Girls basketball: Stella Clark’s 22 points lift Mohawk Trail past Smith Vocational

  • Mohawk Trail’s Octavia Crawford launches a 3-pointer from the top of the key over Smith Vocational’s Molly Smith in the first quarter Wednesday in Northampton. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Mohawk Trail’s Stella Clark, attempts to launch a shot in the lane over Smith Vocational’s Molly Smith in the first quarter Wednesday in Northampton. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Mohawk Trail’s Mya Lesieur takes the ball up strong to the hoop past Smith Vocational’s Dakodah Maleshelski in the first quarter Wednesday in Northampton. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Mohawk Trail’s Stella Clark launches a shot in the lane over Smith Vocational’s Kora Kelly in the second quarter Wednesday in Northampton. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Smith Vocational’s Maggie Lauder, left, gives chase as Mohawk Trail’s Mya Lesieur powers the ball up the court in the second quarter Wednesday in Northampton. Mohawk Trail won 49-20.  PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Mohawk Trail’s Rachel Pease powers the ball strong to the hoop past Smith Vocational’s Tessa Boisvert in the second quarter Wednesday in Northampton. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2021 10:19:14 PM
Modified: 12/22/2021 10:18:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON – The players on the Mohawk Trail bench jumped to their feet after senior Stella Clark put away an early basket in the Warriors’ game against Smith Vocational. One of her teammates on the sideline called out “I love you, Stella!” as she jogged back to play defense. 

Clark never slowed her role on Wednesday night, leading her team with 22 points as the Warriors defeated the Vikings 49-20 on Smith Vocational’s senior night. 

“She has a lot of experience playing, and she's an amazing leader, and it's really good to have such a great leader on the team when you have a really young team,” Mohawk Trail head coach Kate Grover said on Clark. “She knows how to communicate and how to lead, and I think that's really gonna help us throughout the whole season.”

The Warriors jumped out to a fast start, racing to a 16-2 lead in the first quarter. Undaunted, Smith Vocational gave Mohawk Trail a strong push-back in the second quarter, outscoring it 11-9 and closing the gap to 25-13 at halftime. That was in large part thanks to the efforts of Tessa Boisvert, who finished the game with 10 points, and Kora Kelly and Maggie Louder, who picked up four points apiece for the Vikings.

But in the second half, the Warriors were back to their strong play again, using a stifling press that the Vikings struggled with, and focusing on strong defensive play to keep the home team off the board. 

“Our biggest focus is always going to be our defense and so we really take pride in our defense,” Grover said. “We've been working really hard on rotations and getting those down during practice. So that was our focus for tonight. I think that really came to help us out today.”

It’s an unusual dynamic for the Warriors (1-1) this year, who have a mixture of upperclassmen and underclassmen with four seniors, four sophomores and a freshman. But even with the new additions to the team, Clark said that the team chemistry has been great so far. 

“I think we've definitely meshed a lot this year. I think it's been really great,” Clark said. “A lot of us haven't worked together before, but I think right from the first practice, we all just immediately clicked and bonded. And I think that's definitely helped us on and off the court.”

SENIOR CELEBRATION: The Vikings held a celebration after their game to honor all their seniors. Each senior was given a bouquet of roses and their coaches spoke to the crowd about their career goals and what they brought to the team, as well as what they’d miss about each of them.

“We've got a great group of girls that come in here every day. They work hard. They've got a great attitude,” Smith Voc. head coach Kristen Marciniec said. “In our gym, where they show up every day, they're learning from their mistakes and we couldn't be more proud of them.” 

The Vikings also took the time to honor the seniors on Mohawk Trail before the game, presenting each player with a bouquet as well.

“It was great to be appreciated,” Clark said on the gesture. “We were really welcomed, and felt good (about) that.” 

COMING FULL CIRCLE: This is Grover’s first year serving as the Mohawk Trail head coach. It’s a different side of the court than she’s used to seeing; Grover grew up playing high school basketball at Pioneer and Stoneleigh-Burnham before playing four years at Mount Holyoke College. It's an adjustment coaching and not playing, but she’s enjoying every moment of her first season so far. 

“It's been so surreal. It's kind of full circle to come back to basketball after playing. It's just been really good for me all around,” Grover said. “I have a great group. I feel like I got really lucky in my first season and so energetic and they really match my energy and practice and in games, so it's been really fun to work with them and just be back in the basketball world.”

BACK ON THE COURT: Like many teams this season, Smith Vocational is still getting used to playing at game speed after an unusual season last year. The Vikings were limited to just doing skills and drills last year, but are thrilled to be back on the hardwood this year.

“We’re still trying to find the momentum as far as games go, but also coming back from COVID, we only had a practice year last year, so that hurt us. The struggle is just learning how to play together,” Marciniec said. “The kids are super excited about competing, but it’s challenging to get back on the court and really get in that groove.”


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