CONTESTED — Frontier’s Kelsi Ebert has her shot contested during the first of two games in three days with O.P. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Orchard Park girls basketball coach Josh Dannecker called it a college-like atmosphere. With large amounts of students’ making their way out in the frigid temperatures, the division rivalry between Frontier and Orchard Park gained some momentum.
And, while the Quakers may have won this battle, just as important, a high school rivalry that’s been somewhat lost in recent years is beginning to brew again between two schools separated by just six miles.
With the girls basketball teams’ beginning a varsity basketball doubleheader between the two schools, with the boys’ following, both games on Jan. 23 lived up to the hype and had the gym at Frontier High School buzzing.
The Orchard Park girls needed overtime, and some last minute heroics in regulation, while the Quakers’ boys used a dominant third quarter to complete the hoops sweep and gain some much needed momentum for the remainder of the season.
“Anytime that you get a team in the same division that’s in as close of a proximity as us and Frontier, those rivalries are going to be huge,” said Orchard Park boys head coach Justin Abel. “It makes for that kind of environment.”
Junior Rachel Johnson connected on two 3-pointers down the stretch late in the fourth quarter as the girls forced overtime with the Falcons before completing the comeback in a 62 – 58 victory.
The loss was Frontier’s first in league play this season, and second overall. Johnson finished the game with 15 points, while junior guard Shaye Swiatek scored a game-high 20, to help the Quakers improve to 6 – 5 overall and 3 – 4 in Erie County Interscholastic Conference I and avenge a loss to the Falcons (10 – 2, 7 – 1) from a few days earlier.
BIG GAME — Despite another 30-plus scoring game for Jay Bergmann, Frontier fell to Orchard Park. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Despite a late rally which saw the Falcons’s boys get within five in the fourth quarter, Orchard Park (2 – 9, 1 – 5) held on to knock off the Falcons 58 – 52 for its first division win of the season. Frontier fell to 4 – 7 overall and 2 – 5 in ECIC I.
Typically, the junior varsity teams would play before their respective varsity teams, but on this night, both varsity squads took the spotlight and put on a show. Both sides of the bleachers were in use and full to capacity, and whether it was opposing students going back and forth with each other, or parents cheering loud for their son or daughter, the energy was clearly on display, and it translated to the play on the court.
“It was fun,” said Quakers’ girls head coach Josh Dannecker. “I could definitely see there was a little impact on our foul shooting. You could tell we heard it because we don’t usually get that kind of crowd, but I think the girls responded, especially in overtime, to the chanting and the hollering. It was great.”
“I think it’s great for both programs,” said Frontier girls head coach Rick Mihalik. “Our girls, they want to watch the guys games and most of the guys, they want to watch the girls games so I think its a perfect fit especially with Orchard Park. As you can see tonight, they’re going to come and play, it doesn’t matter what their record is. I hope it’s something that we can continue to do, both home and away. I think all the hype is good and it’s a good experience for the kids.”
The same energy held true for the boys game as the Quakers outscored the Falcons 14 – 3 in the third quarter, after Frontier led by 1 at halftime. That run quieted the Frontier section, known as the “Falcons’ Nest.”
During the boys’ game, Cam Murray scored a team-high 16 points and Dan Freilicher netted 15 as the Quakers won on the road for the first time this season, despite 32 points from Frontier junior guard Jay Bergmann.
“It feels great, especially knowing that [Frontier] had a lot of promotion [for this night],” Abel said. “So it was good for these guys to come in and get something for all the hard work they’ve put in.”
Frontier fans and students supported a “White Out” theme, with T-shirts on sale before the games. But the support wasn’t enough, as the visitors were able to shield the distractions, just enough.
“It kind of backfired on us tonight,” said Frontier boys head coach Gary Domzalski. “They came out with a lot of energy. If you make some shots, it gives you more energy. If you miss shots, it kind of takes the energy out of you.”
Although Orchard Park got the best of Frontier in this matchup, the rivalry between these two was building a few months ago, when the schools’ football teams took to the Falcons’ field in a league semifinal game with a trip to the Class AA championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on the line. With the game tied 7 – 7 at halftime, the Falcons scored the final 10 points in the game on Nov. 1, earning a rare win over the football power and past state champion Quakers.
With chants of “let’s play football” raining down from the Falcons’ Nest, one can be sure the two schools will continue to battle in all sports up until next year’s football matchup. For now, the Falcons will look to regroup, while the Quakers try to build off the momentum going forward. The Frontier girls, who had been coasting as the leader in ECIC I, to this point, must regain its composure, according to Mihalik.
“We need to handle a little extra pressure with all the hoopla that’s going around,” Mihalik said. “We’ll see how we respond and how we bounce back. We have a long stretch of a bunch of league games coming up. This will bring us back down to earth a little bit.”