Wahconah Girls Down Hoosac Valley

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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DALTON, Mass. -- Two weeks ago, the Wahconah girls basketball team went toe-to-toe with the five-time defending Western Mass champion Hoosac Valley Hurricanes but came up just short.
On Thursday, Wahconah closed the deal.
Cassie Tobler scored 18 points, and Julia O’Connor scored eight with four assists and a pair of blocked shots as Wahconah handed Hoosac its first loss to a Berkshire County team since 2016, 49-40.
It was sixth win in a row for Wahconah -- a streak that started just after its 41-34 loss in Cheshire back on Jan. 17.
“It’s a big win,” O’Connor said. “We try to use every game to improve. So this one was a big one for us. Moving forward, we know we can play with other teams and keep up with them.
“We knew we could stay with them. It was a close game the first time, and they’re good shooters. We tried to keep the intensity up. We knew we could keep it that close last time, so we could try and keep up with them this time.”
Wahconah coach Liz Kay could put her finger on one key to her team’s win in the rematch: the play of one of O’Connor’s fellow seniors.
“I think one big difference was Kelly McMahon, honestly,” Kay said. “In the first game, she was more hesitant. Tonight, she was on the attack. And having her as an extra attacker, when she really wasn’t the first time around, I think made a huge difference.”
McMahon finished with just five points, but they came on back-to-back possessions in a decisive fourth quarter.
First, she converted a Noelle Furlong assist for a 3-pointer to give Wahconah a 39-31 lead with just less than three minutes left. Then, after Alie Mendel (16 points) answered at the other end, McMahon scored in the post to push the lead back to eight points with 1 minute, 55 seconds on the clock.
Hoosac Valley, which won 24 straight games against county opponents since its Feb. 8, 2016, loss in Dalton, kept pressing.
Mendel hit a 3 to get the lead down to five. And after Furlong sank a pair of free throws with 1:08 on the clock, Riley Robinson earned a trip to the line and hit both her free throws to again make it a two-possession game with 50 seconds left.
But Furlong (eight points) score at the end of a press break, and Maria Gamberoni (nine points) got a steal and lay-in to make it 47-38. Gamberoni scored Wahconah’s last points at the foul line with 6.2 on the clock before Mendel scored the game’s final points at the buzzer.
That bucket allowed Hoosac Valley to avoid being held in the 30s for the first time since last year’s Division 3 State Championship Game.
“We had a number of sets, a number of things we set up to run against [Wahconah’s] 1-3-1, and we didn’t run ‘em,” Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said. “Whether it was mental or lack of focus or whatever it was, we just got outplayed in every aspect of the game.
“We had stuff. But we didn’t do a good job running it.”
In the first quarter, four Hoosac Valley 3-pointers -- three from Mercier -- helped the visitors set the pace.
Hoosac Valley (13-1) led by as many as eight points in the second quarter when Lexi Mercier (14 points) made a steal out of the press and hit a field goal to make it 18-10.
But Wahconah went on an 11-2 run to end the half. Tobler scored on a feed from O’Connor on a press break to start the rn, which ended on Noelle Furlong’s 3-pointer just before half to send Wahconah to the locker room with a 21-20 lead.
Wahconah went on to lead throughout the second half but did not go ahead by more than six until McMahon’s triple late in the fourth.
Besides the strong play from O’Connor and Tobler in the post, the other thing that stood out for Wahconah was the play of its guards, especially Gamberoni, who usually ended up being the one to bring the ball upcourt against Hoosac Valley’s vaunted press.
“And she wasn’t here yesterday, she’s sick,” Kay said of the freshman guard, who never sat down in Thursday’s win. “I just told her, ‘If you’re going to come out, you have to tell me yourself.’
“We used two guards to bring it up the court. I think that helps the situation. We were trying to get quick ball reversals and attack up the sideline. … She just gets after it in all areas.”
Wahconah (12-2) hosts Monument Mountain on Monday. Hoosac Valley goes to Mount Greylock on Saturday.
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