First title worth the wait for Hopkins Academy girls basketball

  • Hopkins Academy players celebrate their first-ever Western Massachusetts Division 4 Championship after defeating Mount Everett 76-64 at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Saturday, March 9, 2019. From left are Hailey Boisvert, Samantha Jenks Sara Beauchamp, Kadey Earle (top), AJ Mitchell and Allison Kowal Safron, with Gabrielle Palmisano, partially obscured, below.

Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2019 4:35:58 PM

AMHERST – Hopkins Academy’s bench stood with eight seconds left. The Golden Hawks pulled their starters during the fourth quarter, and they watched the reserves finish out the Western Massachusetts Division 4 title game, Saturday at Curry Hicks Cage.

They were up big, the game firmly in hand. Thea Hanscom led the charge onto the court with 1.5 seconds still showing on the clock. They couldn’t wait to celebrate the first sectional title in program history.

After the buzzer sounded a 76-64 Hopkins Academy win over Mount Everett, the reserves and starters collided at midcourt. Samantha Jenks nearly leveled Emma Elson on contact. They jumped, screamed and hugged.

“The fact that our school’s never done it before makes it 10 times more special,” Jenks said. “It’s ours now.”

Recent basketball success isn’t new for Hopkins. The school’s boys team won three straight titles from 2015-2017.

“We were proud of the boys team and the name they were making for themselves and our school itself through all of their success. Watching them be so successful in the tournament for so many years straight only motivated us to get one for ourselves,” Jenks said. “It was time to get our girls basketball program’s name out there, win a title, but more importantly make history.”

The sixth time was the charm for the Golden Hawks girls team. They last reached the sectional final in 2005 and made four previous trips. Their semifinal win over Ware was Hopkins’ first appearance at that stage since 2015. Hopkins didn’t even make the playoffs last year.

“We’re speechless. We couldn’t even picture that it was coming to us today,” Jenks said. “Waking up this morning we were all a bundle of nerves.”

Hopkins kept its composure through a tight first quarter and didn’t panic with the lead. The Golden Hawks ran first-year coach Michael Prattico’s systems efficiently.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I owe all the credit to these girls,” Prattico said. “They understand what we have to do collectively as a unit to achieve the goals we wanted.”

Prattico coached varsity basketball for the first time this year. He’s also the Amherst Regional varsity baseball coach and works at Hopkins as a special education support professional. He provided a steady, familiar presence for the Golden Hawks after coaching turmoil last year. Longtime coach Fred Ciaglo had to take the program back over after Jeff LaCure left in the middle of the season.

“The quote that he’s had with us all year is ‘never satisfied.’ No matter what happens, we’re never satisfied,” Jenks said. “We’ve got to keep pushing, there’s always a bigger goal.”

Coaching runs in the Prattico family. Mike’s father, Bob Prattico, was a coach at Holyoke Catholic for over two decades and won the Division 2 boys title in 2006.

“My dad was a tremendous coach as well and I learned everything I know from him,” Mike Prattico said. “Just to take this in in the moment and to appreciate and have that bond with my father and understand it’s fun to coach and you can achieve anything possible if you have a good team, good players and a good system.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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