Girls basketball: Back from lengthy pause, South Hadley holds off Hampshire (PHOTOS)

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  • South Hadley freshman CC Gurek, center, beats Hampshire junior Liz Colon Garcia, left, to a loose ball that she wrested from Hampshire’s Ashley Cortis (not shown) in the first half of the Tigers’ 46-32 road win over the Raiders on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Westhampton. Joining Gurek in the effort are teammates Kacie Levrault and Olivia Marion, right. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley senior Talia Uribe (13) chases down an offensive rebound surrounded by Hampshire players, from left, Alyssa Colon Garcia, Sam Moran, Alice Jenkins and Emma Czarniecki in the first half of the Tigers’ 46-32 road win over the Raiders on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Westhampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire junior Sam Moran, left, is pressed by South Hadley junior Meg Carey in the first half of the Raiders’ 46-32 home loss to the Tigers on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Westhampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley sophomore Drew Alley, center, meets resistance from Hampshire sophomores Alice Jenkins, left, and Ashley Cortis in the first half of the Tigers’ 46-32 road win over the Raiders on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Westhampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley head coach Paul Dubuc watches the action in the first half of the Tigers’ 46-32 road win over Hampshire Regional on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Westhampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire head coach Dan Labrie talks to freshman forward Alyssa Colon Garcia during a break in the Raiders’ 46-32 home loss to South Hadley on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Westhampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/11/2022 11:47:43 PM

WESTHAMPTON – Meg Carey snagged a steal away from a Hampshire Regional player and sprinted up the court so fast that she nearly bowled over a referee in her haste to get to the basket. Her hustle paid off, and she threw up a layup to keep the South Hadley girls basketball team ahead early in the first quarter. 

That speed was on display all night from the Tigers, and the visitors managed to wear down the Raiders in the second half, earning a 46-32 Suburban League win on Tuesday evening. 

“I think they were sick of playing against each other,” South Hadley head coach Paul Dubuc said of his team. “We've been going at it pretty good.” 

Both teams have had to deal with starts and stops in their schedule because of COVID-19 issues. The Tigers (4-2, 3-2 Suburban) hadn’t played a game since Dec. 23, and their only time on the court since then had been during practices and scrimmages against each other. But you’d never have known based on their start against Hampshire, as they went on a 9-0 run to jump out to an early lead. 

“We've been practicing every day for those three weeks, we've been conditioning, we've been working on our fundamentals,” Carey said. “I think everybody was just so excited to get back out there and play.” 

Hampshire (2-5, 0-5) didn’t make it easy for the opposing team. Despite falling behind early, the hosts clawed their way back to a tie in the second quarter, and wound up outscoring the Tigers 10-6 in the second frame to pull within 21-18 heading into halftime. 

“I think our energy was just very low and we weren't working as hard, (and) our shots just weren't falling,” Kacie Levrault said on South Hadley's struggles in the second quarter. “But… we got talked to at halftime, we kind of boosted each other up and we got our butts back in it.”

“[South Hadley] had a lot more players than us, so we knew they were obviously going to run us more,” Hampshire’s Liz Colon-Garcia said on her team’s second quarter play. “But we did a good job getting back and not fouling.”

Ultimately, the Tigers had the better endurance, and were able to outmuscle the Raiders in the second half of the game. Much of that was because of the play of Levrault, who scored all 10 of her points after intermission. The Tigers also went 7-for-10 from the free throw line in the latter half of the game, accounting for a significant chunk of their late surge. 

BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT: Just over an hour before the tip-off of Tuesday's contest, Hampshire junior Liz Garcia-Colon got the best birthday gift she could have asked for – clearance from the doctor to play in the game after dealing with COVID-19.

“I was shocked. I didn't think I would be able to play. I made all these phone calls, and I had no idea if I was gonna play today,” Colon-Garcia said. “I just wanted to get in, even if it was for five minutes, but I was happy that I could play the whole game.”

“It was a great birthday present for her,” Hampshire coach Dan Labrie said. “I think it was a birthday present from the doctor.”

KACIE AT THE HOOP: Levrault's strong second half didn't go unnoticed by her coach, who made a point to single out the junior’s impressive play.

“Kacie had the best game she's had all year,” Dubuc said.  “We’re (a) small (team). She always has to play the other team’s center, but she's so athletic. She rewarded herself today by finishing a few. She's a pleasure. She's just worked so hard.”

It was motivated in part, at least, by the fact that Levrault hadn't touched the court since late December. It was clear she didn’t have much rust despite the sizable time off between games.

“I think, honestly, not playing for three weeks just made me think about how much I love the sport,” Levrault said. “I truly wanted to come back and make my mark, and do my best.”

YOUNG GUNS STEP UP: Most of Hampshire’s roster this year is younger, and even those who are returners or veteran players are learning how to step into new roles. But despite their youth, Colon-Garcia said she’s excited for the potential that this particular group of players have together.

“I'm excited for the season. I know we're super young. But the girls, they're catching up so fast, doing really good and running the plays. Even when I was younger, I could never run motion,” said Colon-Garcia, referencing one of the team’s offensive sets. “The fact that we ran it so many times today in the game and it actually worked, I was just happy with that.”

The two teams meet one more time this season, with that matchup set for Jan. 27 in South Hadley.


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