AMHERST -- There was no buzzer-beater, no high-pressure free throw to seal the game.
But this win trumps their double-overtime victory a week ago.
"That one was more exciting and more pumping to be in," Hoosac Valley's Jenn Gale said. "This one was more relaxing."
The No. 7 Hoosac Valley girls' basketball team needed none of that excitemen as it ran past No. 6 Mahar, 57-37 in the first girls' Western Massachusetts Division II semifinal at the Curry Hicks Cage on Thursday night. The win avenges a double-overtime loss to the Senators in last year's quarterfinals.
The win puts the Hurricanes back in the Western Mass. final for the first time since 1992. They will play No. 1 Drury on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. It will be the third straight game the Hurricanes are the lower seed.
"Our whole team knew we needed to get revenge on Mahar," senior Tori Rumbolt said. "We knew that they're a tough team and they're fighting to get to the finals as well. We had to give it our all. We couldn't let this be our last game."
The Hurricanes pressured the Senators from start to finish and forced turnover after turnover, but it wasn't until the second half they were able to pull away. Missed shots plagued Hoosac throughout the first half, as did poor defensive rebounding.
Rumbolt, who had the Hurricanes' first two baskets, picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and was forced to sit and watch until the second half.
With Rumbolt back in for the third quarter, Hoosac dominated on the glass, allowing Mahar to grab one offensive rebound the whole second half. It had 10 in the first.
"She picked up those two fouls and I didn't want to take a chance on the third with her," coach Ron Wojcik said. "We lose a lot when she goes out on the boards. Even though she's not our biggest person, she's so aggressive going after the ball. I thought she did a great job.
"The other thing I thought she did, too, is once she kicked it out [to a guard], she was sprinting down the court."
It wasn't just her, though, as everyone got in on the action.
"Our coach really pounded us at halftime with the rebounding because the first half was just awful with the rebounding," Meg Rodowicz said. "So I just did what coach said."
With the Hurricanes taking care of business on the defensive glass, they were able to extend their pressure. Mahar couldn't handle it, and it showed from the Senators' first possession. Hoosac earned a quick steal and Gale found Rumbolt slashing down the lane for an easy layup. That was the beginning of the end. Rumbolt finished with 11 points.
After Jill Valley answered with a circus hook shot falling out of bounds, Hoosac didn't allow another point until Jenelle Juskiewicz's 3-pointer with about 90 seconds left in the third quarter. By that point, Hoosac had a 40-26 lead.
Madi Ryan and Rosse carried the load during the run, combining for eight points (four apiece). Rosse had eight of her game-high 17 points in the frame.
"Our goal is to get the ball inside to Rosse," Wojcik said. "I thought we had an advantage inside with her."
By the middle of the quarter, it was obvious Hoosac's pressure was wearing on Mahar, and the Hurricanes took notice.
"You could tell in their faces that they were mentally exhausted and physically exhausted," Gale said.
Hoosac fed off that, allowed just five points in the quarter and carried that through to the fourth, where it allowed eight.
Hoosac's trip to the Western Mass. final has been a long time coming for the program, and it's something the athletes are thrilled about.
"Never in a million years [did I think we'd be here]. It's just amazing," Rumbolt said. "It's definitely a good way to end our senior year. I hope we can keep going."
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