Hoosac Valley Girls Down Marlboro to Cap Coaches Vs. Cancer

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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CHESHIRE, Mass. -- It was not exactly the same old Hoosac Valley girls basketball taem on Saturday evening.
Except on the scoreboard. That looked very familiar.
The Hurricanes overcame an off night shooting and eschewed their customary fullcourt pressure defense en route to a 49-35 win over 2017 Central Mass Division 2 semi-finalist Marlboro in the final game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Showcase.
Alie Mendel scored 17, and Lexi Mercier added 13 as the Hurricanes improved to 11-0 this season and gave the county a 3-3 record in the event.
It was the five-time Division 3 Western Mass champions' fourth independent win over a higher-division opponent this season and sets the stage for a Berkshire County North showdown Tuesday at D2 Pittsfield for first place in the league.
Throughout the Hurricanes' run at the top of the heap in Western Mass, the full court press has been their calling card more often than not.
On Saturday, Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik changed things up, going with a half-court trap most of the night.
"We didn't have a good shooting night, and some of that leads to how we're pressuring them and playing them," Wojcik said. "If we're missing, we're back in the press, so that's probably a little of why it was that way.
"Then again, they're a really quick team, so you have to be careful of that a little bit. We knew if we extended too much and they beat us, they were going to start getting drives and kicks for 3s. Part of it was our game plan, and part of it was them doing a good job.
"It's absolutely good to get a 'W' when you're not playing your best, either."
Sarah Popivchak scored 13 points, and Nicole Galliac added 11 for Marlboro, which managed just two points in the first quarter as the Hurricanes built an 11-2 lead.
It stayed in the 10-point range most of the first half with Mendel scoring seven and Riley Robinson grabbing seven rebounds to help the Hurricanes take a 21-10 lead into the locker room.
The Hurricanes came out to start the second half with a 17-3 run to take control of the game.
Mercier started things off with a triple. Moments later, she stole the ball at one end of the court and set up Mendel with a no-look pass in transition at the other to make it 26-10.
Mendel hit a 3 to push the lead to 19 before Marlboro got its first points of the half.
Then the Hurricanes scored nine in a row to open a 38-13 lead: a putback by Robinson, a steal and score by Skylar Case, a triple by Jess Halverson and a Mercier bucket in transition.
The Panthers rallied, cutting the lead in half and getting within 44-32 with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Sarah Field (seven points) delivered a conventional three-point play out of a timeout, and Robinson (six points) drove the left wing for two to get the lead back to 17 points before a late triple from Popivchak provided the final margin.
After scoring at least 64 points per night in its first nine outings, Hoosac Valley won its last two -- over Wahconah on Wednesday and on Saturday night -- without breaking 50.
"We've been struggling shooting the last few games," Wojcik said. "We're just going to keep working on it and hopefully it will turn around.
"I think it's ups and downs during the year. Sometimes the caliber of [opponent] too and the type of team. This team is really quick. They covered a lot of ground quickly. They weren't particularly long, but they covered a lot of ground and got to the shooters quick. ... Wahconah, on the other hand, is another beast. They're long and lanky, so they were getting their arms up the other night.
"It's something we work on every day, so we're just going to have keep going at it."
Tuesday's date at Pittsfield is the first of seven Berkshire County games in a row for Hoosac Valley, which closes the season with two games at the Foxboro Tournament, Feb. 19 and 20.
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