Maria Gamberoni Buzzer-Beater Lifts Wahconah over Hoosac Valley

By Stephen Sports
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DALTON, Mass. -- With 3.8 seconds left and a 44-44 game in what has become the county’s hottest basketball rivalry, Wahconah girls basketball coach Liz Kay had no timeouts, but she did have her team inbounding the ball in front of her bench.
And she had a simple message.
“I certainly didn’t draw up that last one,” Kay said. “I just said try to get to the rim. Make ‘em make a call or try to get to the rim, and we did.”
Kay didn’t have to draw up a play because Maria Gamberoni was picture perfect.
Wahconah’s super soph took the inbounds pass, drove into the paint and hit a left-handed hook shot to give her 28 points and her team a 46-44 win.
“There were 3-point-something seconds left, and I just knew I had to take it to the rim,” Gamberoni said. “If you pass it, you might not get a shot, and the worst feeling is if you go to overtime not even have had a shot at all. So you just want to try to get it up in the air.”
Gamberoni scored 17 of her game-high 28 after half-time and 10 of her team’s 11 points in the fourth quarter.
But she was just one of the pair of Gamberonis who keyed Wahconah’s fourth straight win.
The other? Senior Victoria Gamberoni, who played smothering defense on Hoosac Valley sharp-shooter Lexi Mercier, allowing the Hurricanes’ senior to get off just one first-half shot and to make just one basket, a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter.
“I actually thought about putting someone else on [Mercier] tonight, and Victoria was like, ‘Absolutely not. We’re not going to even talk about this. This is what’s going to happen,’ “ Kay said. “I said, ‘OK.’ She was awesome. Lexi had that one 3 in transition, but I think overall our defense played as well as it could.”
Wahconah came out with a diamond-and-one defense on a night when Hoosac fans hoped to see Mercier score the 25 points she needed to get to 1,000 in her stellar career. Instead, the Hurricanes were forced to look for offense elsewhere.
“They had kids who made shots,” Kay said. “The goal was to make somebody else beat us, and they almost did.”
Annabelle Canales hit five 3-pointers, and Sarah Field scored 10 for the Hurricanes, who also got 10 from 1,000-point scorer Alie Mendel.
“Those kids hit shots,” Kay said of Canales and Field. “The good news is the kids who are used to making shots weren’t the ones getting shots.”
No one was making anything in the early going, and it looked for a while like the winning team would be lucky to score 25 points.
It was a 7-5 Wahconah lead after one quarter, but things started to heat up in the second.
Gamberoni scored 11, and Abbie Steinman added six in the second period to send Wahconah to the locker room with a 24-19 lead.
Hoosac Valley went to the break without one of the big runs that fans are used to seeing from the ‘Canes and their press and with some work to do with the edge Wahconah was piling up on the glass.
“I thought the first game we did a much better job on the boards,” Hoosac Valley coach Ron Wojcik said, referring to the Hurricanes’ 61-54 win in Cheshire two weeks ago. “We did a better job on the boards on Saturday against a really big team [Medfield].
“Wahconah’s got some size, but I thought they outhustled us on the boards tonight. We didn’t do the boxing out and the things we needed to.”
Steinman and Furlong each finished with 11 rebounds for Wahconah.
Hoosac Valley did answer the bell coming out of the locker room, using a 15-6 run to take a 35-30 lead late in the third when Canales knocked down a 3 on a pass from Riley Robinson (five assists).
But Maria Gamberoni drove the lane to snap the run, and Furlong hit a deep 3-pointer to tie it, 35-35, going to the fourth.
The Hurricanes took control early in the fourth, and that one Mercier triple gave her team a 42-36 lead with 4 minutes, 30 seconds to go.
It was still a six-point game when offensive rebounds by Maria Gamberoni and Furlong set up Maria’s 3-pointer with 2:30 on the clock to cut the deficit in half.
A Maria Gamberoni steal in the midcourt led to her lay-in at the other end to get Wahconah within a point at 44-43.
Then another offensive rebound, this time by Steinman, allowed Maria to get to the line with 8.8 seconds left and a chance to give her team the lead.
She missed the front end of a two-shot foul but hit the second to tie it.
“I called the timeout, and that was my last one,” Kay said. “We came out in a man press. They called timeout, so we switched it to a zone. … The good news is they expected us to come back out in man, and we came out in zone. I think that’s where they didn’t see it coming.”
Hoosac Valley committed a turnover in the backcourt with 3.8 seconds on the clock, setting the stage for Maria Gamberonis’s game-winner.
Hoosac Valley (10-2) goes to Monument Mountain on Saturday.
Wahconah (13-2) hosts Drury on Saturday.
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