DALTON, Mass. -- Freshman Gabby Billetz put back an offensive rebound with just more than a minute left and grabbed defensive rebound on a missed free throw with five seconds left to help the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team Thursday secure a 48-45 win over Wahconah.
Shaleigh Levesque led three Hurricanes in double figures as Hoosac Valley won its second straight, both against Berkshire County North Division opponents, to stay just one game in the loss column behind league-leading and undefeated Taconic.
Billetz and Averie McGrath finished with 11 and 10 points apiece, but it was Billetz’ 19 rebounds -- including the big ones in the final moments -- that made the difference.
“She works so hard,” Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said of the 5-foot-11 pivot, who scored twice her average for the season on Thursday night. “She’s one of the toughest and hardest working kids I’ve had come into a program -- boys or girls.
“I kind of liken her to Jerome Edgerton back when I was doing Pittsfield boys. He used to go after every rebound, and she does the same thing. She’s just non-stop and hungry and really gives a lot out there for us.”
Both teams gave their own in the latest renewal of one of the county’s best high school rivalries.
Maria Gamberoni scored 13 points and passed out four assists to lead Wahconah (8-2, 3-2), which lost for the first time since its season opener. Becca Morris scored 12 and grabbed eight rebounds for Wahconah.
Coach Liz Kay’s team overcame deficits of 12 points in the second quarter and eight points in the fourth quarter. But Billetz’ putback gave the Hurricanes a margin that Wahconah could not erase.
“This is what we need,” Kay said. “This is the kind of game you want in January. And, you know, honestly, this was the game we grew up the most.
“I’ll take the loss in pursuit of getting where we want to go later.”
Hoosac Valley (8-3, 6-1) stormed out to a 19-10 lead in the first quarter. Billetz scored three buckets in the post in the first eight minutes, converting assists from Riley Robinson and Kayley Winn. Levesque capped the quarter by knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give her team the nine-point lead.
It grew to 12 points early in the second when Annie Canales hit from behind the arc to make it 24-12.
But Wahconah scored the next 12 points. Gamberoni had an assist, a steal and four points during the run, which ended when Morris scored in the post with 2:04 left in the half.
“Some of my role players -- Emma Belcher (two 3-pointers) coming in as a freshman at 4-foot-11; Becca, I yelled at her, she’s a senior, she’s a captain and she stepped up,” Kay said. “She did her job. And that says a lot about their relationships with each other and my belief in them that we can get on each other and know where we’re trying to get to.
“Jilly [Cote] being in foul trouble obviously hurt us, especially toward the end with rebounding. But she was a phenomenal teammate on the bench. Sometimes, you get in those situations and you can just go into your shell. She was the loudest kid on the bench. That’s the stuff I love to see.”
Hoosac Valley went into half-time with a 26-24 lead and built it to eight points by holding Wahconah to just six in the third quarter.
McGrath hit a pair of free throws with 1:04 left in the quarter to give the Hurricanes a 38-30 lead.
But Wahconah stormed back at the start of the third with a 9-0 run to take their first lead since it was 2-0. Morris, Belcher and Cote each hit a 3 during that rally.
McGrath stopped the run with a 3-pointer to give Hoosac Valley a 41-39 lead, and moments later, Levesque’s triple made it a three-point cushion at 44-41.
Morris hit from the perimeter to get Wahconah within one. But after the teams traded empty trips, Hoosac Valley got an offensive rebound from Levesque to extend its next possession, which ended with Billetz putting back a rebound to make it 46-43.
With 21 seconds left on the clock, Gamberoni converted a pair of free throws to again make it a one-point game, 46-45.
Hoosac Valley got to the line with 17 seconds left but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Cote was whistled for her fifth foul going for the rebound. But Wahconah got the ball back with defensive rebound on the ensuing possession.
Wahconah’s shot to take the lead missed the mark and ended up in the hands of Levesque, who went to the line with 5.5 seconds on the clock.
She missed her front end, but Billetz went to the floor for the rebound and got it to Levesque, who was fouled with less than a second on the clock.
This time, she converted both ends of her one-and-one to provide the final margin of victory.
“Their girls stepped up,” Wojcik said of Wahconah. “Their girls started making shots. … It was a great, great, high school girls basketball game between two rivals. I thought both teams played their hearts out. They played their hearts out. I thought our girls down made a couple of big plays. Great rebound by Gabby there on the missed free throw at the end.
“I think the fans got their money’s worth tonight.”
The two rivals will be in the same gym again on Saturday. This time, they will be facing different opponents in the seven-game Coaches Vs. Cancer Showcase at Hoosac Valley. Wahconah will meet Quabbin at 4:30. The Hurricanes will face Minnechaug in the finale at 7:30.