CHESHIRE -- On the heels of a perfect division record and the South crown, the Hoosac Valley girls' basketball team kicks off their postseason run tonight.
The Hurricanes still have a bad taste in their mouths from the way they were eliminated last season. A double-overtime loss they nearly pushed to a third will do that.
"We definitely still think about it a lot," Tori Rumbolt said. "We relate to it all the time and just think about how we've changed, and how we will not let that happen again."
While it was sheer heartbreak in Orange last March, it's an experience that may have served Hoosac well. It gave a youthful Hurricane team its first taste of what postseason basketball is all about.
"I think back to my years at Pittsfield High, you always wanted a young team to at least get the taste of the tournament to get some experience, so they know what that atmosphere is," coach Ron Wojcik said.
Hoosac will need that experience against a good No. 10 Palmer team tonight at 7. The player that benefited most from last year's playoffs might be sophomore Mckenzie Robinson. She ran the offense as a freshman last year, and she felt the effects of her first postseason.
"Last year, it was definitely something that I'd never seen before," she said. "I feel like I'll be more calm [this year]. I mean, I was nervous last year."
The Panthers have 1,000-point scorer Alyssa Darling that will control the ball. The Hurricanes know she's dangerous on the dribble, but can pull up and shoot too. Darling won't be forcing Hoosac out of its gameplan, though.
The Hurricanes will continue to trap. They'll trap, trap and trap some more. They did it all season long, and it worked. They aren't going to stray now.
"We're just going to try to get the ball out of her hands, and basically pressure everybody else when she gives it up," Meg Rodowicz said.
The players recognize intensity is what it takes to work the trap effectively. Perhaps that's because the coaching staff has been harping on it all year.
The athletes' commitment to the trap has given Wojcik the confidence to stick with it when it's not dominating. He's seen how well his team can utilize it on several occasions, most notably the first game against Lenox this season.
Hoosac fell behind 18-3 after just eight minutes because it lacked the intensity. That changed in the second and third quarters, as the Hurricanes exploded for a 34-7 run in that time.
"We feel even if we get down in the tournament a little on anybody, we still have an opportunity to come back," Wojcik said. "Where maybe a non-pressing team, it's a little more difficult."
They're also confident in the way they're playing. After a Jan. 24 loss to Wahconah, Hoosac closed the season winning five of its final six games. In that stretch, it scored 326 points (54.3) and gave up 199 (33.2).
"I feel like we finally stepped up for the past couple of games," Jen Gale said. "We're ready to make a good showing in the tournament."
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On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalJosh