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Brooke report: Olivia’s big 4th quarter sends Pioneer girls to state finals

Cripe adds game-high 22 as Lady Panthers earn rematch with Loogootee


Sports Editor, RTC

LOGANSPORT –- It was about 3:15 p.m. Saturday, and the Berry Bowl at Logansport High School had just emptied and everybody had been allowed to exhale after the Class 1A north semistate between the Pioneer and Northfield girls basketball teams.

Pioneer was about to head for the bus.

But first, an assistant coach reported to coach Jeff Brooke that the locker room was clean and had been left the way they found it.

A little over an hour earlier in that same locker room, Brooke asked his players what defense they wanted to play.

They said they wanted to play a man-to-man.

The Lady Panthers trailed Northfield 32-27 at halftime. They were down, but the mood was calm.

Ok, then. It was time to “dig in” on defense and grab some rebounds.

The rest was history. The locker room was left the way they found it, but the Lady Panthers proved they can ransack even the best opponents every week.

This time, the history came from an 18-1 run in the fourth quarter that sent No. 7 Pioneer to the state finals with a 70-54 win over No. 13 Northfield.

“We talked at halftime, ‘What do you want to do, girls?’” coach Brooke recalled. “And they said, ‘We’re going to dig in, Coach, and we want to go man.’ And obviously, they did a great job of recognizing the shooters and did a great job. I’m proud of the girls.”

Junior point guard Hailey Cripe led Pioneer (24-4) with 22 points, but it was senior forward Olivia Brooke who outscored the entire Northfield team 13-7 in the fourth quarter and who finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds overall.

Ashlynn Brooke added 11 points off the bench, including nine in the second half. Madison Blickenstaff scored all 10 of her points in the first half, and she also contributed nine rebounds.

“They’re really good at that 1-3-1 or that 3-2 that they run, and I think they just got a little tired covering the middle,” Olivia Brooke said. “So Blick and I got those more open shots that we didn’t get in the first.”

Blickenstaff had five rebounds in the second half.

“Amazing,” Blickenstaff said afterwards. “I’ve been trying to keep my tears in my eyes.”

Next up is Loogootee in what will be a rematch of the 2020 state title game. Loogootee won the south semistate with a 43-33 win over Greenwood Christian.

“We know them well,” Olivia Brooke said. “We’re ready to play.”

Loogootee won last year’s state title game 45-43. The game also comes less than four months after Pioneer beat Loogootee in the 1A state championship volleyball match in Muncie.

“It feels awesome,” Mackenzie Walker, a member of both the volleyball and basketball teams, said. “To be able to do that two times in one year, it’s just awesome.”

Emma Hoover hit four 3-pointers and led Northfield with 13. Kearston Stout added 12, and Addi Baker had 11.

Northfield finished 21-6. Pioneer snapped their 16-game winning streak.

Northfield led by as many as 12 points in the first half. They still led 47-44 going into the fourth quarter on a Stout back cut bucket off an Addy Rosen assist.

It took seven seconds for Olivia Brooke to hit two free throws and cut the lead to one.

Northfield coach Melissa Allen put Hoover back in, even though she had four fouls. Still, the Pioneer run was only starting.

An Olivia Brooke putback gave Pioneer a 48-47 lead with 7:29 left. It was their first lead since the first quarter.

Timeout Northfield. But the run persisted.

Olivia Brooke scored again in the post.

Freshman Hannah Holmes split a pair of free throws for Northfield to make it 50-48.

Walker hit two free throws with 6:11 left. Baker missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Northfield was in a man-to-man defense themselves at this point. Olivia Brooke stayed aggressive. This time she scored on a left baseline drive. The lead was six.

Stout missed the front end of a one-and-one – Northfield went just three for nine in the second half from the line – and Ashlynn Brooke drove from the right of the key for a bucket.

Then Olivia Brooke drove from the left elbow. The lead was 10. Ashlynn Brooke hit two free throws. The lead was 12.

“We’re never out of it, even though it may seem like we were out of it,” Ashlynn Brooke said. “We keep going. We got into our ‘42’ press. So our defense got us back into the game... by being aggressive and getting the steals, actually boxing out and rebounding. We couldn’t get any of the boards that first half. We came out and started rebounding.”

Said Olivia Brooke: “In the first half, we really struggled with rebounding. They were shooting 50 percent because they would rebound the ball that they shot and then they would make it. So we walked into the locker room, and we were like, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to rebound.’ They’re not going to get any more offensive rebounds. So that was the goal going into the second half.”

Down 60-48, Stout missed the front end of another one-and-one.

Cripe hit an 18-foot banker on the move. That capped the run and capped a week that included two days with no practice or school because of snow.

“I think it was just a little bit different,” Cripe said. “It was weird. I was like, ‘You know what, we’re just going to go out and have fun.’ We’ve had an extra two days off. We’re rested. Let’s just go out and do it. And it was a hard game, but I’m glad we got to play seasoned competition before we went to state.”

Defensively, Cripe had the assignment on Baker. A Southern Illinois softball recruit, Baker had a triple-double in Northfield’s sectional final win over North Miami two weeks earlier (17 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), but Cripe helped hold Baker to two points in the fourth quarter.

