Hopkins Academy’s historic girls basketball run feeling real as state final approaches

  • Hopkins Academy's Allison Kowal Safron, left, and Hailey Boisvert, right, battle against Montachusett's Erica Regan to control the ball March 13, 2019 during the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy's Arya-Jane Mitchell, left, looks to pass the ball under pressure from Montachusett's Ashley Girouard March 13, 2019 during the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy’s Sara Beauchamp, center, goes up for a shot against Montachusett Tech, during the state Division 4 semifinal at Worcester State University, Wednesday. Hopkins will play Boston Cathedral in the state final, Saturday. Visit gazettenet.com for coverage. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy's Allison Kowal Safron, center, drives the ball past Montachusett's Ashley Girouard, left, and Arianna Saladini March 13, 2019 during the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy coach Mike Prattico hugs player Samantha Jenks March 13, 2019 after winning the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal against Montachusett at Worcester State University. Hopkins Academy's Gabrielle Palmisano looks on, at right. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy's Arya-Jane Mitchell, left, shoots the ball under pressure from Montachusett's Ashley Girouard March 13, 2019 during the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy's Samantha Jenks goes up for a shot under pressure from Montachusett's Arianna Saladini March 13, 2019 during the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy players celebrate March 13, 2019 after winning the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal against Montachusett at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy players celebrate March 13, 2019 after winning the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal against Montachusett at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy's Samantha Jenks, right, hugs teammate Gabriella Dyjach March 13, 2019 after winning the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal against Montachusett at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

  • Hopkins Academy players celebrate March 13, 2019 after winning the Massachusetts Division 4 Girls Basketball Semifinal against Montachusett at Worcester State University. FOR THE GAZETTE/SARAH CROSBY

Staff Writer
Published: 3/15/2019 8:15:48 PM

HADLEY — How much more history does the Hopkins Academy girls basketball team have in it?

The Golden Hawks established themselves as the greatest team in school history when they won the program’s first Western Massachusetts championship. Then they took it a step further and beat Montachusett Tech in the state semifinals to reach the title game.

“It feels like a dream, still,” sophomore Sara Beauchamp said.

It’s not over. The Golden Hawks will play South champion Boston Cathedral in the state Division 4 championship game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at WPI in Worcester. No Hopkins Academy team has won a state championship since 1985. The last one to even play in a state title game was the baseball team in 2012, so the Golden Hawks are enjoying the ride. They attended the MIAA championship breakfast Friday in Worcester to get the full experience.

“We’ve never had the opportunities to do things before,” senior guard Samantha Jenks said. “It’s weird.”

Bringing the program’s first state title back to Hadley will be a tall order in many ways. Cathedral is one of the best teams in the state regardless of size. The Boston Globe ranked the Panthers (21-2) third in eastern Mass. at the end of the regular season. They beat Fenway by 20 in the state semifinals. Mackenzie Daleba is a force down low for Cathedral. Kaiya Duverna and Sophia Fontaine give them an intimidating front line.

“They’ve got some height, they’ve got some length,” Hopkins coach Mike Prattico said. “We’re gonna have to work collectively as a unit to keep them off the boards.”

Cathedral swarms defensively and will pressure Hopkins’ ballhandlers.

“They know how to trap on defense, so we’re going to have to be calm with the ball and not freak out,” Jenks said.

Jenks provides a steadying presence as the senior point guard. She initiates the offense, which at times can run through AJ Mitchell in the post. They’re surrounded by capable shooters like Allison Kowal-Safron, Beauchamp and Thea Hanscom. The Golden Hawks (19-6) force defenses to choose how they want to guard them.

“We’ve got to be smart with our decision making whether it’s passing or attacking to the rim,” Prattico said.

The state final experience will be new for Prattico, too. He’s coaching varsity basketball for the first time this season. Prattico’s father, Bob, coached at Holyoke Catholic for more than two decades and won a Western Mass. title in 2006. He’s been at Hopkins’ games and is giving his son advice.

“I credit my father. I learned from a very intelligent man that understands what you have to do collectively with a team,” Mike Prattico said. “He has confidence in me. Just to be in this position is pretty exciting.”

He fits well with his team. Prattico works at Hopkins Academy as a para professional, so the Golden Hawks knew of him but weren’t familiar with him when he started.

“When he came in and we heard about his background and we went ‘this is gonna be good’,” Jenks said. “Our coach knows the energy we need and what we work best with.”

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



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