Girls basketball: Smith Voc shakes off Monday blues, gets past PVCICS (PHOTOS)

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  • Smith Vocational's Tessa Boisvert drives through a press by, from left, Mahri Hayden, Sloane Spanknebel and Azalais Capitaine of PVCICS in the first half of the Vikings' 29-14 win at Hampshire College's Robert Crown Center in Amherst on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • PVCICS's Dickey Yangfel, left, drives for a layup under pressure from Anna Glick of Smith Vocational on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith Vocational's Kora Kelly (21) is defended by Mahri Hayden, left, and Sloane Spanknebel of Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in the first half of the Vikings' 29-14 win over the Dragons at Hampshire College's Robert Crown Center in Amherst on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith Vocational's Kora Kelly, left, is pressed by Mahri Hayden of Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in the second half of the Vikings' 29-14 win over the Dragons on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School head coach Anna Steadman takes a time out with her team in the first half of the Dragons' 29-14 loss to Smith Vocational in a game held at Hampshire College's Robert Crown Center in Amherst on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith Vocational head coach Kristen Marciniec watches the action in the first half of the Vikings' 29-14 win over Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in a game held at Hampshire College's Robert Crown Center in Amherst on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith Vocational's Maggie Lauder, left, drives to the basket but is blocked by Amirah Chabi-Yo of PVCCIS in the first half of the Vikings' 29-14 win over the Dragons at Hampshire College in Amherst on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/10/2022 8:33:57 PM

AMHERST – On a dreary Monday afternoon, it took the Smith Vocational girls basketball team a little bit of time to wake up in its game against PVCICS. At the end of the first quarter, the Vikings led just 6-3, with offense lacking and both teams struggling to find a rhythm.

But it’s not always about how you start, it’s how you finish, and the Vikings found their groove midway through the contest, eventually walking away with a 29-14 win over the Dragons at Hampshire College.

“I'm happy with with how we ended up. We (had) a little bit of a slow start, they picked up their defense for a sleepy Monday after a long weekend,” Smith Vocational head coach Kristen Marciniec said. “We did get it together. We got some energy back and I was happy with (our) midway play in the game.”

It’s hard to say what exactly got the team going after halftime, but it may have been a certain halftime speech from their coach, according to Smith Voc’s Maggie Lauder.

“Coach saying that inspirational speech definitely helped,” Lauder admitted.

Marciniec kept the specifics of that speech under wraps – “it’s top secret” – but whatever was said, it worked for the Vikings, and especially for Lauder, who was a key part of the visiting team’s success on Monday. She finished the contest with six points, standing strong in the paint and staying cool when the game sped up. The Vikings have struggled with pushing the pace to a point they couldn’t handle, whether that meant fast breaks that were tipped out of bounds or passes that didn’t connect.

“We get excited and tend to throw it away. It’s just a matter of discipline, time, playing together as a team,” Marciniec said. “I think they'll learn that along the way.”

Despite the occasional miscue, Smith Voc’s chemistry is clear both on and off the court, and Lauder cited that as one of the team’s strengths. Whether that was players knowing where their teammates were on the floor, or the bench constantly encouraging those in the game whenever they made an impressive play, the Vikings are a team that win or lose as a group. It was another group win Monday, with offensive contributions coming from Tessa Boisvort, Kora Kelly, Janel Echeverria, and Makayla Tetra, to name a few. 

Start of something new

On the other side, PVCICS has a lot of new pieces that they're working on putting in place. Head coach Anna Steadman is in her first year of coaching, and many members of the team are new to the program. Some are still just learning the game.

It’s also the first year that the Dragons are competing as an MIAA basketball program, against other MIAA schools. That’s meant a big step up in terms of competition and caliber of play.

“They're seeing better teams. They're seeing bigger schools, like they're really a small school. There just is a lot of new change for them, and I'm hoping that they adjust as best as they can,” Steadman said. “When you were playing in the league before, I think it was very casual, like a pick-up game kind of vibe. Whereas when you're playing in the MIAA, you're in a bracket and you can make tournament and there's all this other stuff. I think that makes it feel more legitimate.” 

Steadman is seeing a lot of improvement in her team's game. They’ve got some players with height on the roster, which was particularly beneficial in the rebounding department against the Vikings – rarely were the Dragons boxed out when it came to grabbing boards. That strength was one of the highlights that their coach noticed on Monday. 

“I think that my team did really well being aggressive. Some of them are a little more shy and timid during practice,” Steadman said. “Today they definitely showed a lot more aggression in this game, which I was excited about. They looked like they wanted to be there.” 

Moving forward, the Dragons are looking for stronger play closer to the basket. The Vikings were able to keep them hemmed out behind the three-point line for the majority of the game, where they struggled to put the ball in the hoop.

“We’re working on not shooting three pointers, (that’s) kind of our big mission right now. I'm hoping to get more plays driving to the hoop,” Steadman said. “A lot of girls aren't really comfortable in their dribbling skills yet. So we're just trying to figure out what it's gonna look like to just get shots closer to the inside, at this point.”


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