fourth straight March, Wojcik had to find a way to say goodbye to a senior class who has done so much and come so close.
 
This time around, it was seniors Kailynne Frederick and Fallon Field, who left the game in the final minute of a 62-37 loss to Archbishop Williams in Saturday’s D3 state final at Springfield College’s Blake Arena.
 
Field finished with 10 points and three assists, and Frederick had nine to go with seven rebounds in their final appearances for the Hurricanes.
 
But their legacies go a lot deeper than that.
 
“One, you’re unbelievably proud of them,” Wojcik said. “You know today is the last day either way, but you never want to see it end. It’s just been great careers, and we had a long talk in [the locker room] with the other assistants, too, about what they’ve meant to this program, making it to four straight title games.
 
“Not losing a game in Western Mass or two Central Mass in those four years is amazing -- 16-0 in those games. You can’t say enough about them. And they’re both getting an opportunity to play college ball.
 
“So I’m unbelievably proud, and it’s a pleasure to have coached both of them.”
 
The pride in Hoosac Valley basketball was evident in the aftermath of Saturday’s game.
 
“I’ll always remember the journey,” Field said. “It hasn’t just 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.”
 
Frederick agreed.
 
“Getting here is always a pleasure,” she said. “We didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but we were all together, and the journey was great.”
 
Hoosac Valley (22-3) came out like a house afire on Saturday morning, jumping out to a 10-5 lead in the first three minutes plus when Field drove the lane, got fouled and sank both free throws.
 
Twice in the opening minutes, Frederick drew charges against the Bishops. She also scored in the post at the other end of the floor against the bigger Archbishop Williams lineup. Skylar Case knocked down two first-quarter 3-pointers, and Lexi Mercier connected once from downtown as Hoosac trailed by just a pair, 16-14, after eight minutes of play.
 
“It’s the type of thing where we had to play the perfect game, and we got off to a good start,” Wojcik said. “Then it’s the kind of thing where, partly us, partly them -- due to their defense, we had some turnovers early, which gave them a couple of runouts.”
 
The Bishops’ went on an 11-4 run to start the second quarter and took a 10-point lead, 32-22, into the locker room.
 
The big difference was Hoosac Valley’s inability to get good looks from the perimeter. The 3-point shooting that was so deadly in the Western Mass tournament and Monday’s state semi-final never materialized after the first quarter.
 
Hoosac Valley had three 3s in the first eight minutes of the game and one more the rest of the way.
 
“We worked on that the last couple of games of practice,” AW coach Matt Mahoney said. “I know they’re a really good 3-point shooting team, and I just told them: We have to extend our defense. I’d rather let them drive to the basket than to give up a 3-pointer.”
 
The Bishops, who started three players listed 5-foot-10 or taller, wreaked havoc on a Hoosac squad with just one starter in that range, Frederick at 5-11.
 
“They play very good defense, and they’re very long,” Field said. “I mean, an open shot was open for maybe a tenth of a second. We just didn’t have time to get a good shot off, so that definitely affected our offense.”
 
One thing that kept the Hurricanes in the game: foul shooting. Hoosac Valley scored eight from the line in the first half while getting Archbishop Williams starters Shannon Kelly and Asiah Daigle into foul trouble with three apiece before the break.
 
Fortunately for the Bishops, they had a long enough bench to handle that kind of trouble.
 
“Every game is different for us,” Mahoney said. “We play a lot of kids all the time, but every game it’s different players. We rotate depending on what we need. I didn’t need a lot of height tonight. I needed people to get out on defense.
 
“[Freshman reserves Jessica Knight and Megan Marcel] have been big all year. It’s like they’re not freshmen anymore. Jess Knight was here last year. She sat on the bench last year, so she knows what she has to do. They’re not intimidated by the moment.”
 
Knight scored 11 points and Marcel added seven for the Bishops, who were led by Daigle with 15.
 
Hoosac Valley got eight from Case and seven from Allie Mendel to go along with Field’s 10 and Frederick’s nine.
 
The Hurricanes managed just three points as a team in the third quarter as the Bishops ran their lead to 19.
 
Archbishop Williams cranked up its defense after half-time, forcing four straight Hoosac turnovers at one point and eight giveaways in the period.
 
It was 44-25 going to the fourth quarter, and Hoosac Valley never got closer than 18 the rest of the way.
 
“We had to knock down shots,” Wojcik said. “We knew we were going to have to knock down maybe 10 or 15 3s today to neutralize some of their athleticism and size and height and all the other things they break. And we just weren’t able to do that, and part of that is them -- them coming out on the shooters and making our looks tough.
 
“Once we dug a little bit of a hole there, it was hard to climb out of.”