BHS Girls Quintet Bows to Hoosac Valley in State Tournament
Bellingham center Kristen Swain controls a rebound and scores against Hoosac Valley in the Division 3 State Semifinal game in Springfield.
photo by Russ Boisvert
The exhilarating playoff ride ended for the Bellingham girls quintet in the State Tournament semifinals, where they lost to Hoosac Valley, 63-57, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
After defeating Leicester, Littleton, Sutton and Tyngsboro for the Central Mass. Division 3 Sectional crown, the Blackhawks bowed to the Lady Hurricanes, who finished first in the Berkshire County League and hiked their overall record to 20-2. Bellingham’s season concluded with the Blackhawks finishing 10-10 in the regular season and 14-11 overall.
Hoosac Valley, which is proving to be Bellingham’s nemesis, eliminated the Blackhawks last year. Both times the battles were similar. Last year, the ‘Canes jumped out to a 16-point lead, then held on for a two-point triumph. This time, Hoosac led by 16 in the third quarter, 46-40, then saw its lead dwindle to two, 48-46, in the final period. But a seven-point run, triggered by a pair of jump shots by Emily Rosse and a three-pointer by McKenzie Robinson gave Hoosac Valley a 55-46 advantage with four minutes left.
The Blackhawks cut the Lady Canes’ lead to 61-57, thanks to Meghan Cook’s short jumper and a clutch three-pointer with 1:30 remaining. Time, however, ticked away and Hoosac punched its ticket into the State finals against Archbishop Williams.
“Our inability to handle their defensive pressure became an issue,’’ said Bellingham coach Stacy Bilodeau. “Their trapping didn’t allow us to get into our offensive flow or get the ball inside to our bigs. We played hard and rallied back but we ran out of time.’’
Bellingham was led by Kristen Swain and Danielle Arcidiacono with 16 points apiece while Lindsey Jensen had 14. Rosse topped the Lady Canes’ offense with 17 points followed by Madison Ryan (16), Fallon Field (12) and Robinson (10).
“We struggled trying to find one another,’’ Swain said. “We just couldn’t pull off a victory. Although we fell behind, we kept focusing on the next play, and that helped us get back into the game.’’
Arcidiacono, who has been Bellingham’s go-to girl on offense, was dejected after the game but reflected on her team’s magical ride. “This isn’t the outcome we wanted, but we had a good run starting out as a No. 10 seed in the Sectional Tournament, then getting to the state semifinals. We just didn’t get the ball to the right places. Even though they’re a smaller team, they’ve got a lot of speed and their trapping on defense took us out of our rhythm.’’
Hoosac’s coach, Ron Wojcik, concurred that his team’s relentless pressure gave Bellingham trouble, but he was effusive in his praise of the Blackhawks. “Our quickness is a big plus and we practice hard on our traps,’’ he said; “and we’ve got three players who can hit threes. But give Bellingham credit. They play hard and they’re well-coached. We won because we made a few more plays than they did.’’
Hoosac Valley reached the state tourney by defeating Wachonah, South Hadley and Granby in the Division 3 West Sectional.
Trailing, 62-57, with less than a minute to play, the Blackhawks had two scoring opportunities that could have caused Hoosac fits, but they didn’t materialize. Jensen fired up a three-pointer that looked on target, but it popped out, and a fast-break pass sailed out of bounds with 20 seconds remaining.
Bilodeau noted that even though her forces didn’t string four good quarters together, “they gave everything they had and left it all out on the floor.’’ She also lauded Hoosac’s veteran style. “They’re a seasoned group whose quickness hurt us in a half-court set,’’ she emphasized. “They didn’t allow us to get the ball inside to Sabrina [Ulsh], but we have to remember that we were one game shy of going to the state final. We also should realize that we almost didn’t get into the tourney but qualified by winning our final regular season game. Our success in the Sectional was thrilling and rewarding.’’
Tony Constanzo, Bellingham’s Booster Club president, said afterward that “the girls never quit and the community should be extremely proud of their efforts.’’ Athletic Director Dennis Baker also was pleased with the conclusion of their season. “It was a great experience for the team, the school and the town to get to this point two years in a row,’’ he said. “We’re proud of the girls’ achievements. They played hard and lost to a very good team. We just ran out of time.’’