Mendel's 1,000th, Mercier's 40 Lead Hoosac Girls Past Tacocnic
PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Alie Mendel does not like a ton of attention. But on Thursday night all eyes were on the Hoosac Valley senior guard, as she eclipsed 1,000 career points to help lead the Hurricanes to a big, 83-62 victory over Taconic.
Mendel shot just 1-of-6 in the first half, but she connected for a 3-pointer early in the third period to reach the milestone. At that point, play was immediately halted in order to recognize the accomplishment and present her with the game ball. Coaches, teammates, family and friends quickly gathered to congratulate Mendel and bask in the big moment.
“That was a great feeling. That was a great experience,” Mendel said. “It is so much sweeter tonight, because we wanted this win wicked bad. It was nerve-racking early on but my teammates kept on lifting me up and boosting my confidence, and telling me that I was going to get it.”
The Hurricanes rode that momentum the rest of the way and ran away to victory. Mendel closed the night with 10 points and four rebounds.
Hoosac Valley (4-0) started the highly-anticipated battle of unbeatens with an immediate and aggressive fast tempo. The Hurricanes darted up and down the court and moved the ball inside and outside with great success to find open shooters. While ironically it was Mendell who got off to a slow start offensively, the rest of her teammates began on fire and stayed that way all night long.
The Hurricanes took control of the opening tip, scored first and never trailed in the action. Riley Robinson got the scoring started with a putback and Sarah Field followed with a steal and a layup, and just like that the Hurricanes were off and running. Ciany Connors drained an open floater to get Taconic on the board, but Hoosac countered as Lexi Mercier delivered a nice inside move to the hoop, Mendel went strong to the basket on the next possession and Shaleigh Levesque then drained a trey to make it an 11-2 opening advantage.
“We practice every day at practice on our fast breaks, and we knew that fast breaks could potentially win this game tonight,” Mendel said.
Hoosac’s scoring machine was only just getting going. Mercier stayed hot all night, connecting for 10 3’s on her way to a 40-point night, while Robinson powered her way to a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, and she also had two steals. The duo helped open things up to a 25-10 lead at the end of the first period.
“We knew it was going to be a big crowd and Taconic was 3-0 coming in and was going to be fired up, but we said that we just have to bring energy and come after them right away and set the tone early,” Hurricanes coach Ron Wojcik said. “I thought we did that.”
Taconic (3-1) did not lie down even despite falling into a huge deficit. A flurry of triples from Mercier ballooned Hoosac’s lead up to 40-17 in the second period, before the hosts went on a 14-0 run to close out the first half and cut the deficit to single digits.
Taea Bramer got going offensively to help fuel the rally. After drawing contact and connecting on both free throws, she followed up a putback basket from teammate Kendra Buda by nailing an open runner the next trip down the floor, and followed that with a three on the following possession. Tamia Patrick sank a runner in the lane and Bramner then drained a trey from the top of the key with five seconds left in the first half to make it a 40-31 contest.
Hoosac made some adjustments at halftime by simply going back to what worked so well at the start of the action.
“I just told them that you are coming after them, and you need to come out with the same fire-power offensively and defensively as you did to start the game,” Wojcik said. “I thought that the girls did a good job of pushing that lead back up. We have been road warriors and this is our fourth game in a row, so this is good momentum to be able to play in a league game against a good Taconic team. They kept battling and coming after us no matter what the lead was. They are going to be a good team down the road. They’ve got a lot of nice young players.”
Bramer led Taconic with 21 points, while Ciany Conyers had 11 points and six rebounds.
But on this night it was one of the Hoosac veterans that stole the spotlight. Even though Alie Mendel did not necessarily want all the attention, she certainly earned and deserved it.
“I’m so happy and proud of her, and she has had such a great career for us that hopefully will continue with a good run this year,” Wojcik said. “She does everything for us; she distributes, she plays defense and she can score. She is a hard-nosed, tough kid and she brings that confidence, and it is really good for the younger kids we have in the program to look up to somebody like that.”