46-42 win over Lynchburg sends Eastern Brown to Columbus –
Story and photo by Mark Carpenter –
No matter what happened last Saturday afternoon at Logan High School, the Southern Hills Athletic Conference was going to have yet another basketball team in the State Final Four as the two top girls teams in the conference found themselves matched up with each other in a Division III regional championship game. The Eastern Brown Lady Warriors had lost only one game all season, ironically on the same floor where they were playing the regional final, while the Lynchburg Lady Mustangs were looking to earn that coveted trip to Columbus and avenge two regular season losses to the Lady Warriors.
Fans from all of the SHAC schools made the long trip to Logan on Saturday, expecting to see a “knock down, drag-em-out” battle between two very talented girls’ teams and they did not leave disappointed in the game, though one side left disappointed in the outcome, but proud of their girls’ effort.
Trailing by 11 points at halftime, Coach Kevin Pickerill and his Lady Warriors turned it on in the final two quarters, outscoring the Lady Mustangs 31-16 to punch their ticket to the Big Dance in Columbus, winning the regional championship by a final score of 46-42.
Lynchburg fired the first salvos in this title tilt, riding the play of the twins, Hannah and McKayla Binkley and junior guard Peyton Scott to a 13-9 advantage after the first quarter. Eastern kept the game close throughout most of the second period, but unusually were plagued by turnovers, perhaps still dealing with some big-stage jitters, and scored just six points total as the Lady Mustangs added to their lead and took a double digit margin into the halftime break, 26-15.
Whatever Coach Pickerill said to his troops during the intermission were the perfect words, as his team came out firing in the third quarter, scoring the first eight points to suddenly make it the tight game that everyone was expecting. Later in the quarter, a nice spin move and score in the lane by Eastern’s Alexa Pennington tied the game at 30 apiece. The Lady Mustangs got a pair of Scott free throws and led 32-30 heading into the final and deciding eight minutes of play.
Another Scott free throw opened the fourth quarter scoring, but the Lady Warriors took over on both ends with a 10-0 run to give them a seven-point lead with less than two minutes to go on the clock. Back came a resilient Lynchburg squad, getting back to back three-pointers from McKayla Binkley and then Scott to quickly make it a one-point affair.
The Lady Warriors then got one of their biggest plays of the season when point guard Morgan Reynolds hit a shot in the paint, was fouled, and hit the free toss for the old-fashioned “and one” and a four-point lead on the Eastern side of the scoreboard. Add in a later free throw from Allison Day and two more from the stripe from Reynolds and the side of the gym wearing a whole lot of red began to change all of their plans for the following weekend as they were just seconds away from celebrating a trip to the Final Four.
Lynchburg got a three-pointer from Lexi Waits in the final seconds, but it was the Lady Warriors and their loyal followers who began the celebration, cutting down the nets on the school’s fourth girls’ regional championship and trip to the state tournament, the first since Coach Richard Kiser and his teams made three consecutive trips from 2000-2002.
With the win, the Lady Warriors head to Columbus with a 26-1 record, tying the school mark for most wins in a season, and riding a 20-game winning streak, some serious momentum heading up I-71 to the Schottenstein Center. Lynchburg finished at 23-4, with three of their losses coming at the hands of Eastern Brown.
Eastern Brown now heads to the Division III state semi-finals on Friday at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University. In a scheduled 3 p.m. tip off, the Lady Warriors will face Versailles, who knocked off the state’s number-one ranked team (Summit Country Day) in their regional final.
The key now for the girls in red and white is to maintain their focus and concentrate on what they have to do on the court, with all of the extracurricular activities that will be surrounding a trip to the state tournament.
Coach Pickerell may have said it best when he told reporters after Saturday’s win, “We are not playing in this tournament just to be participants. We’re going up there to win it.”