Winter sports preview: Hopkins Academy girls basketball familiar with team after state final run

  • Carolyn Kowal-Safron, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kasey Earle, of Hopkins Academy, drives to the basket during practice. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gabby Palmisano, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gabby Palmisano, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chloe Jekanowski, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Allison Kowal-Safron, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chloe Jekanowski, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hopkins Academy coach Mike Prattico talks to his team during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hailey Boisvert, left, of Hopkins Academy, defends Gabby Palmisano during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gabby Dyjach, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hailey Boisvert, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chloe Jekanowski, right, of Hopkins Academy, moves the ball against Gabby Dyjach during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Allison Kowal-Safron, of Hopkins Academy, shoots during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gabby Palmisano, left, of Hopkins Academy, passes to Carolyn Kowal-Safron during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chloe Jekanowski, of Hopkins Academy, passes during practice at the school, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ashley Vazquez begins a pass during practice at Holyoke High School, Dec. 9, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Taryn Ryan begins a pass during practice at Holyoke High School, Dec. 9, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Biance Ortiz passes during practice at Holyoke High School, Dec. 9, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Holyoke basketball coach Andrea Enright talks to her team during practice at the school, Dec. 9. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2019 2:00:32 PM

Eight of the 10 players who authored the most successful season in Hopkins Academy girls basketball history are back.

The Golden Hawks won the program’s first Western Massachusetts Division 4 championship and reached the state final before losing to Cathedral.

“We have our own expectations. People can have expectations, but we try to keep our expectations one day at a time,” Hopkins coach Mike Prattico said. “We’re not worried about trying to repeat or look big picture. We’re just trying to get our feet wet again and do the little things so we can compete at a high level.”

The two seniors who graduated – Samantha Jenks and AJ Mitchell – were the Golden Hawks’ leading offensive and defensive players. Jenks scored 21.6 points per game and ran Hopkins’ offense. Mitchell directed traffic in the high post on offense and provided a defensive backbone.

“It takes multiple roles (to fill those spots). This season we have a collective unit of girls that can do things here and there,” said Prattico, who was named the MBCA West Division 4 Girls Coach of the Year last month. “All those things going together are going to have a huge impact for us.”

Players like Thea Hanscom, Sara Beauchamp and Allison Kowal-Safron will fill larger offensive roles, and the Golden Hawks will lean on their defense.

“We’re going to preach defense, preach physicality and working hard and limiting the other team from scoring,” Prattico said. “If we can keep the scores down to a reasonable level, I think it’ll give us a solid shot.”

COACHING TURNOVER BRINGS NEW FACES — Six new coaches are taking over area teams.

■Ralph Loos, Amherst Regional: Returning to the high school ranks after focusing on the Mass Frenzy AAU program for the past few years. Previous stops include Westfield (2013-2015) and Frontier Regional (2008-2012). Also an assistant on Northampton’s 2008 state championship team.

■Brian Miller, Easthampton: Coached the Eagles’ boys team for two decades, winning two Western Massachusetts championships and advancing to the 2018 state final. Also the school’s athletic director and girls soccer coach.

■Dave Machan, Frontier Regional: Played for the Red Hawks in the mid ‘90s. Previously involved with suburban teams, which he’s still organizing, and Frontier middle school softball.

■Dan Labrie, Hampshire Regional: Raiders’ junior varsity coach for the past four years. Coached most of the current team when they were playing in fifth and sixth grade suburban leagues.

■Andrea Enright, Holyoke: Led Longmeadow girls program for previous six seasons. Won 2016 Division 2 state title with Lancers and 2015 Western Mass. championship. Also involved with Mass Frenzy AAU program for a number of years. Played at Holyoke under former coach Tom Brassil, who she’s taking over for.

■Allison Slysz, Smith Academy: Former four-year player for the Falcons also played basketball at Mount Holyoke. Also the school’s athletic director, but hiring process was largely handled by Smith Academy principal Chris Buckland. Coached Falcons’ junior varsity team two years ago.

STARS ALIGN FOR GRANBY? — Granby has been young for years, and the players only got older and more experienced. The Rams have six seniors, the most of coach Tom Burke’s 13-year tenure. Many of them have been on varsity since their freshman year, while Nora Young played as an eighth grader.

“All of them are healthy. That’s the other thing that’s been a problem with us over the past few years, somebody gets back and somebody goes down,” Granby coach Tom Burke. “We’ve got them all together.”

Young scored her 1,000th point last season and has been a constant for the Rams. Point guard Kaeleigh Corteau missed a chunk of last year after concussions ended her soccer season, but she’s back and fully healthy.

“She’s a great ballhandler, can find the open person,” Burke said. “And when her shot is on, it’s ON.”

The Rams lost in the quarterfinals each of the past two Division 3 tournaments. They play a challenging schedule filled with upper-division teams and good teams from their own class to prepare.

“We’re looking to take that next step,” Burke said.

SNOW DAYS — Weather pushed back tryouts two days for most teams, giving them less time to practice before the season tips off.

RAIDERS TIP OFF SEASON — Hampshire Regional will face Mahar Regional in the opening game of the seventh annual Pioneer Valley Tip-Off at 6 p.m. on Dec. 13.




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