“I had Baker, and my job was just to keep her off the boards and keep her from scoring,” Cripe said. “Because she is their leading scorer. … I just kept her out of there. She didn’t score hardly anything in the second half and just kept the rhythm of their game off.”

Said Ashlynn Brooke of Cripe: “She’s awesome. I’m speechless about Hailey’s defense.”

The Pioneer players had rules to follow in their man-to-man defense. Go under on all screens, except for Hoover. With Hoover, Northfield’s best outside shooter, go over the screener and don’t give her any open space.

Hoover did hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter with 1:04 left, but by then, Pioneer had a 13-point lead.

“We were leaving number 22 (Hoover) open too much in our 33 (2-3 halfcourt trap) and 32 (3-2 halfcourt zone),” coach Brooke said. “I think we had to go man. When we did, they only scored two buckets off that.”

Pioneer had outscored their previous four opponents 80-16 in the first quarter, and they jumped to a 9-0 lead this time thanks to three Blickenstaff baskets and a Cripe 3-point play.

But Northfield’s 1-3-1 zone trap was effective, and the Lady Norse responded with a 14-2 burst. They took their first lead at 12-11 on a transition bucket from freshman reserve Hannah Holmes, and Rosen hit a 17-footer in early offense to give Northfield a 14-11 lead after one quarter.

A Hoover 3-pointer from the left of the key opened scoring in the second quarter and made it 17-11.

Pioneer would stay within six later in the quarter on a Borges free throw, but two Baker free throws, a Stout putback on the break and a Kenzie Baer 17-footer gave Northfield a 28-16 lead with 4:54 left in the half.

Brooke called timeout.

Ashlynn Brooke sent a dime of an outlet pass to Cripe for a transition layup, and a Walker steal led to another Cripe basket in transition.

Two Ashlynn Brooke free throws and two Blickenstaff free throws made it 30-24.

Kennedy scored on a cutter in the lane, but an Olivia Brooke free throw and Borges’ 19-foot banker just before the half got the lead down to five.

“We looked at B and said, ‘Great shot. Way to end the quarter,’” Blickenstaff said.

Hoover opened scoring in the second half with a 3. Cripe answered with her own 3 on a pullup to make it 35-30.

Down 37-32, Ashlynn Brooke stepped into her own 3-pointer.

Northfield answered again with a Baker 3-pointer and a Kennedy transition layup to make it 42-35.

But Olivia Brooke drove from the right baseline for a scoop and then scored again on an inbounds play and was fouled with 2:46 left.

The foul was on Hoover, her fourth. Olivia Brooke missed the free throw, but still, she was making an impact.

“We don't give her enough credit sometimes,” coach Brooke said of Olivia. “She’s only 5-9, 5-10, but plays 6-1 when she’s in there. She did a great job of coming out … like what your seniors should do.”

Rosen split a pair from the line for Northfield, but Cripe hit two free throws, and Ashlynn Brooke hit an off-balance banker in the lane off the dribble.

The game was tied at 43, and Allen needed a timeout to try to stop the surging Lady Panthers.

Pioneer 70, Northfield 54

NORTHFIELD (54) (21-6)

Emma Hoover 4 1-2 13, Kyra Kennedy 2 0-0 4, Kearston Stout 6 0-4 12, Addi Baker 3 3-5 11, Kenzie Baer 2 0-0 4, Addy Rosen 1 1-2 3, Eden Hoover 0 0-0 0, Ainsley Dale 0 0-0 0, Jenna Krom 0 0-0 0, Jaycie Krom 0 0-0 0, Hannah Holmes 3 1-2 7, Gabby Haupert 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 21 6-15 54

PIONEER (70) (24-4)

Mackenzie Walker 1 3-4 5, Hailey Cripe 7 7-9 22, Brooklyn Borges 1 1-2 3, Olivia Brooke 6 7-11 19, Madison Blickenstaff 4 2-4 10, Crystabelle Blickenstaff 0 0-0 0, Bryleigh Binney 0 0-0 0, Ashlynn Brooke 3 4-4 11, Maggie Steffel 0 0-0 0, Kylie Attinger 0 0-0 0, Katelyn Duncan 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 22 24-34 70

Three-point field goals:

Northfield 6 (Emma Hoover 4, Baker 2),

Pioneer 2 (Cripe, A. Brooke)

Total fouls: Northfield 21, Pioneer 14

Turnovers: Northfield 18, Pioneer 16

Score by quarters

Northfield 14 18 15 7 – 54

Pioneer 11 16 17 26 – 70

Pioneer senior guard Mackenzie Walker (20) rises up for a rebound while Northfield’s Addi Baker (33) tries to box her out during Pioneer’s 70-54 win in a Class 1A semistate at Logansport Saturday. (photo by Dee Brown)

Pioneer senior forward Olivia Brooke attempts a free throw during the Lady Panthers’ 70-54 win over Northfield in a Class 1A semistate Saturday. Brooke scored 18 of her 19 points in the second half. (photo by Dee Brown)

Pioneer junior guard Hailey Cripe looks to shoot in the lane while Northfield’s Kearston Stout tries to guard her during the Lady Panthers’ 70-54 in a Class 1A semistate at Logansport Saturday. Cripe scored a game-high 22 points. (photo by Dee Brown)

Photos Courtesy of Dee Brown

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