Archive for February 26, 2013

BRITTANY NEELEY’S 48-POINT GAME PACES IBCA/SUBWAY PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOREES

Eastern (Greentown) senior Brittany Neeley headlines this week’s IBCA/Subway Player of the Week recipients after a 48-point outburst in her team’s Class 2A northern semistate victory.

Neeley is joined by Fort Wayne South senior DeJoyah Johnson, Evansville Mater Dei sophomore Tori Schickel, Kouts junior Max Everaert, North Montgomery senior Nathan Rogers and Evansville Bosse junior JaQuan Lyle as honorees for the week of Feb. 18-23.

The 5-6 Neeley was cited in girls’ District 2 for the second consecutive week after she exploded for 48 points and 20 rebounds in leading Eastern (Greentown) to a 74-55 victory over Fort Wayne Luers. An Indiana University recruit for track and cross country, Neeley made 13-of-23 shots, 3-of-3 3-pointers and 19-of-21 free throws in propelling the Comets (22-3) to the Class 2A state finals.

Johnson, a 5-7 guard who claimed girls’ District 1 laurels, helped Fort Wayne South (24-3) to its first semistate crown. She scored a team-high 11 points with seven rebounds and three steals in the Archers’ 47-44 win at Warsaw in the Class 4A northern semistate. In a hard-fought, tight contest, a Johnson basket with 2:30 to go in the fourth quarter gave her team the lead for good.

The 6-1 Schickel received accolades in girls’ District 3 after a near-perfect shooting performance in Evansville Mater Dei’s 56-49 overtime win over Heritage Christian in the Class 2A southern semistate. She scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while converting 7-of-7 field goals and 6-of-7 free throws to lead the Wildcats (27-2) in their attempt to capture a second consecutive Class 2A state championship. Schickel previously was honored Jan. 28-Feb. 2.

Everaert, Rogers and Lyle were recognized with respective honors for boys’ District 1, District 2 and District 3.

The 6-2 Everaert averaged 26.0 points over two games en route to his honor. First, he dropped in a career-high 35 points as Kouts defeated River Forest 71-57. Later, Everaert tallied 17 points as the Mustangs improved to 19-2 with an 88-45 triumph over LaCrosse.

Rogers received laurels after he averaged 35.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in two games. The 6-2 guard started his week with 34 points and nine rebounds as North Montgomery posted a 70-50 victory over North Putnam. Rogers then produced 34 points and nine rebounds as the Chargers (5-15) squeezed past Greencastle 62-56. For the season, Rogers averages 22.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.

The 6-4 Lyle received IBCA weekly accolades for the third time this season following a week where he averaged 30.5 points, 19.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Lyle began by scoring 20 points with 20 rebounds and five assists as Evansville Bosse beat Mt. Vernon (Posey) 73-59. Lyle then unloaded for 41 points, 19 rebounds and five assists as the Bulldogs moved to 17-5 with an 87-82 overtime triumph over Evansville Reitz. Over the two games, Lyle was 16-of-38 from the field and 28-of-36 on free throws. He previously was cited the weeks of Dec. 10-15 and Jan. 28-Feb. 2.

This is the fifth season for the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Week program and the first season it is presented by Subway Restaurants of Indiana, a primary sponsor of the IBCA. Subway, in its third season as an IBCA sponsor, encourages athletes to “play hard and eat fresh.”

Player of the Week winners are chosen each week from each of the IHSAA’s three districts. Girls winners will be chosen from now through the week following March 2. Boys winners be selected from now through the week following March 23.

STATE BOUND: COMETS DOWN LUERS ON BACK OF BRITTANY NEELEY’S 48 POINT, 20 REBOUND OUTBURST

The Eastern Lady Comets celebrate winning the Class 2A North Semi-State for a berth in the state championship game. (SJ Photo: William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

WARSAW, Ind. – When fans arrived at the Class 2A Warsaw Girls Semi-State Saturday afternoon, no one had a clue of what they were about to witness. With parochial power Fort Wayne Bishop Luers playing – a six-time state champion that was looking for a fourth consecutive state finals berth – most assumed they would simply win by showing up against little-known Eastern of Greentown.

Think again.

When the dust settled on a record-setting game, even the fans of Bishop Luers stood and applauded what is now the single best Final Four performance in the 38-year history of the IHSAA Girls Basketball Tournament. The scouting reports told the Lady Knights to keep an eye on Brittany Neeley, Eastern’s all-time scoring queen. Call it a failed mission. Brittany, a 5-6 guard, dominated Bishop Luers with a 48 point, 20 rebound performance as No. 6 Eastern defeated No. 14 Bishop Luers 74-55 to earn a berth against top-ranked Evansville Mater Dei in next Saturday’s championship game in Terre Haute.

