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Basketball Preview: Frontier girls hoping to run with top large schools

LIPKAS TO PLAY BIG ROLE — Senior Kaitlyn Lipka and her sister, Caisey (background) will be key for Frontier as four-year varsity players. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Frontier is guard- and senior-heavy and also without now graduated star forward Natalie Galus for the first time in four seasons, so there will certainly be a different look and feel to this year’s team.

Throw in a newly-instituted 10-second backcourt rule for the high school girls game this year, and the Falcons are intent on using a quicker lineup to run and press.

“Obviously, the rules for girls have changed, and we’re also looking to take advantage of our guard play, so we’ll look to run,” Frontier head coach Rick Mihalik said.

The Falcons are also coming off experiencing some playoff success for the first time in several years during a 9-11 season, so this group is even more focused on executing.

Mihalik said that his returning players learned from last year’s near upset at Class AA power Lockport in the sectional quarterfinals that if they follow the gameplan, good things will happen. Frontier lost 38-34.

“We’ve been watching film and we want to be a team with a gameplan each game. Going to Lockport, they executed that gameplan and saw that they were right there with them,” Mihalik said. “Going forward, they’re excited about gameplanning and they buy into it and are on the same page. They now look forward to that stuff from game to game.”

Leading a group of deep guards will be seniors Kelsi Ebert and four-year varsity player Caisey Lipka. Ebert didn’t play much last year, but has put in the time to improve her game in the offseason. Lipka is the team’s top returning scorer from last season, averaging 7.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

“If they come off the floor this season it will probably be because they’re in foul trouble,” Mihalik noted. “They can shoot the ball and attack the rim. They’ve both transformed their games.”

Though the team will be without Galus, the program’s all-time leading scorer who surpassed 1,000 career points last year, there is some formidable bigs returning.

Senior Nicole Rockey, a 6-footer, is back at full strength to give the team a presence in close to the basket after suffering a head injury from a car accident last year which kept her out most of the season. Her sister, sophomore Lexi Rockey, developed her inside game on the varsity as the season progressed.

Also among the team’s riches of guards, senior Melissa Woods can knock down the three-point shot and is a threat from the perimeter, while classmates Hannah Lease and Kaitlyn Lipka, Caisey’s twin sister, should contribute defensively as role players off the bench. Kaitlyn Lipka also joins her sister and Ebert as captains this season.

Jensen Lee, who played up most of the season last year as a freshman, should also contribute at the forward spot. Mihalik called Lee a “coach’s best friend,” because she is willing to do all of the little things, like box out, take charges and rebound.

Lee has the ability to nicely fill the role of graduated forward Jocelyn Kempf. Other underclassmen playing up this season will be sophomore forward Paige Hilleman and eighth grade guard Marianna Alleca.

Mihalik is hoping that his team is in mix in the top half of ECIC Division I with teams like traditional-power Jamestown and Williamsville North, who is now coached by longtime Lockport head man Bill Shaw.

Among the highlights on Frontier’s schedule are the Falcons hosting their second annual Christmas Tournament for varsity and junior varsity on Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 19-21 and playing in a tournament over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend (Saturday and Sunday) in Rochester. Frontier and Orchard Park will also be playing a pair of girls and boys doubleheaders at 6 and 7:30 p.m. at each school’s gym, starting with games Friday, Dec. 12 at O.P.
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