Sophomore’s clutch shot, Walker’s steal secure Pioneer’s first basketball state championship in school history
Olivia Brooke: 13 points, state mental attitude award
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
INDIANAPOLIS –- “God’s timing is perfect,” Pioneer girls basketball coach Jeff Brooke said five days before his team played Loogootee in the Class 1A state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday.
One year after a heartbreaking loss to Loogootee in the state championship game, and with the help of a game-winning jump shot from Ashlynn Brooke and a game-sealing steal from Mackenzie Walker, they got the timing right and reached the pinnacle of high school basketball for the first time in school history with a 43-42 win.
Olivia Brooke scored 13 points to lead Pioneer and then won the Patricia L. Roy mental attitude award afterwards. Hailey Cripe hit four 3-pointers and scored 12 points, Ashlynn Brooke came off the bench to score 10, and Madison Blickenstaff had eight.
“I’m super-proud of Lady Panther basketball and their perseverance, grit and determination and to do that throughout the game and especially that last minute-and-a-half,” coach Brooke said afterwards. “I’m glad I took my heart medicine today because that was pretty nerve-wracking. But glad we’re on the winning wide of that.”
Kylie VanHoy led Loogootee with 18 points. She outscored the entire Pioneer team 8-6 in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn Jones shook off a turned ankle in the final minute of the first half and scored 12.
Pioneer finished 25-4. Loogootee finished 20-5.
Trailing 42-41 with 22.5 seconds left, Brooke called timeout and gave their players their choice of two plays to run. They decided on a play called “UConn.”
It was a play that involved three options. The first option was Cripe, who tore off for the right corner. Olivia Brooke was option No. 2, coming through on a back screen. Blickenstaff set a down screen and a cross screen that Ashlynn Brooke read.
“Ashlynn did a nice job recognizing she was open and knocked down the shot,” coach Brooke said.
Olivia Brooke found her for an 18-footer from the left elbow, and she dropped it in to give Pioneer the lead.
It capped a unique month for Ashlynn Brooke. She suffered a meniscus tear that required surgery at an AAU tournament in September, and she didn’t play her first game of the high school season until Jan. 26.
“Pretty complicated,” Ashlynn Brooke said when asked to describe her last month. “You know, it’s been tough with minutes restrictions and going through trying to get my strength back and boosting confidence.
“So hitting that shot, it felt amazing helping us get the ‘W’ today.”
Loogootee coach Brian Smith called timeout with 7.0 seconds and drew up a response, but Walker stole a long hit-ahead pass and held on tightly to the ball as time expired.
Players ran to the sideline and celebrated in an ecstatic, tearful mob in front of the bench with coach Jeff Brooke and his coaching staff.
The accomplishment is historic – volleyball and girls basketball state championships in the same school year in a span of less than four months – and might benefit from some perspective: In a 60-game span from 2013-16, Pioneer went 4-56.
“Basketball is just an avenue to reveal character and to build character,” coach Brooke said. “My ultimate goal is to have the love of Jesus Christ in their heart and to apply that for the rest of their life. Basketball is such a small part of life in general, but we know you can learn a lot of things through basketball.”
Pioneer closed the third quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 37-29 lead, but Loogootee countered with their own 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter.
VanHoy hit a 15-footer, and then Jones found her for a layup. VanHoy scored again on a cutting layup to make it 37-35.
Olivia Brooke’s pullup 15-footer got the lead back to four, but Jones stepped into a rainmaker 3-pointer to get the lead down to one, and when both Olivia Brooke and Blickenstaff fell going for a rebound that Loogootee nabbed, that set up a fast break bucket for VanHoy to give Loogootee a 40-39 lead.
Ashlynn Brooke’s putback in transition gave Pioneer the lead back, but Kalea Fleming’s driving banker – Fleming is Loogootee’s leading scorer but this was her only field goal of the game – put the Lady Lions back up 42-41.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game,” Smith said. “We had our ‘A’ effort. I thought the second half was a lot better than the first. … But not getting back in transition a few times got us again at times. It was just two very evenly matched teams.”
Trailing by one, a pass from Ashlynn Brooke to Olivia Brooke caromed out of bounds. Pioneer had committed their 16th turnover.
Loogootee had the ball with 1:42 left, and Pioneer had committed only one foul.
Pioneer came out in a 1-3-1 press but could not extract the ball from Loogootee’s ballhandlers.
Then Pioneer started fouling. They committed six fouls in a span of 29 seconds to finally put Loogootee in the bonus.
