LOWELL, Mass. -- The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team Sunday fell into an early hole and never quite climbed its way out.'
But, boy, did it ever try.
Two-thousand point scorer Bri Frongillo scored 23 points to lead Hopedale to a 55-45 win in the Division 5 State Championship game at the Tsongas Center.
Averie McGrath scored 16 points, and Rylynn Witek added 15 for the top-seeded Hurricanes, who fell just
short in their bid to win a third straight state title.
Hopedale got five points from Frongillo to open the game and led by as many as six in the first quarter. But in a pattern that repeated throughout the afternoon, the Hurricanes fought right back with four straight points from McGrath to end the frame down by just two.
It was a six-point margin after the second quarter, but McGrath hit a 3 and Gabby Billetz (three points, 11 rebounds) hit a pair of free throws to make it a 31-30 game with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third.
Lilah Casey and Frongillo answered with back-to-back 3s, the latter from NBA range, to put Hopedale back up by seven, and the Hurricanes never got within one possession the rest of the way.
"We never got over the hump," Hoosac Valley coach Holly McGovern said. "We never actually took the lead. We had multiple opportunities in the first half and again in the second half.
"Once you get that momentum, it kind of carries a team through, and you never know what could happen."
Hopedale took its first double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter and went up by 11 when Frongillo hit a pull-up in transition to make it 47-36.
But the Hurricanes refused to say die.
Witek scored in the post to start a 6-0 run that saw the Hurricanes force two turnovers. McGrath scored in transition off one give-away, and Witek scored again in the post to make it 47-42 with three minutes left to play.
But Hopedale stopped the Hurricanes' momentum when Frongillo got an and-one on a play that sent Alyssa Garabedian (seven points) to the bench with her fifth foul.
Witek answered with a triple from the right wing to close to within five at 50-45.
But Hopedale eighth-grader Phoebe Carrol (11 points, 23 rebounds) putback a rebound in transition and got to the line for a conventional three-point play and Frongillo, fittingly, finished the scoring by converting both ends of a one-and-one to make it a 10-point game.
"They made some pretty good plays," McGovern said. "I thought, defensively, we did the things we had to do, and they made some really timely shots."
Sunday marked the last time Hoosac Valley fans will see seniors McGrath and Witek on the court.
"We played since the beginning together as little girls, in house league, travel right into high school," McGrath said. "She's one of my best friends on and off the court. So I'm wicked excited I got to live these four years with her on the court."
Their second-year coach was, in her own way, "wicked excited" to have the pair's leadership.
"They have been playing so well off each other, especially in the last six weeks," McGovern said. "It's been a heck of a one-two punch for teams to have to contend with.
"Overall, their leadership and what they have meant to this program over the course of the years has been so impactful. I hope that our youngsters can look at it, understand what it takes to get to this level."