AMHERST, Mass. -- New approach, same result for the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team on Wednesday night.
The Hurricanes eschewed their signature full-court pressure in favor of a half-court game designed specifically for Hampshire Regional in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semi-finals.
And while some fans may not have recognized the Hurricanes' new look, the Hoosac Valley players will be very familiar faces at the Cage on Saturday when they return after a 60-49 win.
Wednesday's victory gives second-seeded Hoosac (19-5) a chance to play for a fourth straight sectional title. Standing in the Hoosac's way? Some faces that will be very familiar to the Hurricanes themselves as they tip off against rival Drury, the same team Hoosac beat for the the 2013 sectional title.
Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik gambled that his players would be able to institute a new style in the four-day turnaround from last week's quarter-finals, and his players proved him right.
"It was a little different style than we normally do," Wojcik said. "Instead of just the all-out press and opening up the floor for [Chelsea] Moussette, we tried to bottle her up and bottle [Kathryn] O'Connor up. I thought the kids really executed the game plan well. I thought the key was our defense on Moussette and O'Connor. I don't know what O'Connor ended up with, but they said Moussette ended up with five.
"The kids did a great job with this. We kind of got out of our normal pressing. But I was really pleased with what the kids did tonight."
Freshman Ali Mendel scored a team-high 16 points, and Fallon Field added 15 for Hoosac, which also got 14 points and seven rebounds from Kailynne Frederick.
Mendel carried the Hurricanes in the first half, scoring 12 points before half-time.
Several times she was able to release down the court and get scoring opportunities in transition.
"A big part of our game is transition," Wojcik said. "Usually it's transition off the press, but with this defense, I thought we could get out and run a little bit. Ali Mendel, because she was up high with Moussette, leaped out a couple of times, and she did a great job. She had a couple and-ones, I think, on tough shots, especially for a freshman in this environment to step up and play like that.
"Plus, she's dogging the best player [Moussette] on the other end of the court."
O'Connor finished with 19, but Wojcik noted that a number of those were transition chances as well. In the half-court defense, he thought the combination of Frederick, Field and Cassidy McMahon did a good job of limiting O'Connor's offensive looks.
Despite Mendel's big first half, Hoosac was in danger of going to the locker room down a point before Skylar Case hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to make it 32-30, Hoosac, at half-time.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a nine-point lead midway through the third when Field scored on a fast break to make it 41-32.
But Hampshire kept swinging, getting the margin within two points twice in the fourth quarter.
But Madi Ryan set up Field for a bucket to make it 51-47, and after a Ryan rebound at the other end, Field drove the left wing for two points and a six-point cushion.
O'Connor scored on a fast break two possessions later for Hampshire, but Hoosac scored the game's last seven points -- all at the foul line -- to close it out.
On Saturday, Hoosac and Drury will be among at least five Berkshire County teams (Pittsfield's boys play their semi-final on Thursday) going after a spot in the state semi-finals. We already know at least one Berkshire County team will be wearing a Western Mass crown.
"We're excited for a couple of reasons," Wojcik said of the Championship Saturday lineup. "Drury's had a great year. We look forward to playing them again. It's an electric environment when you talk about two rival schools playing like that. And we're also excited about playing right in front of the [Hoosac] boys, second year back to back with them. So you know there's going to be a lot of Hoosac fans here. It's exciting for the school, exciting for the kids."
And especially sweet for Hoosac's two-girl senior class.
"Just for Madi [Ryan] and Cass [McMahon] to have the opportunity as two seniors now to do this a fourth consecutive time, to me, that's amazing," Wojcik said. "I think if you go through the annals of Berkshire County and Western Mass, there aren't too many who have had that opportunity."