WAVERLY – When the postseason rolls around, it takes 32 minutes of quality play to come away with a win most nights.
For the Eastern Brown girls’ basketball team, a slow start proved costly against Southeastern as the Lady Warriors were unable to overcome a 16-point deficit early in the second quarter and fell to the Lady Panthers, 48-45, in an OHSAA Division III district semifinal game.
“The kids knew what we wanted but I just felt like – you make shots and everything looks fine, but we were just unable to put it in the hole. We had a lot of good looks. I wouldn’t have thought it would’ve been nerves because we’ve been here and have a lot of experience – a lot of seniors leadership out there and juniors that have gotten to play a lot – so I didn’t really think that was an issue, but maybe a little bit we got caught up in the whirlwind of things,” said Eastern coach Kevin Pickerill. “We’re a better team than what we played tonight, but it happens – unfortunately bad timing.”
Eastern ended Southeastern’s season last year with a 40-27 win in the district final.
Both teams were held scoreless until the 5:14 mark in the first quarter, until an and-one from Ella Skeens gave Southeastern an edge. It was answered by a layup from Mikayla Farris, but the Lady Panthers then used a 10-0 run to take a 13-2 lead, before a layup from Allison Malott ended the quarter.
A 7-0 Southeastern run, capped off by a 3-pointer from McKinley Mitten, extended the Lady Panthers’ lead to 16, forcing Pickerill to call a timeout with 5:42 to go in the half.
“That was the most surprising thing the whole night for me tonight – right back down here at Waverly, playing the exact same team you played last year and really it was never even a ballgame last year. We shot 18 percent,” said Southeastern coach Mike Adams. “I just didn’t know if the kids’ heads were going to be in it. To see that type of spark and effort and tremendous attitude – I’m just tickled to death.”
Eastern answered with an 8-0 run of their own, started at the 4:30 mark in the second quarter by a layup from Alexa Pennington that was followed by buckets from Malott, Whitney Broughton and Morgan Reynolds.
Skeens then scored the next six points to end the half with the Lady Panthers leading, 26-12. Skeens, who will continue her basketball career at the University of Dayton next year, became the all-time leading scorer in Ross County history with 21 points in the game. She has 2,260 in her career now, according to Adams.
“She’s a young lady with 2,200 and some points all time – Ross County record holder. The kid has led us for all four years straight years and three of those being 20-plus win seasons,” said Adams. “She’s just such a great role model and the best I’ve ever seen myself. I know I’m prejudiced, but she is the best.”
Eastern went just 6-of-24 in the first half. They missed all four 3-pointers they attempted and didn’t get to the free throw line.
“We got plenty of good looks, we just didn’t knock shots down. I told them at halftime we got 24 shots to their 22, we turn it over six times to their seven. On the scoreboard we should be ahead, but unfortunately we weren’t,” Pickerill. “I told them after the game that most teams don’t come out of a 20-4 hole and win ballgames. We put every effort into getting back into it.”
Despite the deficit, Eastern continued to battle back in the second half, opening the third quarter on an 11-2 run to cut Southeastern’s lead to five.
Skeen knocked down two free throws, before a 3-pointer from Broughton made it 30-26. Mitten hit a triple at the other end, but Broughton knocked down her second of the frame to make it a four-point game once again.
Skeens and Broughton each hit two free throws as Southeastern ended the third quarter with a 35-31 advantage.
Andrea Edmiston came up with a steal that resulted with a Broughton layup to open the fourth quarter. She was fouled on the play and made the free throw to cut Southeastern’s lead to one.
The Lady Panthers were able to create a little separation, but two free throws from Pennington made it a one-point game with 3:45 remaining.
Southeastern scored the next four points to take a 43-38 lead, and despite their best efforts, the Lady Warriors were never able to overtake the Lady Panthers, who advance to the district final where they’ll take on Minford. The game is scheduled for 12 p.m. on March 3 at Waverly.
Eastern’s season comes to a close at 20-5. They’ll return starters in Pennington, Reynolds and Camryn Pickerill, as well as Alison Malott and Andrea Edmisten who provided a spark off the bench.
The Lady Warriors had five seniors on their roster this season – Broughton, Farris, Haley Fannin, Maggie Fultz and Allison Day, who was unable to play due to a knee injury. The group claimed a share of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division I title this year and went undefeated in league play last year before making a run to the Final Four.
“They’ve meant a lot to the program and brought us kind of out of the cellar so to speak and put the program on their back. They’re winners. They’re definitely winners. We were looking back the other day and we’ve lost, I think, four league games in four years with that group. That’s something most kids dream of – they don’t get to do it and achieve it – they dream of it. They’ve done a great job that way,” said Pickerill. “On a personal note, I love all five of them. They’ve been great leaders, they’ve been fun to be around, they’re coachable – you just don’t get that every night with every kid and they’ve meant a lot to the program and myself personally.”
SOUTHEASTERN –13 –13 –9 –13 — -48
EASTERN BROWN –4 –8 –19 –14 — -45
SOUTHEASTERN (48) – E. Skeens 21, M. Mitten 12, Collins 6, Morris 5, Hice 4
EASTERN BROWN (45) – Broughton 15, Reynolds 10, Pickerill 6, Malott 6, Farris 4, Pennington 4
Rebounds: Southeastern 33 (E. Skeens 15), Eastern Brown 30 (Broughton 8)
Turnovers: Southeastern 17, Eastern Brown 12
Records: Southeastern 21-4, Eastern Brown 20-5