By Ethan Kapinos and Spencer Gorczyca
CHICOPEE- On Monday, December 17th at Chicopee High School, Chicopee’s girls varsity basketball played head-to-head against Holyoke in what was a nailbiter of a game. Senior Jasmine Leyda led the way on defense and Sophomore Yami Matos led the way on offense as the Pacers sought victory in their home-opener. The dynamic duo would work in unison with the rest of the team behind them, earning the Pacers their first home victory of the season.
“I feel good coming into this game. We are looking to work out the kinks as the game goes on,” said Holyoke’s Head Coach pre-game. “We’re hoping to have (#11) Yamaya Perez and other returning players lead us to the victory,” she continued.
The Pacers came out hot right at tip-off, quickly snatching forward momentum by winning the jump ball and shortly thereafter having a huge defensive block by Senior Jasmine Leyda (#33). Holyoke broke down defensively giving up 5 fouls early in the first quarter. The Pacers capitalized on the errors of the Knights relentlessly in the first quarter, their opportunities manifesting in the form of foul shots with most coming from Sophomore Yami Matos (#23) who had breakthrough quarter, putting up 11 points for the Pacers. The Holyoke Knights came back toward the end of the quarter, but it was too little too late. The Knights managed to squeeze in 5 points before the first quarter buzzer, but still trailed behind the Pacers 20-13.
The Pacers’ offensive onslaught continued into the second quarter of the game and their defensive skills shined just as bright, displaying an impressive lockdown defense throughout the entirety of the quarter.
Chicopee looked like they were running the game by swiftly and effortlessly putting up 5 more points to give the Pacers a 25-13 lead. However, Holyoke answered back by posting 6 points with 2 minutes left to go in the quarter, slashing the Pacers’ lead and bringing the score to 25-19. Although the Knights had the advantage, The Pacers managed to quickly exploit an offensive miscommunication on the part of Holyoke, putting up another 5 points in the final minute, wrapping up the half 11 points ahead of the Knights at 30-19.
“We’re winning and that’s all that matters right now. The crowd’s getting into it, trying to keep our team’s performance going,” Chicopee Pacers fan Nolan Florence said at halftime.
In spite of their 11 point deficit heading into the second half, Holyoke seized the opportunity at a fresh start, maintaining complete control through half of the third quarter. The Pacers could only scrape by in the first half of the quarter, putting up a single point while Holyoke put up 9, cutting the Pacers’ lead to 3 points.
Picking up the pace yet again, Holyoke rushed down on back-to-back fast breaks but got shut down both times by two massive blocks from none other than Chicopee’s Jasmine Leyda. Taking advantage of the opportunities that arose as a result of the blocks, the Pacers quickly tacked another 9 points onto their side of the scoreboard while Holyoke only put up 3, giving the Pacers a 40-31 lead heading into the fourth and final quarter of play.
The Pacers answered faster than greased lightning to a three-pointer scored by Holyoke by echoing with a three-pointer to reciprocate and a layup for good measure. Holyoke retaliated with a downtown 3, giving themselves an opportunity at a come back.
Sloppy defensive play by the Pacers allowed Holyoke a wide space of good fortune which led the Knights to an 8 point comeback slashing the Pacers’ lead to 3 points with 5:04 left in the game.
The Pacers expeditiously took note of their blunders on the court and promptly addressed and mended the missteps. The star of the game, Chicopee’s own Yami Matos, shone as she dropped 8 points in the fourth quarter to augment the Pacers’ lead.
With Holyoke in urgent need of an offensive resurgence, the Pacers quickly dampened the Knights’ blazing three-pointers, extinguishing what little was left of Holyoke’s quickly-suffocating offensive embers, earning the Pacers their first victory of the season with a final score of 59-51.
“We kept our heads up when things got tough and we fought to stay ahead,” Pacers coach Steve Marcil explained. “I talked them up when needed. I spoke calmly to them when needed. I yelled at them when needed. They never lost faith,” he went on.
The Chicopee Pacers Girls team (1-0) hopes to improve to a record of 2-0 for the season when they play Northampton High School in an away game this Thursday, December 19th.
The Holyoke girls team (1-1) hopes to put this game behind them and seek to take their second win of the season as they prepare to take on Westfield at home on Thursday, December 19th.