“I can’t even put this into words yet,” said Brittany, who didn’t even realize what she had done until she was told in post-game interviews. “I thought maybe I had 10 rebounds, maybe. I just can’t believe this. Coach always told us the sky was the limit. We won’t admit it, but he was the only one who believed that the first couple of practices. And I can’t even believe it is actually here.”

When twin sister Bethany’s 16 point, 12 rebound game is added in, the Neeley twins combined to scorch the Lady Knights for 64 points and 32 rebounds. According to the IHSAA, Brittany’s 48 Final Four points’ tops the 47 Final Four points scored by New Albany’s Kennitra Johnson in the 1999 semi-state championship game. In overall tournament play, Neeley is now tied for fourth behind Cloversale’s Ann Hutcheson (60 points, 1988 sectional first round), South Central’s Rachel Dixon (54, 2003 regional championship), Wawasee’s Shanna Zolman (50, 2001 sectional championship) and Hutcheson (48, 1988 sectional semi-final).

“I don’t really have a lot of thoughts right now,” said Eastern head coach Jeremy Dexter, who seemed as shocked as the rest of the gym about Brittany’s performance. “I looked at them (Neeley twins) and told them they could will us to victory. I said, ‘You are that tough and you are winners.’ It is funny, I told (assistant coaches) Lisa Thompson and Cheryl Miles, ‘wouldn’t it be something crazy if Brittany goes for 50?’ I actually said that, and she goes for 48.”

Underdogs prevail

The Lady Comets entered the semi-state as the underdog, despite the higher coaches poll ranking. One respected Indiana high school basketball website picked Luers to win 55-47. But the Lady Comets are over-achievers and proven winners. And once they snagged the lead four minutes into the game, they never looked back.

Bishop Luers scored 26 seconds into the game on a bucket by Tashayla Sutorius. She was fouled by Bethany and the Lady Knights led 3-0. Eastern’s Taylor Holliday scored inside to trim the lead to 3-2 and Bethany gave the Comets its first lead 4-3. Brittany scored on the inside to increase the lead to 6-3, but buckets from Addie Reimbold and Emma Wolfe gave the lead back to Luers. Bethany got inside the Luers defense mid-way through the first quarter, hit a short jumper, and gave the Comets an 8-7 lead – a lead they would hold through the final buzzer.

“Coach always said to go out with a bang in the beginning,” said Brittany, who scored five first quarter points as Eastern led 16-11. “I think our team came out focused today. I don’t think they were expecting that from a public school.”

Dexter said he made a defensive switch in the first quarter, moving 6-0 Taylor Holliday to guard Sutorius, Luers 5-11 leading scorer (12.5 points per game). The move worked as the freshman ended the game with just eight more points on 3 of 10 shooting once Holliday took over defensive duties.

“I thought Taylor played a great game,” said Dexter. “She played really well on Sutorius. Originally we had Bethany on her, but switched that after the first possession. And even thought it doesn’t show in the box score, Taylor fought and didn’t come out of the game and played her tail off.”

Luers stayed with the Comets throughout the second quarter, but Brittany hit four free throws in the final 42 second to give Eastern a 29-20 lead at the half. In the third, a bucket from Taya Andrews trimmed Eastern’s lead to 38-34, and the Luers fans started to get excited. But a 10-4 Eastern run – led by six points from Brittany – gave Eastern a 48-38 lead after three.

Reimbold started the fourth quarter with a driving layup to cut the lead back to seven – the closest the Lady Knights would be the rest of the game. Brittany hit a 3-point play, Ally Oyler dropped in two free throws, and when Brittany pulled up and hit nothing but net on a 3-pointer, someone in the crowd yelled, “Dagger!” In the blink of an eye (and 62 seconds on the clock), Eastern took an eight point lead to 14 and seemingly cruised to the 19-point victory.

“It is ironic that cross country state is in Terre Haute, so back we go,” said Bethany, who helped lead the cross country team to a seventh place finish, and fourth individually. “We are calling it Terre-dise. They cut it to four in the third quarter, but Ally played so well defensively. She might not have been hitting her shots, so she stepped up on defense. Everyone stepped up today.”

Holliday finished with six points and 10 rebounds, and Oyler added a pair of steals to her defensive efforts. Wolfe and Reimbold led Bishop Luers with 13 points.

Dead eye at the line

Ask any coach, and they will say that games are won with defense, rebounding and solid fundamentals. Eastern won the battle of the boards 53-32 and hit 15 of 17 fourth quarter free throws. Brittany led the way by draining 19 of 21 freebies, including 10 of 11 in the crucial final four minutes.

“That is my best ever. I have shot so many free throws; I can’t even remember how many,” said Brittany, who was also a perfect 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc. “And I couldn’t hit a 3-pointer all week at practice to save my life. This was the worst week of practice I have had all season. But it came back today.”

