WESTHAMPTON -- The Hoosac Valley girls basketball team was in an all-too familiar place with a trip to the Curry Hicks Cage on the line. The Hurricanes were eliminated in double-overtime last year. Not this time.
The Hurricanes made 8 of 10 free throws in the two overtimes and Celina Sistrunk converted a timely layup to power No. 7 Hoosac Valley past No. 2 Hampshire, 65-61 in the Western Massachusetts Divsion II quarterfinals.
"Last year, we were a nervous wreck. We didn't even know what to do. We lost our composure," Meg Rodowicz said. "This year we really had to focus on not letting it happen again."
The Hurricanes will get a chance to avenge their double-overtime loss Thursday night when they play Mahar in the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinals at the Cage. Tip-off time is 6 p.m.
"It feels amazing. I can't even explain it," said senior Tori Rumbolt, who fouled out midway through the first overtime. "I love my team. No matter what, if someone's down, there's always somebody next picking someone up. It just feels absolutely amazing that we got [it] this year."
Hoosac had a chance to win in regulation, but Rumbolt's layup didn't fall through. The Hurricanes then seemed poised to win in overtime, but Jess Kowal drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force the second extra session.
"I was speechless," said Rodowicz, who finished with 17 points. "That was an amazing shot by that girl. It was like a miracle that it went in.
"We knew that they were on the ropes, and we just had to keep pressuring them because I think they were starting to get out of control."
Sistrunk had already made a layup by backing down Hampshire's star player Sarah Kober earlier in the second overtime. It gave Hoosac a 60-58 lead.
But Kober, who led all scorers with 25, got revenge when she dished the ball off to Chelsea Moussette, who laid it in and drew the foul. The made free throw gave Hampshire a 61-60 lead. It was the final point the Raiders scored.
Sistrunk found herself with an easy look on Hoosac's next possession, but couldn't put her team back in front. Kober, playing with four fouls, gave her space down low, but the layup attempt caught the outside of the rim.
Then Hoosac caught a break, as Hampshire broke its press but Raiders coach Rich Moussette had already called timeout. It let Hoosac get reset and freshman Madi Ryan took advantage with a steal with 30 seconds remaining. It gave Sistrunk one more try, and she didn't miss. The basket gave Hoosac a 62-61 lead.
"My coach, he makes us focus, and that's the biggest thing he tells me: Focus," she said. "If I didn't make it, we would have lost, I felt. So I had to take my time and just put it up.
Kober with four fouls "helps me a lot. She couldn't block, she couldn't foul, she couldn't do anything. It was like nobody was guarding me, so I could just go up."
Then it was Gale's turn. The junior stole the ball at mid-court and went to the line with 9 seconds left. She had already made nine free throws, eight in row since the start of the fourth quarter. All had gone through cleanly.
"Just breathe and take my shot," she said of her thought process at the line.
The last two needed a shooter's touch, but they fell and Hoosac had a 3-point lead again at the end of a quarter.
The last time, Hoosac went with the press. This time, Wojcik stuck to his guns and tried to foul. The Hurricanes didn't get the foul, but they got something better.
The Hurricanes got a steal from Kober and Mckenzie Robinson was there to scoop up the loose ball and was fouled. The sophomore hadn't played since midway through the third quarter, a stretch of about 20 minutes. It was the longest stretch she sat on the bench all season. It didn't matter.
Needing the first free throw to go through and take the pressure off the second, she nailed it. The final free throw allowed Hoosac to avoid another double-overtime loss in the quarterfinals.
"I couldn't have done it without my teammates. They were right there, they were supporting me," she said. "They kept saying ‘You got it. You got it.' If it wasn't for them, I would have never had that confidence. They helped me big time."
To reach Josh Colligan, email
On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalJosh