1990 team remembers run to final

  • Greenfield’s Ann Brissette, left, tries to get a shot up over Southwick’s Rebecca Lobo during the Green Wave’s 65-34 loss in the 1990 WMass Division 2 championship game. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tara Jelley of Greenfield dribbles during her team’s WMass Div. 2 final against Southwick on March 10, 1990 at the Springfield Civic Center. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Greenfield girls basketball team watches the final seconds of their 65-34 loss to Southwick in the 1990 Division 2 title game at the Springfield Civic Center. From left to right, Tara Jelley, Jess Grader, Ann Brissette, Melanie Conant and Chris Attesi. At the far end of the bench are coaches Courtney and Donna Woodcock. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2019 9:02:59 PM

Walking off the floor at the Springfield Civic Center felt like a whirlwind. In the blink of an eye, Greenfield High School’s first (and only, until today) girls basketball championship game appearance was over:

Southwick 65, Greenfield 34

March 10, 1990, is a date that lives in infamy amongst Green Wave nation. A few days removed from a historic upset of top-seeded and two-time defending Division 2 champion Monument Mountain in a semifinal overtime thriller, Greenfield motored south to the Civic Center looking to make even more history. That’s where Parade All-American and future Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo waited, however. The Southwick junior center was a forced to be reckoned with. She wound up outscoring Greenfield herself en route to a 36-point, 16-rebound effort.

Greenfield star Ann Palermo (nee Brissette) certainly remembers that postseason run. The team’s senior leading-scorer finished with 11 points in the title game, but admits the Green Wave were behind the eight-ball from the opening tip-off.

“We basically expended every last ounce of energy on the Monument game,” Palermo said over the phone on Friday. “There was nothing left in the tank for (the Southwick). The celebration and magnitude of that game, it was so intense.”

Indeed, that Monument Mountain game was the one remembered most fondly by Greenfield players and coaches. In a game played at Cathedral High School in Springfield, the Wave rallied from a 19-point third quarter deficit to force OT, and Brissette drained the game-winning bucket with 11 seconds remaining for a 63-61 victory that thwarted the Spartans’ championship run.

“I think Monument Mountain was the favorite to win the tournament,” recalled former head coach Courtney Woodcock from his home earlier this week. “When we upset up them, that was quite the thing.”

Into the Finals

“That whole year we were counted out,” explained Erin Thayer (Suchanek), a junior on the 1989-90 squad. “No one thought we’d get where we did.”

When the brackets for the WMass Division 2 tourney were released, No. 1 Monument and No. 2 Southwick seemed on a collision course yet again. The teams played the two previous seasons in the championship game, with the Spartans snagging a pair of 20-plus point victories.

But when Greenfield upset the defending champions in the semifinals, all bets were off. The bracket was thrown into a tizzy.

“I think it was pretty much shock,” Palermo said of the win. “I think we kind of shocked ourselves, too.”

Monument Mountain coach Dave Kinne was caught off guard as well.

“Greenfield hadn’t seen us play, I don’t think, and they weren’t intimidated,” he told the Recorder’s John Giniusz afterward. “A lot of teams who play us are intimidated. They’re afraid of us. Greenfield obviously was not afraid of us.”

It was a big moment in program history. Greenfield was to play for a WMass title for the first time ever.

“The girls basketball program wasn’t that strong in the ’60s and ’70s, into the ’80s,” said Woodcock, who took over the program in the ’70s, retired from teaching in 1993 and closed out his coaching career a few years later. “But (in 1990) I had some really good girls. Ann Brissette and Tara Jelley, both were very quick and very good players. It was a very talented team.”

The Legend of Lobo

Six-foot-4 centers don’t grow on trees in Franklin County.

Rebecca Lobo’s presence is the lasting memory from the 1990 title game. She did it all for the Rams. That included seven steals and four blocks, making things all but impossible for Greenfield inside.

“I knew her personally going in,” Palermo said of Lobo. “We played against each other in other sports. She played field hockey and softball, so just being around the circles in WMass, I knew her. I wasn’t necessarily in awe of her, but after the photo was published of her standing over our two tallest players, it looked sort of hopeless.”

Lobo and the Rams wound up going back-to-back, knocking off Taconic in the 1991 championship game to close her career with another title. She graduated as the state’s all-time scoring record-holder with 2,740 points. That number lasted 18 years until it was eclipsed by Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir of New Leadership Charter School in 2009.

