Div. 4 girls basketball: Frontier holds off Easthampton, punches Sweet 16 ticket (PHOTOS)

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  • Frontier junior guard Kylie Laford, right, is pressured by Easthampton’s Ness Bentley, left, and Marie Belfakih in the first half of the Redhawks’ 49-45 win over the Eagles in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Frontier senior forward Kaitlyn Mackin, left, fends off a press by Easthampton senior forward Rina Damon in the first half of the Redhawks’ 49-45 win over the Eagles in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Frontier coach Dave Machon watches his team in the first half of the Redhawks’ 49-45 win over host Easthampton in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton junior forward Marie Belfakih, left, slides by Frontier sophomore Hailey Hutkoski in the first half of their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton junior guard Lauren Morse, left, keeps a press on Frontier sophomore Hannah Mackin in the first half of the Eagles' 49-45 loss to the Redhawks in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton senior forward Rina Damon, top, attempts a layup over Frontier's Hannah Mackin, center, and Claire Kirkendall, right, in the first half of the Eagles' 49-45 loss to the Redhawks in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton coach Brian Miller watches his team in the first half of the Eagles' 49-45 loss to Frontier in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton sophomore guard Kayley Downie, right, defends Frontier sophomore Hailey Hutkoski in the first half of the Eagles' 49-45 loss to the Redhawks in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton senior guard Ness Bentley, right, runs into defense by Frontier freshman starter Claire Kirkendall in the first half of the Eagles' 49-45 loss to the Redhawks in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton junior guard Lauren Morse, left, is momentarily stuck under defense by Frontier's Kaitlyn Mackin, center, and Kylie Laford in the first half of the Eagles' 49-45 loss to the Redhawks in their MIAA Division 4 tournament second round matchup on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 3/3/2022 9:17:46 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The third meeting of the season between the Frontier and Easthampton girls basketball teams came right down to the wire on Thursday. 

The No. 20 Redhawks led the MIAA Div. 4 Round of 32 contest 43-35 with two minutes to play, but the No. 13 Eagles stormed back, cutting the lead to 45-43 with 31 seconds to play. 

Frontier’s Hannah Mackin stepped up late and knocked down four clutch free throws, with the Redhawks winning the rubber match via a 49-45 victory. 

Frontier will play the winner of Friday’s Round of 32 tilt between No. 4 Amesbury and No. 29 Cape Cod Academy in the Round of 16 next week.

“We knew this was coming down to the wire,” Frontier coach Dave Machon said. “We prepared for it and the girls held strong. I can’t say enough about how they held on, stayed confident and stayed under control. It’s a huge testament to how hard they work.” 

The Redhawks (17-4) led 31-28 heading into the fourth quarter but Easthampton (17-4) went on a run to tie the game at 33. Frontier scored four in a row and both teams traded baskets, with the Redhawks holding a 37-35 advantage with 3:30 to play. 

Frontier then went on a 6-0 run behind an and-one by Kaitlyn Mackin, a free throw by Delaney Fifield and a bucket by Kylie Laford to take a 43-35 lead, but Lauren Morse wouldn’t let the Eagles go down easily, sinking a 3 and getting in the lane for two to cut the deficit to 43-40 with 1:30 to play. 

Kaitlyn Mackin made a pair from the line to put the Redhawks ahead 45-40 but Ness Bentley swished a 3-pointer for Easthampton with 31 seconds to go. 

Hannah Mackin was fouled and made both free throws with 26 seconds to play. Eagle Maria Belfakih got an offensive rebound and put it in to make it a 47-45 game with 14 seconds to play but Hannah Mackin was once again fouled and calmly made two free throws, sealing the win for Frontier. 

“It’s a testament to how they handle pressure,” Machon said. “That’s so important in a state tournament. You have to handle the pressure, be able to come from behind and hold a lead.” 

Morse was an offensive force for Easthampton in the loss, scoring 25 points on five made 3’s. 

“I’ve never seen anyone with that type of range before,” Eagles coach Brian Miller said of Morse. “Everyone knows they have to stop her yet she still scores against a team that plays great defense. She does this every night.” 

For Miller — who had players playing in different spots after an injury in the fourth quarter — the fight his team showed late was something he was proud of.

“We were a little disoriented with people playing in different positions but everyone stepped up,” Miller said. “Both teams played great defense. We had a game plan, we executed it but they hit some tough shots.” 

Frontier jumped out to a 5-0 lead to open the game behind baskets from Claire Kirkendall and Kaitlyn Mackin and a free throw by Hailey Hutkoski. 

Belfakih converted an and-one for Easthampton but Mackin then got a score off a steal for the Redhawks. 

Morse then got hot from deep for the Eagles, knocking down two 3’s to close out the quarter. Molly Gates and Hannah Mackin each scored for Frontier late, giving it an 11-9 lead after one. 

Morse’s offensive output continued in the second quarter. The junior knocked down a 3, got to the rim for two and made a free throw in the frame while Belfakih scored down low to keep Easthampton in the game. 

Kirkendall drained a 3, Alena Maes-Polan knocked down a midrange shot and Kaitlyn Mackin made a free throw for the Redhawks in the second quarter with the two teams tied at 17 at the half. 

Laford opened the second half with a basket in transition for Frontier. Belfakih responded with a bucket inside for the Eagles. 

Delaney Fifield and Laford then scored back-to-back baskets for the Redhawks to put them ahead, 23-19, but Easthampton came back with a 7-0 run behind a 3 and two free throws from Morse and a pair of free throws by Belfakih to go ahead, 26-23. 

Fifield and Morse traded baskets before Frontier closed the quarter on a 6-0 run behind two free throws by Fifield and baskets from Kirkendall and Hutkowski to take a 31-28 lead after three quarters. 

With the Eagles doing their best to keep Kaitlyn Mackin and Laford off the scoreboard, other Redhawk players stepped up to pick up the victory. 

 “The guards started looking to players who don't normally score and they stepped up tonight,” Machon said. “Delaney Fifield stepped up, Molly Gates and Alena Maes-Polan, a lot of the girls who came off the bench put the ball in the hoop tonight. That shows that the girls who are practice players can come out and play in high pressure situations.”


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