CHESHIRE, Mass. – The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team led wire to wire in its 70-46 win over Pioneer Valley Regional Thursday in the Western Massachusetts Class D semi-finals.
And the Hurricanes’ lead never dipped below seven points after Hanna Shea hit a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter to put the ‘Canes up, 9-2.
But at half-time, Hoosac Valley coach Jon Frederick had reason to be concerned after his team scored nine points in a second quarter that saw the visiting Panthers at one point cut a 16-point lead nearly in half.
“We had a lot of nervous energy today,” Frederick said. “I think the kids were really excited to play. We weren’t ourselves. You could tell really in the first half. We struggled with things that typically we don’t struggle with. We were making some crazy wild passes, just not on point.
“And that’s really not us. You could tell the energy was off. We tried to press. We’re not a pressing team, but we tried to press to get rid of that energy, make them kind of run it out.”
In the third quarter, Hoosac Valley ran away with the game.
The top-seeded Hurricanes (16-4) started the third quarter on a 13-2 run to take a 43-23 lead and never led by fewer than 17 points the rest of the way.
Ashlyn Lesure scored 24 points, and Gabby Billetz had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds as Hoosac Valley won its eighth straight and set up a date on Saturday at Holyoke High School against second-seeded Lenox (15-5) for the regional title.
Hoosac Valley looked dominant in the first half, forcing six Pioneer Valley turnovers and building a 21-9 lead.
Emma Meczywor and Lesure each hit a 3-pointer along with Shea in the first eight minutes, which saw Hoosac Valley lead by as many as 14.
Two straight baskets by Lesure stretched the lead to 28-12 midway through a low-scoring second quarter. But Pioneer Valley answered with its best stretch of the game, scoring nine straight, including a pair of baskets from Laura Kahler, to make it 28-21.
The Hurricanes closed the half with a basket by Abby Sialabba to take a 30-21 lead into the locker room.
Billetz said there were some things the team needed to work on in the second half.
“Some of us are new to this, but we talked about in the locker room that we need to rebound and work on everything else,” Billetz said. “Our defense was sloppy, but we cleaned it up.
“We knew that pick-and-rolls were going to be key. We saw that they couldn’t really guard them that well, so we knew we had to do that. And it worked out for us.”
Billetz scored a pair of buckets to start the third quarter on assists from Taylor Garabedian (10 points) and Lesure. Scialabba capped the run with a bucket in transition assisted by Billetz to make it a 20-point margin for the first time.
Hoosac Valley Saturday will go for its fourth straight Western Massachusetts title, going back to the days when it was a sectional tournament and the champion advanced to the state semi-finals. Last year, it won the inaugural PVIAC Western Mass regional tournament, a precursor to the state tourney, beating Lee in the finale at MCLA.
Again this year, the Class D final will be an all-Berkshire County affair after Lenox dispatched Monson on Wednesday night.
Some of the Millionaires made the trip to Cheshire on Thursday for the 5 p.m. tip to get some tips on their next opponent.
“Lenox will be a good one for us,” Frederick said. “We’re kind of excited to see another Berkshire County team. I think Lee is the only common opponent we have between the two of us. It should be a good one.
“We saw them yesterday. It should be a good game. I’m looking forward to it.”