“Rebecca Lobo was too much for us but they had another tall girl, too,” said Woodcock, referring to 5-foot-10 Danielle MacKnight, who finished with 16 points. “They were both pretty good ballplayers.”

“They stuck to their game plan, and I felt that we didn’t have a game plan for double and triple-teaming Rebecca Lobo because the one thing people took for granted on her was she’s an excellent passer,” Palermo said. “She had a lot of assists.”

In the Arena

The game itself was out of reach quickly.

Southwick led 35-9 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 54-15 in the third quarter before Greenfield cut into the deficit late.

“I remember taking my first outside shot and having never played a game without a wall behind the hoop, the depth perception made it really, really hard for me to shoot an outside shot,” Palermo said.

Palermo, whose 11 points brought her school record total to 1,333 (Raegan Hickey has since passed that mark this winter), lauded Southwick’s game plan in slowing the quick-hitting Green Wave offense.

“Whenever they missed a shot or we got a rebound, they had two guards on me and Tara Jelley and they just shut our fast break down,” she said. “Normally, we ran and ran and ran and got a lot of easy points, and we couldn’t do that. We had to scrap and claw for everything we got against them.”

Senior center Chris Attesi finished with 6 points in the loss, while Jelley was held to 3 points. Sophomore Robyn Brokos scored 8 points, but Greenfield was limited by a dismal 12-for-46 shooting night. Palermo was just 3-for-18 from the floor, and Jess Grader was 1-for-11. Greenfield finished 20-3 overall.

“We just couldn’t keep up with them,” Woodcock said.

From the Sidelines

George Miller will handle the public address announcing duties in today’s title game between Greenfield and Hoosac Valley. Miller was in attendance for the ’90 final, broadcasting the boys Div. 3 championship between Smith Academy and St. Joseph’s on radio for WHMP Northampton that preceded the Greenfield-Southwick game (a 70-54 Smith Academy win). After packing up his equipment, Miller headed down to watch the Green Wave try their luck against Lobo and the Rams.

“I just remember thinking, ‘How much are they going to have in the tank after the way they beat Monument?’” he recalled.

Recorder photographer Paul Franz roamed the sidelines for the paper that day. He was impressed by the utter dominance that Lobo brought to the floor.

“I was very impressed with (Lobo),” said Franz. “She was incredibly talented. It’s been awesome to watch her career after that.”

Franz said he knew early on that it wasn’t going to end well for the Wave. His photos that ran in the Monday edition of the Recorder included one of Lobo towering over Brissette, as well as a team shot of a disappointed bench area late in the fourth quarter with coaches Courtney and Donna Woodcock at the end.

“Greenfield was obviously outmatched,” Franz said. “But there was no shame in losing to that team.”

Southwick went on to fall in the state semifinals to Oakmont, which lost to Milton in the Div. 2 title game. The following year, Lobo & Co. reached the state finals and lost to North Attleboro.

Prepping for Another Shot

Courtney Woodcock has enjoyed following this year’s Greenfield team. The 87-year-old went to the semifinal win over South Hadley on Wednesday, and says he’s taken in six or seven games this winter.

“They’ve got a lot of talent,” offered Woodcock of the current squad. “I really like watching (Katie) Haselton play. She’s an aggressive, hard-nosed kind of player.”

Palermo, who lives in Dedham these days, has also been in the house this winter, taking in Greenfield’s 55-52 loss to Taconic in the regular-season finale on Feb. 20. She also went to the semifinal loss last year to Hampshire at the Cage.

“They’re so fun to watch every time I see them,” she said of the Wave. “This group of kids have allowed me to reconnect with old teammates and classmates, following along.”

Palermo is best friends with Haselton’s mother, and she’ll be rooting for her from afar this afternoon. She’s watched Haselton and Samantha Smith grow up, and hopes they can help the Wave take home the school’s first championship.

“I texted Katie, told her to bring it in the fourth quarter because everyone else is going to be tired,” she said.

Woodcock said reaching the final is something for everyone involved to cherish.

“It’s an experience for the girls and it’s also quite the experience for the coach, too,” he said of playing for a WMass title. “It’s something that doesn’t happen every year. Most years, actually.”

Greenfield Recorder

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