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Host Frontier wins tourney in OT final; IA takes third

EBERT ON HER WAY TO MVP HONOR — Frontier senior Kelsi Ebert played two big games against Williamsville East and then Nardin helping her team to a tournament title. Photo by Michael Petro.

Fans in attendance at Frontier High School for the Second Annual Frontier Holiday Tournament received an early Christmas present with two girls basketball games on Dec. 21. And, for Frontier fans, that gift included a title.

It took more than four quarters, but the Frontier varsity managed to escape with a 52 – 48 overtime victory against Nardin in the championship game. After rolling over Williamsville East the day before by 48 – 18, the Gators gave the Falcons a run for their money.

“This is the type of game we want in a tournament like this, to get our team ready for the playoffs, and this is a game that made us better,” said Frontier head coach Rick Mihalik.

The Falcons, now 4 – 0 to start the year, had some difficulty defending the Gators’ 3-point game, especially early on, as 15 of Nardin’s 17 first half points came via the three.

“They have a lot of guards that can shoot threes so we tried to take away Nicole Frantz and contain the other two or three shooters they have,” Mihalik explained. “Our 1 – 3 – 1 zone in the second half seemed to give Nardin a bit of trouble with its tempo.”

Senior guard Kelsi Ebert made a clutch shot in the fourth quarter, to put the Falcons ahead by one, but the Gators were given the opportunity to tie the game after a foul was called with 2 seconds left in regulation.

“They had a better view of it than what I saw, so they made the call,” Mihalik said, about the late foul. “The ref was in good position, so I trust her.”

After limited playing time last season, Ebert has emerged as one of Frontier’s impact players. Ebert scored 26 points and gave a strong showing on defense as well, leading to her being named the tournament’s most valuable player.

“She’s really put in the work and time over the summer with team workouts and individual workouts, and that’s really showing for her right now,” Mihalik said.

Ebert picked a good time to have her best game of the year, as Fredonia’s head coach was in attendance, to watch her play.

“I’m very excited for her,” Mihalik said. “She wants to play college ball, and tonight was a great time to have a game like that.”

Consistency is the name of the game for these Falcons. Being comprised mainly of seniors, many on the team have spent the last four years playing together, including four years with the same head coach.

“This group of seniors is the group that I started with when I was the JV coach,” Mihalik said. “This is everything I’ve tried to create: the atmosphere and the environment.”

Mihalik now has a veteran team with an chemistry in their play, according to the coach. “They’ve bought into what I’m selling,” Mihalik said. “We’re reaping the benefits of these seniors, the way they’re playing, because of the work they’ve done in the offseason.”

Also for Frontier, senior forward Nicole Rockey was named to the all-tournament team.

CALL HELPS DRIVE TEAM TO THIRD PLACE — Ray Ann Call drives to the basket in a win over Mt. St. Mary, a few days before the start of the Frontier Tournament, where IA took third. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.

The consolation game earlier Saturday wasn’t without drama of its own, as Immaculata narrowly edged out East 32 – 30, to take third place in the tournament.

The young Bears team started the game off with a 10 – 0 run in the first quarter but, in the second quarter there seemed to be a lid on the basket, which allowed the Flames to get back into the game. The second quarter has not been kind to the Bears during a 4 – 3 start to the season, Drabik noted.

“We had a great start, but the second quarter was rough,” said Andrea Drabik, Immaculata’s head coach. “We took a lot of shots, but we only got one shot to fall, which made the game close.”

Despite the 56 – 47 loss to Nardin on Friday night, Drabik said that the Bears showed up and played hard against the Flames, who were trying to bounce back from a subpar showing, the day prior.

“They work hard every night. They don’t ever put their head down and give up,” Drabik said. “I always tell our team that two-day tournaments are tough. But we wound up being the better team, this afternoon.”

The Bears were led by sophomore Jordan Heinhold, who was selected for the all-tournament team, and Drabik pointed to fellow sophomore forward Kayla Prentki as also being an impact player. “[She] and Jordan are working real nice together,” she said.

The two forwards combined for 21 of the team’s points and were key rebounders, helping provide their team extra possessions. Heinhold accounted for 15 rebounds.

However, many of those extra possessions were turned over giving East more opportunities to stay in the game. Drabik chalked those mistakes up to inexperience.

“I think the youth has played a factor in all of our games that were close or that we lost,” she said. “They need that extra confidence. They have to believe they can do it and then come out on the court and do it.”

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