Hoosac Valley Girls Come Back, Edge Millbury in State Semis

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Averie McGrath scored a game-high 13 points, Sarah Field blocked a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left that would have tied the game, and the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team overcame a big early deficit to beat Millbury, 42-38, on Tuesday in the Division 3 state semi-finals.
The Hurricanes (18-6) were down by 11 in the first quarter.
But after allowing 18 first-quarter points, Hoosac gave up just 20 points the rest of the way to earn a chance to defend its 2019 state title on Saturday in Worcester.
Hoosac Valley shot 11-for-14 at the foul line in the second half, including its last six points of the game.
Shaleigh Levesque's free throw with 21 seconds left gave the Hurricanes a 41-38 lead.
But Millbury came down and got off three shots in the final 20 seconds. The last was swatted by Field, who grabbed the rebound and was fouled. She made one of two from the line to provide the final margin of victory.
"We couldn't get the rebound, the girl was just up there, I went up with my left hand on the right side, which is the taller hand, and I just blocked it, got the rebound and made my foul shot to seal the game," said Field, who said she did not think she blocked more than one other shot the rest of the winter.
Hoosac Valley trailed most of the night on Tuesday.
It took its first lead of the night on a 3-pointer by McGrath late in teh third quarter to make it 30-29.
It was still a one-point lead going to the fourth, and the Central Mass champion Woolies (21-3) took their final lead with a jumper from the right wing by Cameron Wilbur (10 points) to make it 33-32 early in the fourth.
After the teams traded empty possessions, Riley Robinson (eight points) scored with an assist from Levesque to put their team on top for good, 34-33. Robinson scored in the post moments later to give the Hurricanes a three-point lead, and theiy led by at least two the rest of the way.
The victory avenged a loss to Millbury earlier this winter at the HoopHall Classic at Springfield College. This time around, the Hurricanes were determined not to make the same mistake twice, Robinson said.
"First of all, that game that we played early in the season was not one of our best games at all -- offensively, defensively, we were kind of slow to the ball," she said. "I  think that we adjusted way more into this game. We knew we couldn't leave the shooters wide open and we had to move quicker to the ball and had to help with the bigs in the post.
"Our communication was kind of down in the first half [Tuesday]. We talked about that in the half-time. And I think when we came back out, we had a lot better communication. Our pressure in the press was better. We were able to draw fouls from some of the role players on Millbury. That got them stressed out. I think that's where we started to pick it up."
And eventually some of those fouls turned into foul shots, which the Hurricanes then turned into points.
"We've been shooting so poorly," Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said. "We shot them poorly in the semis in Western Mass. We shot them 4-for-8 in the finals. The girls have been shooting between 50 and 100 per day. I don't know what else you can do. I think today, somebody said we were 18-for-22 or something like that.
"Lay-ups and free throws are going to win games like this. It's great to hit a couple of 3s, but you've got to knock down your foul shots against a good team like that."
You also have to rebound the ball, and Hoosac had the edge there in the second half thanks to six second half boards from Gabby Billetz (six points, 10 rebounds) and six from Levesque.
Robinson also went down to the floor to tie up the ball on an offensive rebound attempt with 22 seconds left to get a second chance opportunity that turned into Levesqe's free throw to make it 41-38.
"I think sometimes people get caught up in the moment, especially when you really want the shot to go in, and I'm always ready for the next second --like, where it's gonna go after that," Robinson said. "I love getting rebounds. I think it's such an important thing to do. If you can get them and set your teammate up for the 3-pointer, it's such a power play, and that picks up momentum."
Millbury had all the momentum early on Tuesday.
The Woolies jumped out to an early lead by scoring on seven straight possessions early in the first quarter.
Shannon Reno hit a 3-pointer off a pass out of the post from Morgan Cronan midway through the first to give Millbury a 16-5 edge.
It was up by eight going to the second quarter, but Hoosac Valley charged back with a 7-0 run.
Annie Canales got it started with a baseline jumper and then scored a lay-in in transition to cut the deficit to 22-14.
Averie McGrath then got to the foul line a couple of times on drives to the basket and made three of four at the stripe to get the Hurricanes within five at 22-17.
It was a six-point margin at half-time with McGrath leading Hoosac Valley with six points.
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