Open Mike: Falcons girls basketball arrival cemented at Jamestown
Thursday January 23, 2014 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
It usually doesn’t happen this way, but the Frontier girls basketball team is making a serious run for the program’s first division title in two decades, just a year after the program’s all-time leading scorer graduated.
Even without four-year varsity standout Natalie Galus, who surpassed 1,000 career points last year and is now playing at the Division II Daemen College, Frontier is enjoying an emergence on to the Western New York scene.
It became apparent after a 6 – 0 start to the season, but the Falcons made their arrival official by going down to Jamestown and coming back from the long trip against one of the most consistent and overwhelming hoops powers with an impressive 53 – 38 victory on Jan. 14.
Frontier’s unbeaten start was finally ended Saturday in the final of the Mercy Tournament in Rochester, as it fell 58 – 50 to the host school. The 9 – 1 record, includes going 6 – 0 in Erie County Interscholastic Conference I and leading the division halfway through the 12-game schedule.
In his fourth season as head coach, Rick Mihalik’s idea for developing the entire program has helped give the team an identity. And having coached several of the players since they were eighth graders playing up on the junior varsity has provided a familiarity that is paying off.
Seniors Caisey and Kaitlyn Lipka, Nicole Rockey and Hannah Lease are among the players he’s been coaching since they were modified-level students. They’re four of six seniors on a team that also had two of its contributing underclassmen play last season with the varsity.
“Having a philosophy some of them have been part of since the eighth grade, there’s a lot of time we don’t have to waste teaching fundamental principals,” Mihalik said. “We’re not teaching the basics; the kids know it. They know where each will be on the court.”
Caisey and Kaitlyn Lipka average 10 and 7 points per game, respectively, and both have become solid rebounding guards. Adding to that mix at guard, Kelsi Ebert has taken the opportunity to play and run with it, after her coach said she had a productive offseason. She’s averaging a team-high 15 points per game. Senior Melissa Woods and Lease have also helped at guard.
Up front are another pair of sisters, with Lexi Rockey, only a sophomore but in her second year as a varsity starter, averaging 7 points per game, and Nicole Rockey leading the team averaging about 6 rebounds. Youngsters like second-year sophomore Jensen Lee and classmate Paige Hillman, both at forward, provide this team with an undeniable depth that many Frontier girls basketball squads in the past have lacked.
“This team doesn’t care how we get it done, as long as we do,” Mihalik said. “On any given night, it could be any of five or six girls leading us.”
Winning early and often has bred the type of confidence that could get this team a division title and possibly beyond, in the sectional tournament, even if it is without one of the program’s greats.
“To win the way we did at Jamestown, the girls are confident,” Mihalik said. “There’s no fear now when you hear the word ‘Jamestown,’ whereas in the past, we knew what we were getting ourselves into.”
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