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Hurricanes blow out Mahar, 57-37

AMHERST — Hoosac Valley Regional High School may have only one senior on the team, but in the second half of Thursday night’s WMass Division II girls’ basketball semifinal, the Hurricanes looked like seasoned veterans.

The seventh-seeded Hurricanes outscored sixth-seeded Mahar Regional School 18-5 in the third quarter to turn a three-point halftime lead into a runaway, 57-37 victory at UMass’ Curry Hicks Cage.

Neither team was able to take control of the game in the first half, as play went back-and-forth over the first 16 minutes. The teams combined on six lead changes in the first two quarters, and only when Hoosac managed to string three scoring possessions together in the final two minutes of the second quarter did a team have more than a three-point lead at any time in the first half.

That all changed in the third quarter, when the Hurricanes scored on back-to-back possessions in the opening minute swing momentum in their direction. Jill Valley managed to score on a layup for the Senators with 6 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the frame, but Hoosac took control on its next possession. Freshman guard Madison Ryan missed a runner from around the free-throw line but followed her shot and got between a pair of Senator players, where she snagged the rebound before either player could react. Ryan immediately went back up with the ball and was fouled as the ball went into the hoop. She hit the free throw and Hoosac was on its way to the finals, 34-26.

In the meantime, Mahar struggled to get anything clean offensively, settling for long-range shots when it was not turning the ball over. The turnovers were a theme throughout the game and Mahar finished with — gulp — 28, 15 in the second half. Hoosac was much better at holding onto the ball, committing six turnovers in the first half and just three after halftime.

“It was uncharacteristic of us to turn the ball over that much and it wasn’t just one player, it was four or five,” Mahar coach Larry Fisher said. “We didn’t take care of the basketball and it hurt us.”

Hoosac continued to pour it on in the third and Mahar’s only other hoop was a 3-pointer by Jenelle Juskiewicz (11 points) with 1:27 to go. The Hurricanes took a 45-29 lead into the fourth quarter and easily closed it out.

“They came out in that third quarter wanting the ball, wanting the game more than we did,” “Their half-court, or two-thirds-court press slowed us down enough so that we just couldn’t get in sync. But, physically, they were bigger and they were stronger and they wanted it more than us tonight.”

The opening quarter saw the two teams trade a pair of baskets, only a Juskiewicz 3-pointer putting the Senators out in front with a 5-4 lead. Hoosac then lost one of its best defenders in Tori Rumbolt, who was forced to go to the bench with her second foul with three minutes left in the first quarter and did not return until the second half. Mahar took advantage and led for nearly the entire rest of the first quarter, not relinquishing the lead until Amber Lesure hit a free throw with one minute to go to give Hoosac a 12-11 lead after one.

The teams traded the lead twice to open the second quarter before Hoosac began to seize control with the aid of some Mahar sloppiness. After the Senators committed eight turnovers in the first quarter (to just four for Hoosac), Mahar added five more turnovers toward the middle of the second, and Hoosac built its largest lead of the night at 27-22. A pair of free throws by Ally Parker with under a minute to go sent Mahar into the break just three down at 27-24.

But the second half saw the Hurricanes pull away, and it’s something the rest of Division II will be cognizant of for years to come as all but one player is back. Center Emily Rosse led the Hurricanes in scoring with 17 points and is just a sophomore, while Ryan finished with 8 points. Guard Jen Gale (8 points) is also a junior, giving the team a reason to be excited for the future.

The Hurricanes defense held Mahar to just 13 second-half points and limited the Senators’ leading scorer, Jill Valley, to just 4 points to go with seven rebounds in her final game. Senior Juskiewicz led the team with 11 points in her final game, while Natashia Patria added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Eighth-grader Cassie Verheyen added 6 points and seven rebounds.

Hoosac will take on ???? in the Division II finals Saturday at 2:15.

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