Witherspoon, Bulldogs Win Showdown with Hoosac Valley

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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CHESHIRE, Mass. – The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team battled gamely, but a 15-0 deficit proved too high a hill to climb in a 68-58 loss to Springfield International Charter School on Tuesday night.
The Hurricanes, ranked sixth in the state in Division 5 going into the game, battled back to get within four points of the third-ranked Bulldogs in the second half. But SICS eighth-grader Jala Witherspoon scored 10 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter to help put the game away.
Hoosac Valley coach John Frederick said he was not surprised to see his team struggle early against the 2022 state semi-finalists.
“Honestly, I thought we’d be rusty coming off the two weeks,” Frederick said. “We hadn’t played since the 17th. The snow days, not being able to get in the gym, it’s kind of expected, I guess.
“Getting into that big hole, I think we really anticipated that, at least from a coaching side. We just told the kids, ‘You’ve got to shake off the rust and get back into game mode.’ And they did it. We fought back.”
Hoosac Valley fought back a couple of times, using a 15-4 run to get within five points at half-time.
Then, after SICS opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to go ahead by 12, the Hurricanes responded again, getting the margin to four at 47-43 late in the third quarter.
But Alexa Davis scored in the post, and Allanah Chambers knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Bulldogs to send them to the fourth ahead, 52-43.
They led, 57-44, early in the fourth, but Hoosac Valley scored seven straight – four from Gabby Billetz (14 points, 16 rebounds) and six from Taylor Garabedian (14 points) – before Witherspoon drained her second 3-pointer of the quarter and  sixth triple of the game to make it 60-51 with a little more than four minutes left.
By the time Hoosac Valley got back to within six on a Maryn Cappiello 3-pointer, just 1 minute, 20 seconds remained. SCIS went 4-for-4 at the foul line in the final 1:07 to secure the win.
Although Western Mass girls basketball fans remember juniors Davis (nine points) and Alicia Mitchell (12 points) from the Bulldogs’ run last year, Witherspoon made a huge mark for 10-2 SICS.
“The good thing about this team is they’re young, and you just don’t know where it’s going to come from,” Bulldogs coach Tyrone Reid said. “It was her night, and feed off of that, and everyone contributes.”
No one contributed more to the visitors’ early success than Mitchell, who had seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the first quarter.
She also picked up a couple of fouls, and when she drew her third going for an offensive rebound midway through the second quarter, Reid had to sit her down, and Hoosac Valley took advantage.
The Hurricanes were down by 12 when Mitchell left the game and down by five when the second quarter ended.
The impact was noticeable but not as dramatic in the third. She scored a bucket on a putback early in the second half and helped her team go up, 38-26. It was an eight-point margin when she was whistled for her fourth foul. And while the ‘Canes cut into that lead, the Bulldogs never gave up a big run, thanks in part to Witherspoon.
“Everybody works hard,” Reid said. “Everybody puts the work in. In situations like that, it’s about the next person stepping up. When you’ve got your kids coming in off the bench and giving that energy and that effort, it’s easy to be able to play without her being out there.
“Obviously, we don’t want to. But we have full faith in every person on this team.”
Mitchell finished with 17 rebounds and five blocks to go with her 12 points despite missing significant time due to foul trouble.
Hoosac Valley was on a seven-game winning streak prior to the weather problems that created a two-week layoff. The Hurricanes will look to get back into a rhythm on Thursday when they go to Monson for the first of back-to-back road games.
They will make that trip with an 8-4 record and the knowledge that they were able to bounce back and give the top-ranked D5 team in Western Mass a run for its money after taking a body blow early on.
“I think we saw what we can do against them,” Frederick said. “For us to fight back from that 15-point hole and be able to execute against them … The fact that we didn’t finish, that stinks. But I think it was a good game for us.”
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