Fenwick Tops Hoosac Girls in State Final

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Saturday’s Division 3 State Championship game did not start well for the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team, and the ending sure was not what the Hurricanes were hoping for.


But in between, they showed the heart that has propelled Hoosac to three of these games and four sectional titles in the last four years.


Hoosac, which trailed by as many as 11 points and by as many as nine in the fourth quarter, came back to lead by as many as three in the second half. It had the ball down three with three minutes left before eastern Mass champ Bishop Fenwick pulled away for a 57-48 win in the Mass Mutual Center.


Fenwick (23-4) jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the opening minutes, bringing to mind images of Hoosac’s 23-point and 39-point losses in the last two state finals.


But the Hurricanes never lost faith in one another.


“Coming into this game, we knew we weren’t up against D1 athletes like we have been in the past,” Hoosac senior Madi Ryan said. “We were really excited for this challenge. We knew it was going to be a challenge. You don’t make it to the state finals if you’re not good.


“But we thought we were going to come out with a win. We thought we had a chance too.”


And in the end, they did, despite trailing by nine points early in the fourth quarter.


Fenwick’s Sydney Brennan (12 points) hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-40 with about six minutes left. But Hoosac held the Crusaders scoreless for the next six minutes, forcing two turnovers along the way.


Meanwhile, Allie Mendel set up Fallon Field (17 points) for a triple to get Hoosac within six, and, after Field fouled out with four minutes left, Ryan (12 points) knocked down a 3 to make it a three-point game.


But it was a nine-point game before Hoosac’s next score -- a Ryan bucket with 30 seconds left to make it 55-48 -- as Fenwick went 4-for-5 at the foul line down the stretch to put the game away.


Hoosac was hampered in the final four minutes without its leading scorer, Field, in the game.


“Obviously, I wasn’t happy, but I knew I had to, if not ignore it, just get over it,” Ryan said. “There were girls who were willing to step up -- who did step up in the first half when she had foul trouble. I think they still stepped up in the fourth quarter, even though we didn’t pull out the win.


“At that point, we knew we had to play for her instead of with her.”


Field watched a lot more of the game from the bench than she’s used to -- including the closing minutes. But what she saw from her teammates made her proud.


“We started hitting shots, and we started to cut down the lead,” Field said. “I was up, and I was excited and I was proud of my team and everything they did out there. Even when I fouled out at the end, I watched them play their hearts out, and I couldn’t be more proud of every girl on my team.


“There’s no other girls I’d rather do it with.”


Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik agreed that the players on the floor did everything they could at the end.


“It changes a lot because Fallon does a lot inside with rebounding and, obviously, her scoring,” he said. “But I thought the kids hung in there tough and still kept it to around three and gave ourselves a chance.


“I couldn’t be more proud of them for their effort and hustle.”


That same hustle shone through in Hoosac’s first comeback in the first half.


After falling behind by 11, Hoosac forced turnovers on four of Fenwick’s next five possessions, allowing the ‘Canes to end the first quarter down by just six.


“We came out and started making them turn the ball over,” Field said. “Once we started doing that, we wanted to do it more and more. We found the defense that worked for us, and we score our best off turnovers and a fast-paced game, and that’s what we started to do.”


It was an 11-point game again early in the third when Hoosac went on an 11-1 run.


The Hurricanes scored eight straight points starting with Skylar Case’ free throws to trim the lead to 21-12, and Ryan’s defensive rebound led to Allie Mendel’s bucket in transition to make it a seven-point game. Then, after the teams traded turnovers, Case set up Ryan for a 3-pointer to get Hoosac within four, 21-17.


Ryan hit the front end of a one-and-one for Hoosac’s eighth straight point before Fenwick hit a foul shot at the other end to push its lead to 22-18.


Ryan set up Case for a triple with 36 seconds left to get Hoosac within one, and after another Fenwick free throw, Lexi Mercier’s triple gave the Hurricanes a 24-23 lead they held going to the locker room.


Hoosac scored the first points of the second half when Ryan fed Field to make it a three-point game, but Fenwick answered with an 8-0 run to reestablish its lead.


The Hurricanes got back within two points, and it stayed a one- or two-possession game until the Crusaders hit back-to-back 3s early in the fourth to go ahead, 49-40.


For Hoosac Valley, it was the hardest of its three straight state finals to swallow. But what will be remembered of seniors Ryan and Cassidy McMahon is not the way their last game ended but the way the last four years have gone.


“It’s amazing,” Ryan said. “Obviously, we were hoping we were going to end up on a win. But we made it here. We’ve made it here three times. I am so lucky to have had an opportunity to play on this team and win four Western Mass titles.


“No matter what, I’ve been a champion all four years. It’s an amazing feeling.”

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