Brooke scores 32, Cripe notches double-double as Pioneer beats Tri-County
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ROYAL CENTER – Pioneer junior guard Ashlynn Brooke hit the game-winning shot in the waning seconds of the Lady Panthers’ 43-42 win over Loogootee in the Class 1A state championship game on Feb. 27.
For many players, it might be the pinnacle of a basketball career.
For Brooke, she might just be getting started, if Pioneer’s season opener against Tri-County was any evidence on Saturday.
Brooke scored a game-high 32 points, and Hailey Cripe added 25 points and 12 rebounds as Pioneer beat Tri-County 77-42 at The Cage.
Pioneer jumped out to a 17-4 lead, and they closed out the first quarter with another 10-0 run as the lead reached 29-10.
Brooke scored seemingly every which way in the first half. She hit five 3-pointers – a favorite spot seemed to be the left wing – but also tallied on a runner and multiple times in transition. She outscored the entire Tri-County team 27-19 in the first half as Pioneer opened up a 33-point lead.
But she also had 10 assists on the day, often times leading a sprinting Cripe to the basket on the break.
Pioneer did it all without Macee Baker, Brooklyn Borges and Crystabelle Blickenstaff. Baker missed the game due to a death in her family, Borges was out with an ankle injury, and Blickenstaff is not expected back until January due to an injury suffered during volleyball season.
The new IHSAA basketball mercy rule, which is invoked once a team assumes a 35-point lead, was enforced in the third quarter, and the lead straddled the 35-point margin for much of the second half.
“It was good to get those nerves out, just for all the girls, not just Ashlynn,” Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke said. “But yeah, it was good to see her come out and do things that Ashlynn has wanted to do the last couple years. But, boy, what a team effort tonight.”
Ashlynn Brooke suffered an ACL injury during the summer of 2019 between her eighth grade and freshman seasons. She suffered a meniscus injury at a basketball camp in September 2020, and she didn’t make her 2020-21 season debut until Jan. 26, or about a week before the state tournament began.
The most telling play might have occurred with Pioneer leading 58-21 in the third quarter. Ashlynn Brooke intercepted an errant pass in the forecourt and outraced the Tri-County defense to the other end before laying it in as she was fouled. As the whistle blew, Ashlynn fell and the crowd momentarily hushed.
But Ashlynn Brooke picked herself off the deck and made the free throw.
Moments later, she dished to Cripe on the move for a layup in transition.
“I was excited just to get out and play,” Ashlynn Brooke said. “This is my first time playing in November. Normally with the injury, I start in January. … Playing with Hailey makes it very easy for me to feel confident out there. The way we came out and put 52 points in a half, I was just excited to be out with everybody.”
Cripe was the only starter Saturday that also started in the state championship game. Ashlynn Brooke, Mandee Weisenburger, Kylie Attinger and Maggie Steffel were the other four starters. Gracie Hopper and Kennedy Corn provided frontcourt depth for varsity newcomers Weisenburger and Attinger.
Freshman backup guard Makenna Strycker scored six points off the bench.
Pioneer doesn’t run a great amount of set plays. Rather, they rely on “rules” that each player is supposed to follow. Coach Brooke raved about his team’s unselfish play afterwards.
“When you have somebody like Hailey Cripe, a lot of those first-half buckets came off Hailey Cripe on that weak side board, and she’s got the ability to rebound and then turn and go,” coach Brooke said. “When that happens, that just opens the floor up. I thought Kylie Attinger did a nice job running the floor tonight, being that rim runner for us. I thought Mandee Weisenburger did a nice job when they did get a bucket, getting it out to Ashlynn, and we were able to push the ball up the floor. When you see Ashlynn and Hailey work together, I think there were several times that Ashlynn’s throwing it from three-quarters court to Hailey at the other quarter court, so that’s great to see, so yeah, we followed the rules tonight definitely.”
Ashlynn Brooke said she spent her offseason “mostly rehabbing” and “getting to 100 percent.” She said was about at 75 to 80 percent at the state championship game.
She said she had been working with Vernard Hollins, who runs the Always 100 AAU program out of Fort Wayne, to get her knee back in shape. Hollins played collegiately at Wright State and then played professionally overseas from 2004-15.
He is an energetic, caring presence to all those he works with, according to Ashlynn.
Ashlynn said she and Hollins talk almost every day, and he is advising her in her college recruitment.
A Division I prospect, she said she hit the weight room to get a “college level-type body.” She said this was the best she had felt in two years.
She said that she did not set out to score a certain number of points in this game.
“I just go out and have fun, and what I score happens,” Ashlynn Brooke said. “There’s time where we joke around. Hailey’s like, ‘The more you score, the more assists I get.’ But no, I don’t set an amount on what I score.”
Pioneer 77, Tri-County 42
TRI-COUNTY (42) (0-1)
Brynn Warren 1 2-2 5, Sara Zarse 2 0-2 6, Hannah Arvin 5 3-3 14, Johnetta Whitmire 3 3-5 9, Rory Stearns 1 0-1 2, Shelby Schambach 0 0-0 0, Allista Taulman 2 0-0 6
TEAM: 14 8-13 42
PIONEER (77) (1-0)
Ashlynn Brooke 12 3-4 32, Maggie Steffel 0 0-0 0, Hailey Cripe 12 0-0 25, Mandee Weisenburger 2 0-2 4, Kylie Attinger 2 0-0 4, Gracie Hopper 1 2-4 4, Kennedy Corn 1 0-0 2, Makenna Strycker 2 2-2 6
TEAM: 32 7-12 77
Three-point field goals:
Tri-County 6 (Zarse 2, Taulman 2, Arvin, Warren),
Pioneer 6 (Brooke 5, Cripe)
Total fouls: Tri-County 13, Pioneer 12
Turnovers: Tri-County 17, Pioneer 5
Score by quarters
Tri-County 10 9 5 18 – 42
Pioneer 29 23 15 10 – 77
Watch entire game here:
Hailey Cripe Ashlynn Brooke Kylie Attinger