Walker fouled Fleming, an 80 percent foul shooter, with 38.1 seconds left.
Fleming’s free throw missed, but after a wild scramble for the loose ball, Pioneer’s Cripe touched it last.
Blickenstaff then fouled Isabelle Waggner with 29.0 seconds left.
Waggner had made two free throws in the first half, but this time she missed, and Pioneer had another chance at the lead.
Coach Brooke called timeout with a chance at history. Ashlynn made her shot, and then Pioneer needed another defensive stop.
“We just wanted to make sure they kept the ball in front of us,” coach Brooke said. “We know that Fleming is one heck of a point guard, and she’s able to penetrate, so Hailey Cripe did a nice job of giving her some pressure. And Mackenzie is just one of those gritty kind of girls. She’s the catcher for the softball team, and she’s a libero for the volleyball team. She just gets to the trenches and does the dirty work, and she doesn’t get that credit, but what a great heads-up reaction by her.”
Offensive execution was sharp at the outset. Olivia Brooke’s putback answered a Kylie VanHoy short jumper, and Cripe’s 3-pointer answered Makenzie VanHoy’s trey.
Jones drove from the high post for a layup, but Olivia Brooke hit a short banker, and Blickenstaff hit two free throws to give Pioneer their first lead at 9-7.
Fleming hit two from the line, but Cripe hit two 3-pointers in the final 2:14 of the quarter to give Pioneer a 15-11 lead after one quarter.
With Pioneer challenging any wing passes with their 3-2 zone, they built the lead to six on three different occasions in the second quarter, and they led 22-18 at halftime.
Loogootee started the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 27-24 lead. Kylie VanHoy had six points, and Jones returned from her ankle woes to nail a 3 as part of the run.
Coach Brooke called a timeout to quell the run, and with Pioneer back in a man-to-man defense, the Lady Panthers responded with their own run.
Olivia Brooke, who had gone five straight games without making a 3-pointer, drilled a game-tying triple. An Ashlynn Brooke 3-point play gave Pioneer a 30-27 lead.
With Loogootee now having to run out on Olivia Brooke, she dove on a screen roll for a baby banker and a five-point lead.
Kylie VanHoy scored on a post turnaround, but the Brooke-to-Brooke connection worked again: Olivia to Ashlynn for a corner 3-pointer and a six-point lead.
A Blickenstaff putback put Pioneer ahead 37-29 going into the fourth quarter.
Pioneer 43, Loogootee 42
PIONEER (43) (25-4)
Mackenzie Walker 0 0-0 0, Hailey Cripe 4 0-0 12, Brooklyn Borges 0 0-0 0, Olivia Brooke 5 2-2 13, Madison Blickenstaff 3 2-4 8, Ashlynn Brooke 4 1-1 10
TEAM: 16 5-7 43
LOOGOOTEE (42) (20-5)
Kalea Fleming 1 2-3 4, Isabelle Waggner 0 2-3 2, Brooklynn Jones 5 0-0 12, Makenzie VanHoy 2 0-0 6, Kylie VanHoy 9 0-0 18, Jaelyn Walker 0 0-0 0, Adie Nolley 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 17 4-6 42
Three-point field goals:
Pioneer 6 (Cripe 4, O. Brooke, A. Brooke),
Loogootee 4 (Jones 2, M. VanHoy 2)
Total fouls: Pioneer 14, Loogootee 10
Turnovers: Pioneer 16, Loogootee 10
Score by quarters
Pioneer 15 7 15 6 – 43
Loogootee 11 7 11 13 – 42
Pioneer girls basketball coach Jeff Brooke surveys the action during the first half of the Class 1A state championship game against Loogootee at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday. Pioneer won 43-42 to win their first state championship in school history. (photo by Dee Brown)
Pioneer sophomore guard Ashlynn Brooke hits the game-winning 18-foot jump shot to give Pioneer a 43-42 win over Loogootee in the Class 1A state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday. Brooke, who didn’t make her season debut until Jan. 26 after suffering a knee injury in September, scored 10 points off the bench. (photo by Dee Brown)
Pioneer senior forward Olivia Brooke (22) gets around Loogootee forward Makenzie VanHoy during the Class 1A state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday. Brooke led Pioneer with 13 points and eight rebounds and later earned the state mental attitude award. (photo by Dee Brown)
Pioneer Panthers 2021 1A Girls Basketball State Champions
Photos Courtesy of Dee Brown