High schools: Pioneer boys charge back late to clip Frontier again

Frontier’s Owen Babb (14) drives to the hoop over Pioneer defender Hugh Cyhowski (11) in the second quarter Friday night at Goodnow Gymnasium in South Deerfield.

Frontier’s Owen Babb (14) drives to the hoop over Pioneer defender Hugh Cyhowski (11) in the second quarter Friday night at Goodnow Gymnasium in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE


Staff Writer

Published: 02-12-2024 9:24 PM

Modified: 02-12-2024 9:34 PM

NORTHFIELD — The Pioneer boys basketball team needed a second-half comeback to defeat Frontier on Friday. 

When the two Hampshire League South foes got together for the second time in four days on Monday at Messer Gymnasium, the Panthers once again needed some second-half magic. 

The Redhawks held a 33-21 lead at the half and following baskets from Alex Ellis, Owen Babb and Nico Fasulo, the Frontier lead blossomed to 39-21 early in the third. 

It all flipped from there, however. Pioneer closed the third quarter on a 20-6 run, sparked by Brayden Thayer, Josh Wood, Kurt Redeker and Hugh Cyhowski, cutting the lead to 47-43 going into the fourth. 

Redeker opened the fourth with a pair of baskets to tie the game before Max Millette recorded a basket for Frontier to put it back ahead. 

Cyhowski scored to tie the game back up at 49 before Thayer hit a jumper to give Pioneer a 51-49 lead with three minutes to go, the Panthers’ first advantage of the game. 

Sasha Dragicevich swished a corner 3 late that cut the Pioneer lead to 53-52 but Thayer got in the paint for a bucket with eight seconds to go. Frontier committed a back court violation and Wood knocked down a pair of free throws, allowing Pioneer to earn a 57-52 come-from-behind victory. 

“In the beginning of the game Frontier couldn’t miss,” Panthers coach Scott Thayer said. “They were hitting every shot they took. [Redhawk coach Josh Morse] does a great job with that team. We got behind the eight ball and started bickering with each other a bit. At halftime we talked about being relaxed, went out and had fun and played hard. We did that.” 

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It was Redeker who kicked off the third quarter run for Pioneer. Thayer and Wood each scored buckets and suddenly the lead was cut to 41-32. 

Babb got a bucket inside for the Redhawks but a 3 from Thayer, a bucket inside from Redeker and a jumper from Alex McClelland helped cut the lead to 43-39 late in the third. 

“We came out to play,” Frontier coach Josh Morse said. “We come out to play every game. Credit to Pioneer. For us, it was a tale of two halves in the third quarter. We talked about it. They got out in transition which was a difference. They went to zone [defense] which slowed us down. We weren’t able to execute in the critical moments.” 

The Redhawks were on fire to open the game. Fasulo made a trio of 3s in the first quarter while Millette scored six points in the frame, helping Frontier take a 19-11 lead after one. 

Tied 21-21 in the second quarter, the Redhawks closed the half on a 12-0 run, with a basket from Babb, three scores in a row from Millette and a 3 from Dragicevich to give Frontier its 33-21 lead at the break. 

The young Redhawks squad has been in close games all year. Morse said the lessons learned from these close games will pay off down the road, as Frontier learns how to close them out and turn them into wins.

That starts on Wednesday, where the Redhawks (8-9) hope to close out the regular season with a win over Mahar to try to get into the Western Mass. tournament. 

“It’s a young team,” Morse said. “They’re battling hard every day. Most of our team is sophomores and juniors. That’s the learning process. You learn from these moments. If I told them before the season that they’d be in every game with a minute to go, they’d sign up for that. They have this opportunity and will learn from it.” 

Pioneer now enters the postseason with a 14-4 record, growing as the season has gone on. 

“With what this team has been through, with all the internal and external pressures they’ve faced, to come out on the other side now, I’m so proud,” Thayer said. “With a couple days off we can refresh the battery and see what we can do in the playoffs.” 

Brayden Thayer scored 19 points and dished eight assists, Wood tallied 11 points and four rebounds, Cyhowski recorded 11 points and six rebounds, Redeker scored 10 points and grabbed four boards while McClelland had six points and five assists for Pioneer. 

Millette scored 17 points, Babb tallied 14 points, Fasulo scored 13 points while Dragicevich added six points for the Redhawks. 

Athol 52, Palmer 43 — Angel Castillo finished with 23 points while Ethan Bacigalupo and Ben Kearney each added 13 points, helping the Bears walk away with an independent win in Palmer on Monday. 

Athol led 29-23 at the half. 

“We definitely showed resilience tonight,” Bears coach Brian Patria said. “Our efforts were top notch. Bacigalupo stepped up for us on the offensive side.” 

Athol enters the Western Mass. tournament with a 16-2 record. 

Greenfield 72, Commerce 57 — A 22 point performance from Jon Breor helped power the Green Wave past Commerce on Monday at Nichols Gymnasium. 

Greenfield closes out its regular season with a 14-4 record. 

Caleb Thomas and Grayson Thomas both scored 13 points, Caleb Murray tossed in 11 points, Jacob Blanchard tallied nine points while Ollie Postera added four points in the win. 


Turners at C/W championships

The MIAA Central/West Swim championships took place on Sunday at Springfield College, with a number of Turners Falls swimmers qualifying and competing. 

Liam Bliss was the lone Thunder boy to qualify and he placed 22nd in the 50-yard freestyle (24.68 seconds). On the girls’ side, Madi Liimatainen competed in the 50 free, where she took 35th (27.76). 

In the girls’ relays, Sophia McComb, Avery Heathwaite, Tristan Bliss and Liimatainen came in 18th in the 200 medley relay (2:09.56) while Heathwaite, McComb, Ainslee Flynn and Liimatainen came in 16th in the 200 free relay (1:55.86). 

Youth hockey

FCHA results

The Franklin County 10U White hockey team played a trio of games over the weekend, going 2-0-1. 

On Saturday, FCHA beat Ludlow, 7-3, behind three goals from Shaye Tyler while Samuel Edson, Noah Stoffolano, Lyla Burke and Harlon Hickey all found the back of the net. Grayson Boron had an assist. 

Also on Saturday FCHA tied Holy Name, 5-5. Edson scored twice while Hickey and Brantley Godfrey scored. Hickey, Stoffolano and Boron tallied assists. On Sunday FCHA beat the Jr. Yellow Jackets, 5-1, with Godfrey scoring four goals and Edson adding a goal. 

Jacoby Houle got a win and a tie in net while Hickey got a win in goal for FCHA.