Greentown Closed, Part II

For the second straight Saturday afternoon, it appeared as if the entire eastern half of Howard County traveled to see the Lady Comets in action. Clad in neon green regional championship shirts, more than 1,500 Eastern fans packed the Comets section of Warsaw’s Tiger Den to cheer the team to victory.

“I can’t even say enough to them,” said Brittany. “I knew we were selling a lot, especially the cheer block. This is by far the most fans I have seen in my high school career. Words can’t even describe it. And those neon shirts stood out. It was amazing. Everyone seems to be in it.”

Next up, number one

The Comets (22-3) took the weekend to celebrate, but on Monday they were back to work – and the road to a championship does not get any easier. Up next for the Lady Comets is the defending Class 2A state champions and No. 1-ranked Evansville Mater Dei (27-2). The game is set to tip at approximately 12:45 p.m., following the Class 1A title tilt. Gates to the Hulman Center in Terre Haute will open at 9:30 a.m. Tickets to the girls state finals are $15 and will be available to the general public in the Eastern High School athletic office on Wednesday. Athletic Director Brad Wilson anticipates receiving 1,500 tickets.

“I don’t know why we can’t compete next week,” said Dexter. “These kids in four years have proved they can win.”

The Lady Comets have proved they belong on the state stage, and no matter what happens Saturday, Greentown will be proud. But no matter what, don’t count this group of young ladies out – they very well could be bringing home a state championship trophy to Howard County Saturday night.

FINAL FOUR: LADY COMETS CONQUER LAPEL REGIONAL FIELD, ADVANCE TO WARSAW SEMI-STATE

The Lady Comets celebrate its Lapel Regional championship with fellow Eastern students. (Photo: Dean Hockney)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

LAPEL, Ind. – In November, the United States will have a chance to look toward the heavens and see what some are projecting to be one of the brightest comets ever witnessed, Comet ISON. But for those in Howard County, they need to look no further than Greentown to find one of the greatest groups of Comets to ever dress in Eastern green – the 2013 Lapel Regional champions. On Feb. 16, the No. 6-ranked Lady Comets defeated No. 14 Wabash 48-32 to claim a berth in the Class 2A Final Four at the Northern Semi-State hosted by Warsaw High School.

“This means a lot; it’s for all the fans and coaches and my teammates,” said Eastern senior Mercedes Rubow. “It just all came together and it is a great opportunity. This is another stair step in the journey. It is awesome to be here.”

“We came here wanting to do this,” said senior Brittany Neeley, the all-time scoring leader for the Lady Comets. “We weren’t surprised we won, but we weren’t going to take it for granted either. We are really excited.”

Brittany said the Comets (21-3), while competitive throughout the season, have, “stepped up our game in the post-season. We are playing the best basketball we have played all year.”

Eastern head coach Jeremy Dexter called the regional championship, “Very satisfying.

“I have worked very hard to prolong these seniors’ careers at Eastern. I want them to play as long as possible and it is very satisfying to see them cut the nets down. We are just happy to be here and to experience this.”

Against Wabash, Eastern jumped to an early lead 12-6 lead after one quarter. But the Lady Apaches put the game in slow motion as they attempted to disrupt the aggressive and quick Lady Comets defense. The tactic worked and Eastern held a slim 23-18 at the half.

But the second half was a different story as the Lady Comets controlled the pace. Brittany scored four unanswered points to increase the lead to 27-20. And at the 4:12 mark of the second quarter Bethany Neeley stole a pass and cruised coast-to-coast for an uncontested layup, forcing a Wabash timeout as Eastern led 30-20.

“We struggled in the first half to defend them, but came out more aggressive in the second half,” said Dexter.

By the time the third quarter Comet blitz ended, they held a 35-25 lead that seemed more like a 20 point advantage. With 2:45 left in the game, Eastern held a 14-point lead and the Comet faithful in the stands started to come to life as they realized the squad was headed to the Final Four.

Brittany led Eastern with 15 points and eight rebounds while twin sister Bethany scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Taylor Holliday nearly had a double-double as she finished with 14 points while nabbing nine boards. Sarah Puckett led Wabash with 10 points.

Eastern advances to play in the Class 2A Northern Semi-State at Warsaw High School on Saturday. The Comets play No. 14 Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (14-11), a six-time IHSAA state champion, for the right to play in the state championship the following weekend in Terre Haute. Game time is set for 4 p.m. The South Semi-State features the top two teams in Class 2A – defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Evansville Mater Dei (26-2) and No. 2 Heritage Christian (24-2). Eastern is the lone public school remaining in Class 2A.

The second game at Warsaw is the Class 4A Northern Semi-State between No. 11 Fort Wayne South Side (23-3) and No. 8 Warsaw (24-1). Admission is $8, which is good for both Warsaw Semi-State games.

For additional coverage on Eastern’s regional championship and upcoming trip to the semi-state, see the Feb. 19 issue of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana.