High School Girls Basketball: Immaculata earns title at first Frontier Holiday Tourney
Hamburg, Eden get to tourney final; Lake Shore improves to 5-2
Immaculata brought some drama and excitement to the finale of what turned into a very competitive inaugural Frontier Holiday Tournament.
Freshman Jordan Heinold calmly sank two free throws with .06 seconds left in the game to provide the Bears the deciding margin in a 47-45 tournament championship game win over Williamsville East.
The two free throws following a flagrant foul as Heinold drove into the paint for the potential winning shot capped a game that included 22 lead changes, four of which were in the final minute. It also finished off a four-game varsity slate of closely contested games over Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27-28.
“It was definitely a back and forth game the whole way; my heart was racing,” said Immaculata head coach Andrea Drabik, whose team has started the season 6-3. “All four teams were very competitive. It was a nice tournament to be invited to. All the teams are very well coached and came to this tournament looking for competition and all of the games wound up competitive.”
In the consolation game also on Dec. 28, Frontier managed a third-place finish escaping with a 48-43 win over a feisty Nardin team. The day before, Immaculata outlasted Frontier 54-46 and East edged Nardin 43-40.
“Andrea does a nice job with (Immaculata) and we struggled with some things that they did and with getting into foul trouble,” Frontier head coach Rick Mihalik said of his team’s opening night at the tournament.
Each season, Mihalik is trying to think of something new to build excitement for his program.
Last year, among a challenging out-of-league schedule was a game at the Pastor-Cooper Tournament at Daemen College to start off the season. This season, in Mihalik’s third year, he believed it was about time to host a tournament.
When he attended Frontier, The Hamburg Sun hosted a tournament, which encompassed a number of local girls teams, at Hilbert College. The Mayor’s Cup picked up where that left off until it ended itself a few years back.
From those tournaments sprung the idea for a Frontier Holiday Tournament. Mihalik said he always likes to play non-league games against neighbor Immaculata and another private school in Nardin so they were invited to participate, while Williamsville East was picked up at a later date.
The two-day tournament, which included varsity and junior varsity games, eight in all, featured some very competitive games including that varsity championship contest decided by two points in the final seconds.
“I’m trying to do something more every year as coach, “ Mihalik said. “The girls look forward to these kind of tournaments.”
In the end, the players who may have received the biggest thrill from playing in the tournament were the ones from Immaculata.
With the team’s top scorer, senior Taylor Heinold, and steady starting junior point guard RayAnn Call, on the bench having fouled out, Drabik called on senior Kathryn Halloran to take the ball up the court against East’s press with six seconds left in the game.
After taking the in-bounds pass, finding a teammate and the getting the ball back, Halloran fed Jordan Heinold right around the free throw line. After being fouled, Heinold exhibited composure beyond her years as she knocked down two shots as she stood alone with all players clearing the lane due to the flagrant foul call.
“She showed a lot of maturity there,” Drabik said. “Now through nine games, it’s been nice to watch her growth and her really contributing.”
“Kathryn also showed nerves of steal,” she added. “She doesn’t typically handle the ball, especially in that situation. She did a great job.”
Immaculata led by three at the half, but a 10-5 third quarter run put East in the lead by three going into the fourth.
Drabik also noted that senior forward Bailey Gawley continues to do a solid job playing opposite Jordan Heinold down low. Gawley notched eight points, some key rebounds and a few blocks against Frontier.
Jordan Heinold, and older sister, Taylor, who scored a game-high 17 points against Frontier, were both named to the all-tournament team. Taylor Heinold is also only 30 points away from scoring 1,000 in her career after finishing with six against East. Immaculata’s next game is home against Holland on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
“It’s nice to hit this point in the season, before the midway mark, and see the light bulb going off for the girls,” said Drabik, whose team has not lost by more than six points yet this season. “They seem to be hitting their stride...I feel like they’re all looking forward to the new year.”
In Frontier’s win over Nardin, top scorer Natalie Galus came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of her 14 points in that time, after taking a seat on the bench early in the second quarter with four fouls. In fact, the standout forward went without a point in the first half.
Helping her along was solid bench play and major contributions from freshmen Lexi Rockey, who also finished with 14 points, and Jensen Lee. Both are now starting with junior Kaitlyn Lipka out with a knee injury.
“Both of our freshman are playing and exceeding expectations,” Mihalik said. “I told Lexi that she has the potential to score 20 points in any game. We need her and others to score besides Natalie.”
Mihalik also acknowledged his bench players for coming in the game and picking up right where the starters left off. Highlighting those performances were the efforts of junior guards Hannah Lease and Melissa Woods.
“They know what is expected of them and they were able to take care of the basketball,” said Mihalik, whose team needed that type of effort against a full-court pressing Nardin.
Frontier, which is now 3-3, showed some positive signs in the tournament’s consolation game, as well as during a come-from behind overtime win over Orchard Park on Dec. 19, but the consistency has not yet been there.
“The girls know what I’m talking about when I tell them we need to be more consistent,” Mihalik said. “We did a nice job controlling the tempo and controlling the clock today.”
Afterward, Mihalik seemed to get a thumbs up from fellow coaches Joe Dougherty of Nardin, Chris Muccia of East and Drabik, along with hearing some positive remarks from spectators, so he expects the tournament to go on next year with much of the same look.
“I’m going to ask the same three teams back next year,” said Mihalik, who did add that he’d like to add another tournament that included Hamburg in the future. “We received good feedback and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We’re going to start something here that we can have every year.”
In other tournament action over the holiday break, Hamburg and Eden both won opening round games only to lose in championships. After leading most of the game, Hamburg fell 39-38 to Clarence at the Orchard Park Tournament, while host Springville used a late surge to best Eden 46-36 at the Emerling Ford Holiday Tournament.
A three-pointer from Clarence with two minutes left in the game put the Red Devils in the lead by three points and they held on from there on Dec. 28. Kendra Quinn-Moultrie led Hamburg with 13 points, while Jill Ford (six points) hit the back of the rim on a final second heave from mid court.
Hamburg began the tournament with a tough come-from-behind win over the host team to improve to 5-0 at the time. Leah Jones led Hamburg, scoring nine of her 16 points in the fourth quarter. Taylor Wolf added nine points, 15 rebounds, six blocks and six steals. The Bulldogs were down 33-26 at half and used a 15-10 third and 8-2 fourth to pull out the win.
Down only one going into the fourth, Eden was outscored 13-4 in the final quarter of the final on Dec. 29, Two days earlier, in a 42-23 win over West Seneca East, the Raiders (4-4) were led by 14 points from Hanna Zittel.
Also, Lake Shore improved to 5-2 with a 51-19 win over Hutch Tech on Thursday (Dec. 27). Among the three scorers in double figures were sophomore Melanie Linsmair with 14 points, senior Josilyn Benton (12 points) and sophomore Lindsay Gearhart (10 points).