SPRINGFIELD — Playing for its third championship in five seasons, the Archbishop Williams girls’ basketball team was nothing short of dominant on Saturday morning.
The Bishops (22-4) trounced Hoosac Valley, 62-37, in the Division 3 state final at Springfield College’s Blake Arena, repeating the outcome of the two teams’ 2015 title matchup that saw the Bishops win, 69-46. For Hoosac Valley (23-2), the loss was its fourth straight championship game defeat.
Archbishop Williams kept Hoosac Valley’s shooters in check with heavy perimeter pressure and an inside presence that allowed them to control the pace and limit the Hurricanes’ transition chances. Hoosac Valley star Alie Mendel, who scored 22 points in the Hurricanes’ 30-point semifinal win over Lunenburg, was held to just 7 points and made only two field goals.
Head coach Matt Mahoney said increased focus on defending shooters in practice this week helped his team come out prepared. “We’ve been working on [stopping the 3] the last few days in practice,” he said.
“I know they’re a really good 3-point shooting team, so I just told them that we have to extend our defense. I’d rather let them drive to the basket than give them a 3-pointer.”
After allowing 22 points in the first half, the Bishops buckled down and held Hoosac Valley to just 3 points in the third quarter and saw their lead balloon by as many as 25 points.
Hoosac Valley head coach Ronald Wojcik credited the Bishops for their perimeter defense, and acknowledged that his team had no answer for Archbishop Williams’s athleticism.
To help better prepare his team, Wojcik said he had them spend the week practicing against local boys teams to get comfortable playing at a faster pace against stronger players.
“We knew we were gonna have to knock down 10-15 threes today to neutralize their athleticism inside,” said Wojcik. “And we just weren’t. Part of that was they were getting out on the shooters, making our looks tough. And once we got in a little bit of a hole there it was tough to climb out of.”
One of the bigger surprises in the game was the bench contributions from freshman forwards Jessica Knight and Megan Marcel. Marcel dominated the second quarter of the game, scoring all 7 of her points and adding three rebounds, while Knight put up 11 second-half points to help put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Though the bench stepped up, the star of the show was point guard Asiah Dingle, who led all scorers with 15 points.
Dingle did everything her team needed on Saturday morning. She snatched four steals to help create transition opportunities, grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds in traffic to keep possessions alive, and used a dazzling array of hesitation moves to get her team baskets when they couldn’t find the hole.
The junior was excited about her team’s accomplishment, but that didn’t hold her back from already looking ahead to next season.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said. “We’re really excited because we worked really hard for this . . . And we’re only growing and getting better. I’m hoping we can be right back here again next year.”