You can spell Cripe with 1K: Pioneer junior’s 1,000th point
Ashlynn Brooke returns in win over Winamac
Aubrey Gearhart scores 12, but Lady Warriors commit 27 turnovers
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ROYAL CENTER –- The phrase shooting the lights might be just an expression.
But there might have been an unusual convergence of events based on what Pioneer girls basketball players Hailey Cripe and Ashlynn Brooke did against visiting Winamac Tuesday.
Cripe hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter to go over 1,000 in her career as part of her game-high 22 points, and Madison Blickenstaff added 10 to lead the Class 1A, No. 6 Lady Panthers past Winamac 66-37.
Mackenzie Walker had nine points, Ashlynn Brooke had eight, and Olivia Brooke had seven points and 10 rebounds to bolster the Pioneer attack.
Pioneer won their fourth straight game and improved to 16-4 overall and 4-2 in the Hoosier North. Winamac lost their fourth straight game and dropped to 10-8, 3-4.
Aubrey Gearhart led Winamac with 12 points, and Kingsley Kroft and Maggie Smith had nine points each. Smith had a team-high 10 rebounds.
Cripe also hit a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt at the third quarter buzzer to give Winamac a 58-25 lead.
Cripe hit a 3-pointer with 1:47 left in the first quarter. That gave Cripe 1,001 points for her career. She is the third player in Pioneer history to reach the 1,000-point mark.
The game was stopped, and Pioneer athletic director John Bingaman presented her with the game ball in a brief ceremony.
As it turned out, Cripe’s trey, which gave Pioneer an 8-5 lead, was the basket that put the Lady Panthers ahead for good.
And then Ashlynn Brooke, a Division I prospect point guard who averaged 15 points per game last year as a freshman, made her season debut 18 seconds later. And then four seconds after she entered the game, she buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to put Pioneer ahead 11-5.
And then Kroft got the 3 right back.
And then there was a partial power outage with 46 seconds left in the quarter that stopped the game again. Lights were restored. And then 22 seconds after that, the lights went completely out, and the game was stopped again.
And then Pioneer went on a 17-2 run covering the first and second quarters to grab a 28-10 lead.
Walker, who finished with nine points, hit a pullup jumper, Olivia Brooke hit two free throws, Walker hit a free throw, Cripe scored in transition off an Olivia Brooke steal and assist, Olivia Brooke hit a free throw, and Blickenstaff hit a 13-footer just in front of the foul line off a Brooklyn Borges assist to make it 21-8.
Senior post player Maggie Smith hit a 17-footer off an assist from freshman guard Maggie Smith – the Smith namesakes are not related – to stop the run.
But then Blickenstaff scored on a putback, and Cripe found a running Blickenstaff in transition for a layup. Ashlynn Brooke capped the run by banking in a 3-pointer.
Cripe had eight more points in the third quarter, including her running long ball at the end of the third quarter.
Said Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke: “It just credits her hard work. And you see it on the floor each and every night. She gets after it. We’re up 25, and she’s still trying to run that ball down late in the game. That’s just her. I’m so proud of her and so excited that she was able to reach that milestone.”
She credited her brother Gage, a 2020 Pioneer grad who is now an assistant coach for the Pioneer boys team, with helping her get her shot “fixed.” She said she needed to follow through with her wrist straight at the basket, and she said Gage helped point that out.
Cripe has 1,017 career points, including 103 in her last four games. She said she knew she was on the verge of the milestone.
“I did know I had 995 coming into the game, and I don’t think I heard the end of it, and I was just like, ‘Guys, it’s great if I score 1,000, but I want a team win tonight, and I want to see us getting better for the postseason against Caston,’” Cripe said.
Ashlynn Brooke, who suffered a knee injury during volleyball season that required surgery and who also suffered a torn ACL in the summer of 2019 before the start of her prep career, received medical clearance to play earlier Tuesday, according to coach Jeff Brooke.
Ashlynn Brooke came off the bench and will receive minutes in sporadic bursts, according to coach Brooke.
“We went to the doctor today, and he said very, very limited minutes,” coach Brooke said. “Obviously, just to see how she did and reacted on it, it was more of we’re going to see what happens with her and what she does. … We’re going to play it by ear each and every game. She brings a level of energy even on the bench. When I go back and watch game film, I didn't even know if she was standing up and screaming, but even tonight, she got in, and I know she knocked down that 3 in the corner, but there was an energy when she got into the ballgame, and that’s great to have. And she’s constantly encouraging her teammates, and her teammates are encouraging her.
“We did it last year in the tournament. We restricted her time, and we’ll continue to do that because we want what’s best for her. I’m dad and I’m also coach, and I want what’s best for my team. But ultimately, any girl on my team, I want what’s best for them.”
Already playing the season without Macee Baker, a starting guard from last year’s team who tore her ACL in preseason practice, that first Ashlynn Brooke basket meant a lot more than just three points, according to Cripe.
“It is crazy,” Cripe said. “She will stand in one spot, and I guarantee you she will go 50 for 50. It is crazy how amazing she is. She shoots so well. She’s a scorer. She comes in, and I knew that she was going to fire that 3, and I knew it was going in as soon as she threw it, and I was like, ‘She’s back.’ And I was so excited. I had the biggest smile on my face when she hit that 3-pointer.”
Denise Kerr, a 1995 grad, is Pioneer’s all-time leading scorer with 1,413 points.
Pioneer has beaten Winamac two straight years. Prior to that, Winamac had beaten Pioneer eight straight times. It also marks the first time in at least 30 years that Pioneer has beaten Winamac in back-to-back meetings.
Cripe was nominated for the Indiana basketball Coaches Association/Franciscan Health player of the week award for District 1 girls. Cripe averaged 22 points per game in four games last week. She hit 19 3-pointers in those four games.
Pioneer 66, Winamac 37
WINAMAC (37) (10-8, 3-4)
Aubrey Gearhart 4 4-7 12, Kingsley Kroft 3 0-0 9, Alyssa Villanueva 0 1-2 1, Ella Gearhart 0 0-0 0, Maggie Smith (No. 5) 3 2-2 9, Hailey Attinger 0 0-0 0, Lily Bennett 0 0-0 0, Piper Link 0 0-0 0, Kaya Campbell 1 4-4 6, Olivia Link 0 0-0 0, Chloe Rausch 0 0-0 0, Maggie Smith (No. 24) 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 11 11-15 37
PIONEER (66) (16-4, 4-2)
Mackenzie Walker 2 5-6 9, Hailey Cripe 9 0-0 22, Olivia Brooke 2 3-4 7, Brooklyn Borges 1 1-4 3, Madison Blickenstaff 4 2-4 10, Adeline Cripe 0 0-0 0, Crystabelle Blickenstaff 0 2-2 2, Bryleigh Binney 2 0-0 5, Ashlynn Brooke 3 0-0 8, Maggie Steffel 0 0-0 0, Kylie Attinger 0 0-0 0, Katelyn Duncan 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 23 13-20 66
Three-point field goals:
Winamac 4 (Kroft 3, Maggie Smith (No. 5) 1),
Pioneer 7 (Cripe 4, A. Brooke 2, Binney)
Total fouls: Winamac 15, Pioneer 14
Turnovers: Winamac 27, Pioneer 19
Score by quarters
Winamac 8 6 11 12 – 37
Pioneer 13 21 24 8 – 66