Pressure Pays Off for Hoosac Girls in Run to State Title Game

By Stephen Sports
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When the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association reclassified Hoosac Valley out of Division 2, Hoosac's girls basketball team lost the chance to defend its 2013 Western Mass D2 title.
That is the only thing the Hurricanes lost in the commonwealth this year and about the only thing it has not been able to defend.
Hoosac steamrolled the field in the Western Mass Division 3 tourney and earned a berth in Saturday's D2 state title game with a relentless, full-court defense that has made points very hard to come by for opponents this winter -- even when the opponents in question were some of the best teams in the state.
Only three teams have scored 50 or more points against Hoosac Valley this winter: Ohio's Austintown Fitch (53-40 in Hoosac's only loss), Central Mass champion Bellingham (54-52 in Tuesday's state semi-final) and Western Mass quarterfinalist Mount Greylock, which had three shots at the 'Canes and broke 50 once, a 72-53 Hoosac win back in January.
"Their team defense was as good as we faced all year," Sabis coach Thomas Campagna said after a 72-41 loss to Hoosac in the Western Mass D3 title game. "We felt we had prepared for it, but obviously not well enough.
"The second half, they seemed to go defensively into another gear."
Now, Hoosac is gearing up for Saturday's 10:45 a.m. state title game at Worcester's DCU Center against North champion St. Mary's of Lynn.
In Tuesday's state semi-final in Springfield, Hoosac (23-1) showed that it has enough faith in its pressure scheme to stay the course, even after Bellingham broke the press early for a couple of easy scoring opportunities.
"If any team sees that when we throw a press at them, if they get those quick passes, good for them," Hoosac guard McKenzie Robinson said. "But, as we see that coming multiple times, we make adjustments. We don't say, 'Coach, what do we do?' We see it, we see what we have to do, and we make the difference."
Hoosac's coach said he did have to make a couple of in-game tweaks to set things right against the Blackhawks.
"It was missed communication on our part, missed assignments," Ron Wojcik said. "We rotated wrong, frankly, a few times. And we got on the girls about it.
"We tried to correct it, and I think we fixed that component. I wanted to get more pressure on the wings, and we just weren't able to do that tonight, for whatever reason. Hopefully, we can get back into it on Satuday."
St. Mary's (23-2) figures to be a challenge unlike any the Hurricanes have faced this winter.
The Spartans feature three seniors who are college bound -- two on scholarships and one to one of the top programs in Division III.
Brianna Rudolph is the first St. Mary's player to receive a full scholarship at the Division I level; she is headed to UMass-Lowell in the fall. Sharell Sanders has committed to receive a full ride to New Jersey's DII Caldwell College. Jennie Mucciarone plans to attend Tufts, where former Connecticut star Carla Berube has built the Jumbos into a national power, with three Sweet 16 appearances, including one this weekend, and the school's first ever New England Small College Athletic Conference title, won earlier this month against Amherst.
On Tuesday, St. Mary's advanced to the state title game with a two-point win, just like Hoosac got in its semi-final.
If Saturday's game is tight down the stretch, don't look for the Hurricanes to give up on what got them to this point. Against Bellingham, it was that dogged commitment to the press that produced a game-sealing steal by Jennifer Gale at half-court.
"We didn't stop with our pressure in that situation," Wojcik said. "We were going to live or die with it at that point."
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