By Gabby Guerard
SPRINGFIELD – By now, most know that stars such as Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and DeMarcus Cousins are all Spalding Hoophall Classic alumni. But what most fail to remember is that stars such as Tina Charles, Elena Delle Donne, and Brenna Stewart are also distinguished Hoophall alumnae.
Hoophall isn’t just about the boys – it features girls too.
Of the 30 games played at the Spalding Hoophall Classic, four are dedicated to girls, who took over the court of Blake Arena Friday evening.
And they made it count.
Taconic opened up the day by defeating West Springfield 52-29. Ciany Conyers led the way for the Braves, finishing with 19 points.
Though it wasn’t about the stats to Conyers. Simply playing at Hoophall was special to her.
“I’ve come down here before for the boys’ tournament, so it was really fun and it was a good experience coming down for the girls’ one too. My team had a really good time, and it was good for us to play good competition,” she said.
Considering how few girls teams are selected to compete, the opportunity was even more valuable in Conyers’ eyes.
“I think personally last year we made a really good run, so (we) think we deserve to be here,” she said. “And as long as we just keep working hard I think we’ll be back next year.”
Following Taconic’s win was a Millbury-Hoosac Valley matchup, where the Woolies pulled out a 45-28 victory. After leading the team with 12 points, Millbury’s Morgan Cronon felt the opportunity to play at Hoophall was unrivaled.
“It’s been a really good experience for not only myself but definitely our entire team,” she said. “We worked really hard to get here and it’s just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing for us, so it’s good to be here.”
And despite the lights, logos plastered throughout the Arena that read “Basketball Hall of Fame,” and elite locker rooms, for Cronon, it wasn’t about the flashy perks.
It was about the people she got to enjoy it with.
“Just spending it with my team, just like being able to go through everything with them and making it here… It just means a lot to represent our school here,” she added.
The Wahconah Warriors took the court next, defeating Longmeadow 34-21. Maria Gamberoni led the team with 12 points.
Since there were only eight girls teams selected to compete, Gamberoni was thrilled the Warriors were one of them, and used it as fuel to elevate her game to the next level.
“I mean it’s such an honor when you come here and you realize that only a couple teams are picked,” she said. “It just makes you want to play harder and play your best because you’re here.”
And during this experience, she appreciated much more than just the game itself.
Gamberoni didn’t take anything for granted, no matter how small or seemingly irrelevant the gesture may have been.
“The treatment is so nice, like we’ve never been in locker rooms like that obviously, or had music when we walk out on the floor, so it’s just a good experience,” she added.
Closing out the girls’ night was a tight matchup between Springfield Central and Central Catholic. In the end, the Raiders defeated the Golden Eagles 38-36.
“It was an honor, really, because we’ve worked so hard over the past couple years to improve and get better. It was just such a great time and experience,” Adrianna Niles said, after finishing the night with 11 points.
Similar to Gameroni, it was the little details that meant the most to Niles – specifically, playing with her teammates.
“Just playing with them on the court, it was really good just to play against a really tough team,” she said. “They really challenged us in all aspects of the game.”
Although the girls only took over for one evening, they made sure to leave it all on the court of Blake Arena for their day at Hoophall.
Photos Courtesy of Gabby Guerard