CHESHIRE, Mass - The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team has a lot of weapons, and Monday night it showcased many of them to lead the way to a 53-42 victory over Taconic.
With Taconic able to disrupt the Hurricanes from their normal style of up-tempo play, it was Hoosac’s ability to adjust and find contributions in other ways that made all the difference.
“I thought we did what we had to do in order to win,” Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said. “I wasn’t totally pleased with everything tonight, but Alie Mendel and Riley Robinson stepped up and did some things offensively on drives to get to the line and take care of the ball at the end of the game. We made a few stops when we had to, but there are some things we’ve got to work on too.”
Mendel and Robinson delivered some key plays at the right time, cutting off Taconic’s final rally push early in the fourth quarter. Freshman center Ahliyah Phillips drained a basket to pull the visitors within seven points early in the fourth, but the Hoosac guards helped push the lead back to double digits by getting free throws by taking the ball inside to the hoop and drawing contact. The next four possessions resulted in a trip to the line, where Mendel hit a pair and Robinson connected for three free throws that made it a 48-36 Hoosac advantage.
The Hurricanes (12-2) are a team that likes to move at a fast pace, while complementing quickness to the basket with great outside shooting. But when Taconic took them out of their comfort zone on Monday by disrupting the perimeter shooters and controlling inside, Hoosac displayed its versatility in getting the job done in other ways.
“We have a lot of dangerous weapons on our team,” Robinson said. “Our team likes to run, obviously, and whenever we can get a fast break we love to do that. But it is so nice playing on this team, and I trust each and every one of these girls. Everybody knows that when somebody is down we have got to step up.”
Robinson was the one who stepped up and had a big night, collecting eight rebounds to go along with eight points. All of her scoring came at the free throw line, as she hit 8-of-10 shots from the charity stripe.
With Hoosac senior Lexie Mercier creeping up on a career milestone as she approaches her 1,000th career point, Taconic did a nice job of contesting Mercier’s shots and keeping her out of rhythm for much of the night. Mercier had a monster night earlier this season when the Hurricanes routed Taconic on its home court, but Monday night Taconic managed to keep her from heating up.
“Obviously we know that Lexie is going to get it,” Robinson said. “We hope that she gets it soon. We’re just having her take her time and let it come to her right now, and it will come sooner or later.”
Mercier finished with nine points to go along with five steals and three rebounds, and she is now 13 points shy of the mark. Even with much of the atmosphere centered on her impending milestone, what mattered most was the team earned an important victory.
“This is a big one for the league,” Wojcik said. “It gives Taconic two losses, and Wahconah has got two and we’ve got one, so we’re a game up on everybody. We have Pittsfield on Wednesday night, which is a big game. Lexie is close to 1,000 points, and I know she wants to get that over with and get it out of the way to just focus on basketball. Hopefully she will be able to do that on Wednesday night.”
Mendel can relate to the emotions, after the senior surpassed 1,000 career points when Hoosac beat Taconic earlier this season. Mendel delivered in key moments all throughout Monday’s action, diving for loose balls and creating offense, and she finished with a game-high 18 points.
In the opening quarter Mendel helped build the big lead with a three-point play with 4:23 remaining. She grabbed an outlet pass from Robinson and powered through a foul to drain the shot and earn a free throw, which she also connected on to extend it to an 8-2 lead.
The Hurricanes took control over the rest of the half, taking a 37-24 advantage into the break. Sarah Field went high off the glass on their next possession, for the first of her 13 points on the night. Taconic finally ended the run when Taea Bramer dropped a floater in from the corner. Bramer then sunk a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but Mendel responded with another three-point play. Taconic began to work inside to Phillips and Faith Cross, and Hoosac answered by getting Mercier going.
“Getting the big lead helps, but I’d like to see us play with that energy for the entire 32 minutes, and right now we’ve haven’t been,” Wojcik said. “I’d like to see us extend that energy longer to keep cutting and trapping, but it definitely helps when you get a big lead and you have some cushion to play with going down the stretch.”
Taconic refused to go quietly, even as all night long someone else stepped up to make plays in key moments for Hoosac. Taconic closed out the first half by inching back off a 10-0 run that was fueled by several strong possessions from Phillips, who scored six of her 13 points during that stretch. But after Phillips went strong to the hoop for a layup that cut the deficit to ten points, Hoosac answered when Field fed Mercier for an easy outlet to the basket and then followed with a nice inside move and finish that kept the momentum with Hoosac heading into the break.
Taea Bramer got going in the third quarter to give Taconic another spark in it slast rally push. The junior guard ignited the tempo out of the gate in the second half, and also closed the quarter by draining one off the glass just before the buzzer. Bramer had 13 points, three assists and three rebounds.