Girls basketball: Frontier takes down Easthampton to stay in FCL North title hunt (PHOTOS)

Frontier players Molly Gates (23), from left, Olivia Machon (21) and Claire Kirkendall (11) celebrate as they walk off the court after their 47-39 win against Easthampton on Thursday night in Easthampton.

Frontier players Molly Gates (23), from left, Olivia Machon (21) and Claire Kirkendall (11) celebrate as they walk off the court after their 47-39 win against Easthampton on Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Claire Kirkendall (11) puts in a breakaway layup against Easthampton in the second quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Frontier’s Claire Kirkendall (11) puts in a breakaway layup against Easthampton in the second quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Olivia Machon (21) hits a three-pointer over Easthampton defender Grace Pappadellis (12) in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Frontier’s Olivia Machon (21) hits a three-pointer over Easthampton defender Grace Pappadellis (12) in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Easthampton’s Sophia Faginski (44) pulls down a rebound against Frontier in the third quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Easthampton’s Sophia Faginski (44) pulls down a rebound against Frontier in the third quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Easthampton’s Christine Raymond (24) puts up a shot against Frontier in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Easthampton’s Christine Raymond (24) puts up a shot against Frontier in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Easthampton’s Kayley Downie (3) puts in a breakaway layup against Frontier in the second quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Easthampton’s Kayley Downie (3) puts in a breakaway layup against Frontier in the second quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Molly Gates (23) goes in for a layup against Easthampton in the second quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Frontier’s Molly Gates (23) goes in for a layup against Easthampton in the second quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Easthampton’s Addie Barr (10) puts up a shot against Frontier in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Easthampton.

Easthampton’s Addie Barr (10) puts up a shot against Frontier in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-01-2024 9:54 PM

EASTHAMPTON — There’s nothing quite like the sweet taste of revenge.

After losing to Easthampton on its home floor – snapping a near two-year home winning streak – just three weeks ago, the Frontier girls basketball team came into Thursday night’s matchup with the Eagles eager to retaliate.

The Redhawks stormed back from down 10 points in the first quarter and used seven clutch fourth-quarter points from Hailey Hutkoski t0 earn a massive 47-39 road victory in a battle of Franklin League North heavyweights.

With the win, Frontier (ranked No. 7 in the MIAA Division 4 power rankings) shifts into prime position to win the league if its to knock off Lenox on Monday.

“It feels absolutely wonderful. [Easthampton] knocked off what was almost a two-year winning streak at home. They took that away from us, so tonight’s mantra was return the favor,” Frontier head coach Dave Machon said. “Return the favor. Return the favor. Return the favor. That’s where we were at this week in preparation.”

Before the game started Easthampton (No. 9, MIAA Div. 4) knew it would have a huge target on its back because of its 54-51 win at Goodnow Gymnasium on Jan. 8. The Eagles felt they matched Frontier’s passion and energy, but the ball bounced the wrong way a few too many times.

“We just knew we were gonna have to match their intensity, because one thing they do really well is they’re super aggressive and go after the ball,” Easthampton head coach Brian Miller said. “We were focused on matching that intensity, which we did, it was just a matter of a couple shots that didn’t go here or there – a couple of rebounds that fell through our hands and into their hands. That’s all the difference right there. It wasn’t for a lack of effort.”

Easthampton raced out to a 13-3 first-quarter advantage behind seven quick points from Kayley Downie and two flashy passes that set up Sophia Faginski layups. Samone Young added four free throws in the frame and it was all Eagles early on. But Skyler Steele (eight points, all in the opening quarter) buried her second 3 of the quarter, followed up by her own layup and another bucket from Molly Gates, and Frontier cut the deficit in half going into the second quarter.

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The Redhawks extended their run to 20-6 heading into the halftime break following a second quarter where they held Easthampton to just four points. Claire Kirkendall (11 points) and Harper Modestow (eight points) dominated down low to spark the run.

The plethora of Frontier contributors (seven different Redhawks scored on Thursday) is something Machon preaches all the time.

“That’s what we try to do,” he said of his team’s ball movement. “I’ve been coaching these girls since fifth grade, so if they don’t have it by now, they’re not gonna get it. But they definitely work on it, and that was kind of our thing tonight. Keep a cool mind, look for the reversal, and the driving lines will open up and we’ll attack them when they’re there.”

Grace Pappadellis (six points), Faginski (12 points), Young (11 points) and Downie (10 points) each scored in the third quarter, and they helped work the Easthampton deficit down to three heading into the fourth. 

A Pappadellis bucket put the Eagles behind 35-34 approaching the midway point of the final frame, but Hutkoski took over when it mattered most – sparking a 6-0 run with back-to-back field goals to help put the game away.

“They all mean something right now,” Machon said of the win. “This is huge. [Easthampton has] a great ranking. They’re right behind us. That’s gonna help us a lot. All the girls are following it right now. It’s so great to have [the power rankings] online, and they’re all watching it and watching the dials change every Tuesday and Friday. It’s a really exciting time of year.”

Frontier (14-2) looks to avenge its only other loss this season when it hosts Lenox on Monday at 7 p.m. The Redhawks fell to the Millionaires by one point back on Jan. 11.

Despite the loss, Easthampton still has all its goals in front of them. The Eagles aren’t completely out of the league title picture, they’re going to compete in the Western Mass. tournament, and they’re a top 10 team in Division 4.

But to Miller and his team, they’re worried about themselves, not any number attached to their name. 

“We’re not focused on any rankings, we’re focused on getting better,” Miller said. “We know we gotta get better right now. I think this year we’ve had more competitive games this year by switching leagues, so we feel like we’ll be more prepared for the tournament this year. We’d rather lose a close game like this than win by 30.”

Easthampton (11-3) travels to Palmer on Monday for a 7 p.m. game with the Panthers.