Housatonic takes down Gilbert to remain undefeated
WINSTED – In early December the Housatonic girls basketball team was in the conversation. In early January the Mountaineers are in the driver’s seat.
Preseason Berkshire league talk usually started with Lewis Mills and Gilbert with a healthy dose of defending champion Northwestern thrown in. And there was a “Housy should be pretty good too.”
Well after Tuesday night’s, 49-38 dismantling of Gilbert in the Yellowjackets own home, the Mountaineers are not only pretty good, they are undefeated at 8-0 and beginning to put some space between them and the rest of the league.
Friday night looms large in the BL race, marking the halfway point. The Mountaineers hold a two-game lead over Gilbert (7-2) and Lewis Mills and a one game lead over Northwestern. Gilbert and Northwestern tangle and Housatonic takes on Mills. You can figure it out, but by Saturday morning it could be a long uphill fight for the rest of the BL.
“I think we came in (to the season) as the underdogs but we showed everyone our strength,” said Housatonic senior forward Caroline Hurlburt. “We knew our potential. It’s nerve-wracking but we think we can do it and get another banner.”
The Mountaineers tied Thomaston for the title two seasons ago so it isn’t all unfamiliar territory for the four starting seniors.
“We knew (being undefeated) was in the realm of possibility,” said Housatonic coach Steve Dodge. “We knew we would be able to compete with any team. We also knew we could lose to any team. This could be a big week for us. We could open up a gap between us and the other teams.”
The Mountaineers broke open a nervous and sluggish affair by scoring the last seven points of the second quarter to break a 14-14 tie and take a 21-14 halftime lead. While hardly an insurmountable advantage it proved to be the pivotal stretch of the game.
Gilbert struggled throughout the game from the floor managing just five baskets in the first half and 12 for the game while testing all parts of the home rims with an icy 12-for-58 effort (21 percent).
The Yellowjackets managed just one basket in the first four minutes of the third quarter while Housatonic was getting a 3-pointer from Sierra O’Neil a pair of baskets from Sydney Segalla and a bucket from Hurlburt for a 32-18 lead.
“I thought we were fine for 12 minutes in the first half and then we started to get a little rattled, panicky and started to force things,” said Gilbert coach Gerry Hicks. “If our threes aren’t falling and we shoot a lot of them, there is nothing we can do. I don’t think it is anything (Housatonic) did. Also, we didn’t attack. We kind of settled for the three.”
While the Yellowjackets were finding the home confines decidedly unfriendly, Housatonic was getting its trademark balance. Hurlburt finished with 12 points, Madelynn Olownia had 11 and O’Neil and Segalla chipped in with 10 points apiece.
“We don’t have any stand out stars, no names pop out,” said Dodge. “But, we are very unselfish. We don’t care who scores. It’s a team effort and everyone steps up. And our defense usually holds the other team to 35 or 36 points. You are going to win games like that. ”
Gilbert was never able to get the deficit below double figures the rest of the way. Housatonic’s lead was 48-32 before Abby Beecher hit consecutive 3-pointers in the final minute to close the margin. Angelina Delacruz led Gilbert with 10 points while Dileysi Sarmiento hauled down 15 rebounds.
As well as his varsity played, Dodge was more than willing to point to his JV team as another factor in the victory. The junior Mountaineers rallied from an early 13-1 deficit for a 33-29 victory.
“I think the JV game really got our girls pumped,” said Dodge. ‘Normally I would take them in the locker room but I made them stay out and watch.”
When it’s going right, it’s going right. And it is going right for the Mountaineers these days.