When the St. Mary’s High School girls basketball team scored 20 points in the opening quarter against Hoosac Valley – twice as many points as Hoosac had allowed on average in the tournament – it appeared that head coach Jeff Newhall and his Lady Spartans were well on their way to a Division 3 state championship.
But Hoosac had its own 20-point, opening quarter and the Lady Hurricanes kept that offensive attack and high energy going the rest of the way, ultimately prevailing over St. Mary’s, 66-49, Saturday at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
St. Mary’s junior Jannise Avellino was one of the main contributors in the fast-paced first quarter, finishing with six points and seven rebounds for the day.
Senior guard Pamela Gonzalez also played well, completing her excellent basketball career with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Eighth grader Yirsy Queliz showed that the Spartans’ future is bright, netting 12 points, including a spectacular reverse layup following a swift drive to the basket.
Hoosac (18-7), a regional school located in Cheshire, simply shot the ball better from the outside, especially 1,000-point scorer Alexandria Mercier, who had a game-high 21 points. Early in the game, Mercier hit three free throws after being fouled while shooting a three-pointer. St. Mary’s was assessed fouls on four of Hoosac’s attempts beyond the arc.
Hoosac Coach Ron Wojcik said his defense was geared to stopping St. Mary’s long-range shooters, including Olivia Matela, who had the game-winning 3-point shot (versus Williams) at the Garden, sophomore Nicolette D’Itria, junior Gabby Torres, who also excelled from downtown at the Garden, and Gonzalez, the Spartans’ own 1,000-point scorer.
Wojcik said he had two scouts at the St. Mary’s-Williams game at the Garden and they came away impressed with the Spartans’ 10 three-pointers made in the game.
“You could tell they were a great 3-point shooting team and a great ballclub, so basically we were trying to stop the penetration in the lane, but stay at home on the 3-point shooters and then make Gonzalez work for everything inside,” said Wojcik. “That was definitely our strategy.”
“Gonzalez is a great player. But we looked at it like, let’s take away the drives, take away the 3s, and if Gonzalez does some damage inside, we’ll give a little bit of that up.”
Newhall said during the last six minutes of the second quarter and the first four minutes of the third, “we were being tentative and waiting for something to happen and I thought that’s where the game got away.”
St. Mary’s (18-7) finishes another successful season with a Division 3 North sectional championship and a memorable victory over Archbishop Williams at the Garden, capped by the Matela Moment that will be remembered forever.
“I think this group is a tremendous group,” said Newhall. “I’m most proud of them, proud of our basketball program. I think when you start talking about elite girls basketball programs in the state, I think the name, ‘St. Mary’s’ is going to come out, whether we won or lost today. We’ve been to Florida, we’ve been to New Hampshire, we’ve been to the Cape – we just came up one step short. But it’s a good day for Hoosac Valley. They deserve it. They’ve got good kids, at least one person who has overcome quite a bit, and I’m happy for them.”