Mendel Named MVP as Hoosac Girls Top Longmeadow

By Stephen Sports
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- On a night when Hoosac Valley's press was less than fully effective and its 3-point shooting was not working, Alie Mendel definitely was.
Mendel scored a game-high 21 points -- including 13 in a decisive third quarter -- as the Hoosac Valley girls defeated Longmeadow, 65-54, in the Spalding Hoophall Classic at Springfield College.
The Hurricanes had a 37-28 lead at half-time but pushed the margin to 18 points in the third with Mendel scoring most of their 21 points in the quarter.
"She definitely took control as far as going to the basket," Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said. "It's one of her strengths, and we try to get her going to the hole with different sets in our offense and off the break.
"She did a great job taking the ball to the basket. She's got great body control, and, physically gets hit and can get the and-one, too. She has good touch off the board."
Mendel gave a big part of the credit to her teammates.
"Driving was definitely working, and my teammates found me open a lot on the wings, especially our point guards," Mendel said.
Mendel had three assists herself, and Riley Robinson and Skylar Case each had a pair of assists.
Case scored 12, and Lexi Mercier scored 10. Just three of Mercier's points came from behind the 3-point arc; as a team, the Hurricanes shot just 6-for-28 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range.
It was Hoosac Valley's third independent game win against a team from a higher classification. Earlier this winter, the Hurricanes (9-0) knocked off Central Mass Division 2's Auburn and Western Mass D1's Minnechaug.
D2 Longmeadow did not make it easy.
It was a one-point game late in the first quarter, before Hoosac Valley used a 5-0 spurt to get some separation. First Kayla Garabedian knocked down a shot, then Riley Robinson got a steal at one end of the court and set up Mercier for a conventional three-point play at the other end to make it 20-14.
Early in the second, Case hit a 3 and set up a Mendel 3 on back-to-back possessions to get te lead to double digits, 26-15.
Longmeadow pulled back within six in the final minute of the half, but Case hit her second 3 of the game from the left wing to send Hoosac Valley to the locker room with a nine-point lead.
The Lancers were able to stay close largely because of pivot Jordyn Shubrick, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
She finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Hoosac, which was outrebounded 29-22 in the first half, ended the game trailing just 51-42 in that department.
"We did do a little bit better [in the second half]," Wojcik said. "We've got to scrap for everything because we just don't have that big person inside.
"We send four to the glass [on offense]. That is part of our game. We try to play fast and send four to the glass, figuring we may get some extra shots out of it. ... It's part of our game -- besides turnovers and 3s and whatnot, we really focus every day in practice on sending four girls to the glass and trying to get an O-board on the miss."
In the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes extended their lead to 63-42 before Longmeadow started to fight back into it, using its press to turn the tables and turn the ball over against a Hoosac Valley team known for its full-court pressure.
"It definitely helps us in terms of getting us ready, especially for tournament time," Case said of facing the press, something Hoosac Valley also overcame against Minnechaug. "Teams are going to press. They're going to be better teams down the road.
"It helps our players focus, have confidence, take care of the ball. Especially with a lot of our underclassmen -- it helps them realize, 'I'm being pressed. I need to take care of the ball.' "
Longmeadow got within 13 with 1 minute, 40 seconds left on the clock, but the Hurricanes allowed just two more points -- on a pair of free throws -- the rest of the way.
Robinson said the 'Canes kept one another calm and did not let the lead slip down to single digits.
"We kept on talking to each other," Robinson said. "At one point, we got on the foul line, and we just calmed each other down. We said, 'Hey, we all know what we're doing.' We all just support each other. We didn't get mad at each other. And we ended up taking care of the ball and not rushing things."
Hoosac Valley is home on Wednesday against Wahconah before hosting its Coaches vs. Cancer event on Saturday. Five other Berkshire County teams will take on non-county foes in a six-game fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society that gets under way at 11 a.m. with Lee against Mount Anthony.
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