Holyoke girls basketball turns focus to future

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  • Anna Alicea, left, of Holyoke, moves the ball against Alecia Maxwell, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Holyoke coach Andrea Enright shouts instructions to her team during their game against Springfield during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Destiny Calderon, left, of Holyoke, moves the ball against Julie Bahati, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Destiny Calderon, right, of Holyoke, looks for a shot against Julie Bahati, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Abby Glasheen, left, of Holyoke, moves the ball against Nala Roache, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Yamaya Perez, left, of Holyoke, shoots against Jordis Tautalatasi, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Taryn Ryan, left, of Holyoke, moves the ball against Alecia Maxwell, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Yamaya Perez, right, of Holyoke, drives to the basket against Alecia Maxwell, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ashley Vazquez, right, of Holyoke, shoots against Nala Roache, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Yamaya Perez, left, of Holyoke, moves the ball against Jordis Tautalatasi, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bianca Ortiz, right, of Holyoke, shoots against Alecia Maxwell, of Springfield, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bianca Ortiz, center, of Holyoke, draws a foul while driving to the basket against Springfield defenders Julie Bahati, left, and Amany Lopez, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 semifinal, Monday, Mar. 2, 2020 at Western New England University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2020 10:46:19 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Friday’s 64-41 loss to Central ended the Holyoke girls basketball team’s season in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament semifinals. It could just as well mark a beginning for the youthful Purple Knights.

“We’re proud that we made it this far, because we haven’t made it this far in years. We’re proud that we fought hard,” Holyoke sophomore Yamaya Perez said. “The outcome, it is what it is, but at the end of the day we’re proud of this team.”

The Purple Knights were coming off a 4-16 season and only won two games in 2017-18. Holyoke (11-11) last reached the postseason in 2017, a quarterfinal loss to Northampton. It reached the sectional semifinals in 2016.

None of that history burdened Holyoke, which only featured two seniors in its rotation. There were four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen on the roster.

“Last year it was really a lot of downs because we couldn’t find a way to win,” Perez said. “This year we found the momentum, we found a family instead of individual players.”

The group coalesced under new coach Andrea Enright, a Holyoke graduate who previously won a state championship with Longmeadow. Holyoke won five straight games to start the new year, finding its stride under a new system and set of expectations.

“We’ve had some really phenomenal moments that have shown glimpses of what we could be. Our inconsistency was a problem this year,” Enright said. “There were a lot of changes this year. I’m sure I’m not the easiest coach to play for. I appreciated them welcoming me in and doing what I asked for them.”

Holyoke played Central tight during the regular season. The Purple Knights only lost by seven in Springfield and by 14 at home. The Golden Eagles (13-7) leveraged their height advantage from the opening tip at Western New England. The three-time Western Mass champions built a 22-6 lead after a quarter behind forward Alecia Maxwell, who had 10 points in the frame.

But the Purple Knights settled in the second and outscored Central 11-9.

“Central’s a tough team. I feel like we showed up,” Perez said. “We just need to develop ourselves and I feel like this is motivation for us for next year.”

Even after the Golden Eagles built a lead as large as 23, Holyoke didn’t pack in. The Purple Knights fought for steals and rebounds to the end.

“Dre’s done such a great job with them. There’s no give up in them,” Central coach Erik Mauer said. “We knew we were going to have to go 32 minutes with them. It was a breath of fresh air at the end there.”

Though Holyoke will graduate its leading scorer from the semifinal, Destiny Calderon (11 points), and contributor Abby Glasheen, the next generation of Purple Knights spent an entire season growing closer together. Three of Holyoke’s top four scorers (Bianca Ortiz, Perez and Ashley Vazquez) are coming back with a majority of the roster with valuable experience from reaching the semifinals.

“This is definitely the beginning. We’re still young and trying to develop chemistry, especially with our freshmen,” Perez said. “I know for sure next year’s our year.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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