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Frontier falls short at Mahar in Division 2 first round

ORANGE — It was a game of survival for sixth-seeded Mahar on Tuesday night.

The Senators had to first overcome a poor start on the offensive end that saw them score just 17 first-half points, and then had to withstand a massive offensive assault by 11th-seeded Frontier Regional over the final five minutes of the game, in which the Red Hawks cut a 22-point deficit down to four.

In the end, the Senators advanced to Friday night’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament quarterfinal with a 44-39 victory in a first-round contest at Grzesik-Bixby Gymnasium.

After both teams struggled offensively in the first half, Mahar finally got going in the third quarter when it outscored the Red Hawks 16-4 to turn a 17-13 halftime lead into a 33-17 advantage. The Senators (17-4) then scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to increase their lead to 39-17 with 5 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.

But Frontier (11-10) did not quit, and a layin by Olivia Riordan (nine points) with 5:09 left was quickly followed by a steal from Red Hawk guard Mindy Esposito on the inbounds pass, and she turned around and laid the ball in the hoop for another quick bucket. That set the Hawks in motion, and the team did not allow another field goal to the Senators the rest of the way. Mahar helped out the Red Hawks by shooting 5 of 9 from the free-throw line the rest of the way, and committed numerous turnovers.

Frontier took advantage as junior Amanda Calvo scored 10, including two 3-pointers, of her team-high 14 points in the final five minutes. Jordan Rowe (10 points) also hit a pair of 3-pointers, including her second with 20 seconds left that cut the deficit to 43-39. After back-to-back misses from the foul line by Mahar’s Ally Parker with 15.6 seconds left, Frontier grabbed the rebound and got the ball up the court, but the Senators played tough defense and Riordan was forced to throw up a contested 3-pointer with five seconds left.

Cassie Verheyen pulled down the rebound, got fouled, and hit one free throw to seal the win.

“Amanda hit some really big 3s, and we never give up,” Frontier guard Sydney Judge said. “It was a good effort in the end.”

The game started out exactly as Frontier wanted in that the Senators were stymied throughout the first half on the offensive end. Leading scorer Jill Valley (18.4 points per game this season) was shut out. Parker stepped up in a big way, scoring the game’s first six points and netting 13 of Mahar’s 17 points in the first half.

Parker finished with 13 points for Mahar while Jenelle Juskiewicz added nine points.

While the offense was not all there for the Senators, the defense was solid, holding Frontier to just two points in the first quarter and not allowing the Red Hawks a field goal until 5:45 remained in the half.

Scoring “is a problem we’ve had all season,” Frontier coach Frank Keimig said. “If you look at any of our box scores, we are not a big offensive team. It looked like it was finally coming around (at the end of the season), but we let people take us out of our offense too easy.”

Mahar will face No. 3 Athol (19-1) on Friday at 7 p.m.

It was the final game for Frontier seniors Judge, Jordan Rowe and Brice Gagnon.

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