On Dec. 3, the Fayetteville Lady Rockets travelled to Eastern Brown High School for a Southern Hills Athletic Conference showdown with the Lady Warriors. Despite a 24-point effort from Samantha Murphy, Fayetteville fell to Eastern 51-47. On Wednesday night, the team got their chance at revenge in the championship game of the Brown County Holiday Classic.
Murphy and Taylor Cornett put the Lady Rockets out front early. The duo scored four points each in the first quarter and helped their team forge ahead for a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Fayetteville’s defense picked up the intesnity in the second, allowing just four field goals. Murphy scored eight of the Lady Rockets’ 10 points in the quarter, giving her 12 for the half. Her squad led 22-18 at halftime.
Eastern head coach Kevin Pickerill said the team simply struggled to get shots to drop early in the contest.
“We just couldn’t hit shots early,” Pickerill said. “That’s why we were behind. We started slow. You have to hit some open shots. It comes back to hitting the gym and getting enough shots up. We aren’t getting enough shots up but we made just enough to hang on and give ourselves a lot of extra opportunities.”
However, in the second half, Murphy struggled and so did the Fayetteville offense. She scored just six points the rest of the game, and the rest of the team didn’t fare much better. The Rockets scored 14 points over the final 16 minutes of game time.
Eastern also struggled in the third quarter. Molly Prine scored four points and Allison Day chipped in three, but the Lady Warriors still trailed 28-25 entering the fourth quarter. Pickerill noted that his team did just enough on offense to give them a chance at the victory.
“When you’re struggling offensively, you have to hang around to give yourself an opportunity and I feel like we did that,” Pickerill said.
The Lady Warriors took advantage of that opportunity in the fourth quarter.
Day scored six of her 11 points in the final quarter while Farris matched her, scoring six of her eight in the final eight minutes of play. Maggie Fultz added her only basket of the game in the fourth quarter and it was a big one. Fayetteville had drawn within one point with just under five minutes left when Fultz hit her jumper. The Lady Warriors would out-score the Lady Rockets 7-5 the rest of the way to secure the victory.
Pickerill said the Lady Rockets did a nice job initially taking Farris away offensively and his team has to work on getting her the ball.
“We’ve got to work on dribble entry, finding a way to get it to her,” Pickerill said. “She’s got to continue to work on that low block but she had a good game last night and I don’t want to take anything away from it. They did a good job on her.”
“I challenged the girls at halftime, I didn’t think we’d been hitting the boards enough as we should have,” Pickerill said. “I think we did a lot better in the second half.”
By the end of the game, it was clear that the Lady Warriors have the potential to be good for years to come, as the players on the floor attempting to ice a victory in a championship game were mostly sophomores and freshman.
“We’re young still,” Pickerill said. “I expect these kids to play like seniors and they’re just sophomores, though they’ve played a lot of varsity players already.”
Not all of the players on the team are young, as Pickerill noted the seniors on his team had a few goals heading into the season that, thanks to the victory against Fayetteville, they have now accomplished.
“It’s pretty rewarding to get your first one, I guess,” Pickerill said. “In a sense, it’s just another mid-season game. I’m glad for the seniors. They had to beat North Adams coming into the season and they did that, and now the Holiday Tournament.”
Eastern will have had a few days to bask in their victory before resuming play. The team returns to action Monday, Jan. 4 at Whiteoak. The squad also hosts Georgetown and Blanchester next week.