WORCESTER — Going into Saturday’s Division 3 final, the St. Mary’s girls basketball team was hoping to put a bow on what had been a fantastic state tournament run.
But with a nail-biting win over rival Bishop Fenwick earlier in the tournament, and coming off a last-second victory against Archbishop Williams at TD Garden in the semifinal, the Spartans just didn’t have enough left in them to walk away with a state championship.
“I was a little concerned going into the game because of the way Hoosac plays,” Spartans coach Jeff Newhall said. “I wasn’t concerned about us turning the ball over which we did in the first half. I was concerned about our emotions. Two of our last three games have gone down to the buzzer. Hoosac plays with a ton of energy. The question was could we come back? Could we do that physically and mentally?”
The Hurricanes’ high energy and drive was something the Spartans couldn’t match for 32 minutes, falling to Hoosac 66-49 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Harrington Auditorium.
“We did some stuff today, some mental mistakes that we have not done really all year,” Newhall said after the game. “That’s a credit to them. I just think maybe we came in with a quarter of a tank of gas in us and we needed a lot more than that.
“We’ve been through a lot this year,” Newhall said. “We play more games than most colleges play. We have talked about it. We’ve been to Florida, New Hampshire, Cape Cod. We’ve done just about everything we can do this season. We just came one step short but it’s a good day for Hoosac Valley. They’ve been here a number of years and they deserve it. They got kids and they have at least one person who has overcome quite a bit and I’m happy for her.”
Newhall was talking about one of the Hurricanes senior leader Alison Matela, who survived a battle with papillary thyroid cancer last summer and scored 13 points in the state final against St. Mary’s. While the loss still stings for the Spartans, Newhall has no shame in losing to Matela and the Hurricanes.
“I’m happy for them,” Newhall said. “It’s a good program. Ronald Wojcik is a good coach. They’ve been here a number of years. Matela has been through a lot in the last year. I know her story. I’m happy for her and them. That’s real life. Cancer, that type of stuff. I just think it all went into the emotions of the game and they had more than us.”
Similar to how the Spartans got a monkey off their back last Wednesday by defeating CCL rival Archbishop Williams, Hoosac had the will to defeat St. Mary’s, a team they had lost to in the state final five years before in 2014.
“I think that emotionally they had a lot more than we had in this game,” Newhall said. “Their leaders did a great job for them. They played very well and they stuck together. We talked about it with Williams in our last game. At some point you’ve got to stand up and say enough is enough, we’re sick of losing. We were sick of losing to Williams and these kids are sick of losing in the state final and it showed for them today.
“Four or five years ago I don’t know who was on the floor,” Newhall added. “I know Brianna Rudolph was on the floor for us but I don’t know who was out there for them. But today whoever was on the floor for them got the job done.”
Stepping back and looking at all the factors that went into Saturday’s state final on and off the court, including Hoosac’s dominant shooting game that hit eight 3-pointers against the Spartans, Newhall knows it was just the Hurricanes’ year.
“I saw them play maybe six or seven games on film,” Newhall said. “We knew they could shoot. But they didn’t shoot like that. When stuff like that happens, I’ve been around this sport long enough, you watch how that unfolds and you just have to believe that’s how it was just meant to happen.”
For now the Spartans tip their cap to Hoosac, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be proud of all they were able to accomplish this season.
“It’s hard to win the whole thing,’ Newhall said. “We’ve been here, this is our third time in nine years. I think this group this year did a tremendous group. I’m most proud of them. I’m proud of St. Mary’s and I’m proud of our basketball program.”