Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
HILLSBORO — During Saturday morning’s walkthrough in preparation for a district championship matchup with North Adams, Eastern Brown coach Kevin Pickerill, as he says, “unloaded” on one of his players.
Whether it was not knowing an assignment, being in the wrong position or simply daydreaming, Pickerill admits that he saw the errors and quickly made sure it didn’t happen again.
But the teaching moment paid its dividends when the Warriors met the Green Devils for a third time this season.
Pickerill’s team responded and, behind Rylee Leonard, Mackenzie Gloff and Izzy Barber, put an abrupt halt to North Adams’ season by a 47-34 final — claiming their second district title in the past three seasons in the process.
“[Gloff and Barber] have been a great punch for us over the past month,” Pickerill said. “Mack has been good since Christmas and she’s gotten her legs under her. Izzy, from her injury last year, is now back into playing shape. She’s done a great job over the past month. We had walkthroughs this morning and I unloaded on one of them. They responded with a great game. That’s a sign of a great team and a great player. It shows maturity. I’m proud of both of them.”
Gloff scored 13 points and eight rebounds while Barber tallied eight points, both performances coming off the bench.
And while that duo was magnificent, Leonard provided offensive fireworks while Bailey Dotson, Emma Prine, Emma Brown and Caitlyn Wills all filled their roles to perfection on the defensive end.
“I told the kids that this was an overall team effort. We might’ve had the best decision making process that we’ve made all year,” Pickerill said. “We didn’t try to force things, we used each other and we got proper spacing. Our guards didn’t panic when they put pressure on us. I knew the 1-2-2 zone was [North Adams’] ace in the hole. But we did a good job, made adjustments and stayed with our game plan.”
North Adams (18-5) shot an uncharacteristic 4-of-30 from beyond the 3-point arc. And, in total, the Devils hit just 12-of-52 field goal attempts — 23 percent from the floor.
“I thought we wanted the game sped up. We felt like their legs would go before ours,” Pickerill said. “I felt we did that pretty well. And we threw in some zone, defensively. So we picked the pace up and fell back into our zone to get [NA] standing. Their shots just weren’t hitting because their legs were gone. Especially late.”
Gloff got the scoring started with 4:41 left in the first quarter before Leonard hit a bucket and a foul to make it a 5-0 tally with 3:38 to go. Barber then scored, making it 7-2, before North Adams’ Keetyn Hupp and Sierra Kendall cut the lead to 7-6 heading into the second.
After Gloff made it a 9-6 score, Karissa Buttelwerth and DeLaney Harper logged back-to-back buckets to give the Devils their first, and last, lead of the night at 10-9. Barber put the Warriors back on top at 12-10 before Leonard hit a 3 and sank a breakaway lay-in, putting Eastern ahead 17-12 with 3:59 to play in the second.
Harper then dialed long distance, cutting the deficit to two, before Gloff, Leonard and Barber ended the half on a 7-0 run to put Eastern ahead 24-15 at the break.
NA’s Braylie Jones connected from deep to begin the third before Leonard and Emma Prine answered with consecutive scores, pushing the lead to 30-19 with 3:33 left. Eastern took a 31-22 edge into the fourth before Brown extended the lead back to double-digits at 34-24.
Barber made it a 36-26 game at the 3:38 mark, just before Leonard provided the knockout blow with 3:29 to play. The sophomore scored and was fouled, making it a 39-26 lead — an insurmountable lead — with less than three minutes to go.
From there, Eastern hit its foul shots and that’s all she wrote.
“I was a little upset at times in the third quarter because I felt like we may have been helping too much,” Pickerill said. “The one thing I was wanting to mix in was some full-court pressure. But we didn’t get the chance to do so. But our defensive rebounding was excellent. That allowed us to get into transition. We did a great job of sharing the ball as you could tell. Then I felt like, in the fourth quarter, our guards are going to handle the ball well and knock down free throws.”
Harper led North Adams statistically with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Six different players had two points while Jones and Wylie Shipley each added three points to the stat sheet.
Leonard led all scorers with 18 points alongside three assists while Gloff added her 13 points and eight rebounds. Barber followed with eight points and Bailey Dotson ended with two points, five rebounds and three assists.
“I’m as proud of this group as ever,” Pickerill said, smiling. “This is my first year not coaching my own daughter at this level. It’s the first district title I’ve won as a coach without her on the sideline with me. But I’m just proud of these kids. When I can get on their tail and they respond to it … I’m just proud of them.”
The Warriors (24-2) now advance to take on top-seeded Wheelersburg in a Division III regional semifinal at 7 p.m., Wednesday at Southeastern High School.
“Wheelersburg is going to be an odd matchup for us. We’ve got a little bit of a size advantage. But they’ve got a great player in [Kaylee Darnell], a great point guard in [Ellie] Kallner and [Alaina] Keeney can score the ball,” Pickerill said. “Then, [Makenna] Walker is maybe the unsung hero of that group. We’re going to take a good look at them. They’re going to give us their best punch and we’re going to give them ours.”
Eastern Brown: 7-17-7-16 — 47
North Adams: 6-9-7-12 — 34
Eastern Brown: 19-50 FG, 8-16 FT, 1-10 3pt., 31 rebounds (Gloff 8), 14 turnovers, 10 assists (Leonard 3, Dotson 3). Scoring: Leonard 18, Gloff 13, Barber 8, Wills 2, Dotson 2, Prine 2, Brown 2.
North Adams: 12-52 FG, 6-9 FT, 4-30 3pt., 24 rebounds (Harper 10), 12 turnovers, 5 assists (Harper 2). Scoring: Harper 16, Jones 3, Shipley 3, Ruckel 2, Hupp 2, Kendall 2, Call 2, Buttelwerth 2, Howell 2.