(Lowell) Every time Hoosac Valley got close, Hopedale had answers.
In each of the first three quarters, the Hurricanes got within one point but never led.
The result was a 55-45 Hopedale win and ownership of their first Division 5 state girls title on Sunday afternoon at the Tsongas Arena.
“They’re a good team,” said Hopedale coach Jason Rojee of Hoosac Valley afterwards. “You couldn’t keep them down. They kept fighting.”
“We never got over the hump and actually took the lead,” explained Hoosac Valley head coach Holly McGovern. “If we had, you never know what could have happened.”
There was a well-known player in the game, and it was Hopedale’s Bri Frongillo. Her 28 points-per-game average and recruitment by D1 Bryant University prevented her from coming into this one unnoticed.
Bri collected twenty-three points this afternoon and had a heavy hand in Hopedale responses to Hoosac Valley rallies. She also became the all-time leading scorer at Hopedale.
“They were a tough team,” said Bri afterwards. “They didn’t give up and kept coming back.”
Seniors Rylynn Witek (15 points) and Averie McGrath (16 points) paced the team from Cheshire.
After Averie brought Hoosac to 7-6, Phoebe Carroll (11 points) and Bri scored consecutive baskets. Bri’s came off a steal.
In the second quarter it was a steal and a layup by Rylynn that had Hoosac near to the lead (24-23). But the Raiders responded with three’s from Nora Hodgens and Lilah Casey (14 points), plus a Phoebe Carroll layup, and separation was restored.
But not for long.
A three by Averie and two free throws from Gabby Billetz and once again Hoosac was close (31-30), this time it was in the third quarter.
Tell me you haven’t heard this before, Hopedale responded. This time it was with the long ball, as both Lilah Casey and Bri Frongillo cashed in from beyond the arc.
“We played good defense,” said Coach McGovern, “but they made timely shots.”
The Hurricanes trailed by eleven (45-34) with six minutes to go and chipped away to cut their deficit to five (50-45) with 1:38 remaining.
Big play alert! The Raiders missed their next shot, but eighth-grader Phoebe Carroll got the offensive rebound, scored and was fouled.
“We had a couple of big rebounds,” said Coach Rojee, “but that rebound and putback by Phoebe at the end was phenomenal for an eighth-grader.”
One source reported that Phoebe had twenty-three rebounds. Good luck to opponents when she gets a little older!
Hopedale (22-3) is from the Dual Valley Conference while Hoosac Valley (22-4) plays in the Suburban Division of the Pioneer Valley Conference.
Coach Rojee: “The key to our win was perseverance. We had to play good defense for thirty-two minutes. It has been so nice to have Bri Frongillo on the team. She’s awesome.”
Lilah Casey: “We came in with confidence and we worked as a team. We kept telling ourselves that we had to stay together, and we did.”
Bri Frongillo: “This win was the result of a lot of hard work during the season. We put in the time behind the scene.”
Coach McGovern: “Rylynn (Witek) and Averie (McGrath) have been a heckuva one-two punch for teams to contend with. They have also been wonderful role models for our younger players.”
Bri Frongillo was capable of scoring from anywhere. Single coverage didn’t work. She could get to the basket with either hand and make layups with either hand. Her best feature, in my opinion, was her excellent passes to teammates. She should do well at Bryant.
Hopedale 15 14 12 14 = 55
Hoosac 13 10 11 11 = 45
(The pictures will enlarge.)