AMHERST -- Change is supposed to be for the better. It certainly was in the case of the Hoosac Valley girls’ basketball team’s defense.
The Hurricances ran their new trap defense all year, against all sorts of point guards. It was extremely effective, but it was at its best in the Western Massachusetts Division II championship on March 9.
The Hurricanes pressured top-seeded Drury at every chance, forcing travels and turnovers all over the court.
At the point of the trap was Meg Rodowicz, the lanky junior who made a name for herself on the soccer field in the fall. She didn’t slow up at all when she hit the hardwood.
She was tasked all season with guarding the other team’s best ball handler, trying to force a pass so the trap can work effectively. In the championship game, her assignment was Danielle Racette. Rodowicz couldn’t have defended the reigning All-Transcript MVP any better.
"I didn’t really do anything different," Rodowicz said. "I usually cover the point, but I just tried to keep it out of her hands."
Rodowicz prevented Racette from making a single basket from the field. All four of her points came at the foul line.
"To press and trap the way we do, you need someone special up on top of the point and Meg does that," coach Ron Wojcik said. "Meg’s quick enough to guard a guard, but she’s just all over you."
For Hoosac assistant coach Meg Vaughn, a former Wahconah standout that served as a practice player at Boston College for three years and one at Alaska-Anchorage, it was nothing new. Vaughn routinely runs the point for the second unit, and she has seen first-hand how little room Rodowicz yields.
"[Us coaches] were talking about Gary Payton and how he was called ‘The Glove,’ " Vaughn said. "Whoever was the best player on the other team, he would defend him, and he would be all over him. So that’s what Meg does."
Standing at 5-foot-10, Rodowicz often towers over the point guards she’s defending.
"It’s huge. The littlest things, the minor details of having her arms up or having them low on the cross over, with that length, it makes such a difference," Vaughn said. "Then on top of it, she has these long legs, and she can run for forever and she’s faster than most people that tall at the high school level. She’s got all of that. It’s awesome."
Racette was one of the taller guards Rodowicz faced this season. That combined with her physical toughness makes Racette a tough assignment. Rodowicz wasn’t lured into trying to outmuscle her. She had just one foul through the first three quarters. She wasn’t whistled for her second until 1 minute, 53 seconds into the fourth, but then she picked up her third just 17 seconds later. Both were in the offensive end.
Now she was in a bind. A simple hand check and Hoosac’s best defender would be playing with four fouls in a six-point game with more than 5 minutes to play. Sure enough, about 90 seconds later, battling for a defensive rebound, she was whistled for her fourth and was one bad call away from watching the rest of the game.
"I had to play off a little. I didn’t want to get my fifth because that wouldn’t be good," she said. "But I just tried to stay aggressive still."
She did, allowing Racette to drive by on a couple of occasions, but it didn’t hurt. None of those layups fell through, and Hoosac had a large enough lead down the stretch to have her play only offense.
"It was a couple of reaches there which she probably shouldn’t have done. I was definitely concerned, but I wasn’t about to really take her out. Š She’s a smart player."
Her performance in the title game was simply the culmination of what she did in the previous three tournament games.
"She went against four really good guards in this tournament, and we pulled four games out with her," Wojcik said. "Like I said, any defense starts with how tough you are up front and Meg is tough as nails."