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By David Sharp
Long time Tri-County Conference rivals Brashear and Novinger hooked up in a pitch battle for the opportunity to face top seeded Green City in the December 5, 2019 championship semifinals of the Novinger Tournament.
One of the most competitive games of the 2019-20 varsity basketball season ended as almost all of the contest was played. Brashear’s Kynleigh White and Novinger freshman center Abby Fountain fought over a loose ball for the last four seconds of a 42-41 Brashear (2-0) win.
Lexi Baird got the Wildcats a 7-4 lead with a three ball at the 1:42 mark of the first quarter. Tiger defensive pressure helped Alexa Higgins pull Brashear back within a 7-6 deficit after the first quarter.
Brashear found themselves in foul trouble early in the second quarter. The Tigers reeled off a 6-0 run, capped by Averi Acton’s three ball with 5:47 to go in the first half. Brashear led 12-7.
Tanna Garlock finished a four shot Tiger opportunity for an 18-14 lead with 33 ticks on the first half clock. Brashear took an 18-16 lead to the dressing room.
Novinger took advantage of Brashear missed scoring chances with an 11-3 run in the third quarter. The Tigers didn’t get back defensively, opening door for Lexi Baird to give Novinger a 30-23 lead with 1:17 remaining in the third period.
“I thought the ball was going to go out of bounds,” Kynleigh White said of the final play of the game. “I saved it back in to not let them have the ball. We fought really hard. Having Alexa (Higgins) on the bench for fouls was rough, but we managed to push through it.”
Kynleigh White sank two free throws with 48 seconds on the clock, then buried a momentum shifting three pointer with 15 ticks in the third quarter. Brashear pulled back within a 30-28 deficit after three periods of play.
Emily Mason drove the lane for a 32-31 Brashear lead with 6:15 showing on the fourth quarter clock. Mystikal Craig put the Lady Wildcats back on top by two points with four minutes remaining.
Averi Acton sank two Tiger free throws with 3:15 to play in the game. Knotting the score at 35 all. Callie Althide sank a huge three with 69 seconds remaining in the game for a 40-39 Tiger lead.
“All the kids are going to play hard,” Brashear coach Emily Powell said. “They were not going to lay down and see Brashear on their chests and walk into the championship game. They showed up and battled. It’s fun.”
“It wasn’t pretty, but I think it was an instant classic,” Emily Powell said. “It was back and forth. We got down. We didn’t hang our heads. We fought our way back into it. We were facing foul trouble all night.”
“I think the experience we gained over the off season paid dividends tonight,” Coach Powell said. “Callie Althide and Kynleigh White stepping up big time. Emily (Mason) and Averi (Acton) getting their legs under them. Tanna Garlock didn’t come out of the whole game. That speaks volumes of what that kid can do for us. The fight never quit. I’m so proud of all of our kids.”
Abbi Fountain powered in a field goal. Averi Acton sank two free throws as time wound down. Brashear led 42-41. The ball was knocked loose as time ran down. The teams ended the contest as they had played it. In a flat out struggle for supremacy.
When the game ended, Brashear made one more play for the 42-41 win. The Lady Tigers celebrated while a totally different scene played out in the Novinger dressing room.
“I think the biggest lead either one of us had was five points,” Novinger coach Jason Daniels said. “We traded leads back and forth. It was tied at the end. I’m sure for a fan it was fun to watch.”
“A lot of my kids played their guts out,” Jason Daniels said. “A lot of tears in the locker room after that game. I’ve always said that was a sign that they care. I wasn’t happy that they were crying. I feel bad for them.”
“That shows me that they care. I appreciated that. Mystical Craig is a senior,” Coach Daniels said. ”She hasn’t had a lot of playing time. She always comes out and practices and comes to play.”
“She hit a couple of free throws that tied it up. I remember that three (at the 4:06 mark),” Daniels said. “I was focusing things on Abby (Fountain) tonight because I didn’t think they had anybody that could match up with her.”
Abby Fountain burst on the area scene with 17 points and 22 Novinger rebounds. Lexi Baird fired in 12 points. “Our free throw shooting was pretty horrendous tonight.” Novinger was 8-27 from the free throw line. Brashear did not fare much better at 10-28 at the line.
Averi Acton’s four for four from the free throw line in the fourth quarter might have been the slight edge the Tigers needed. “In the overall picture, that’s a great game for our program,” Jason Daniels said.
“They are in our conference. They are in our district too,” Coach Daniels said of the Tigers. “(Brashear) and Green City have kind of ruled the roost lately. Meadville too. For us to play with one of the top teams in our conference and district…and could have won it’s a good sign for Novinger girls basketball.”
“Hopefully the tears in that locker room may turn into grins by the end of the season.”