Lady Warriors overcome adversity to finish as SHAC Division I co-champs

The Eastern Lady Warriors finished their 2017-18 regular season as Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division I co-champions. Front row, from the left, are Maggie Fultz, Morgan Reynolds, Juanita Frost, Andrea Edmisten, Ashlee Minnix, Camryn Pickerill, and Allison Malott; back row, assistant coach Deb Forsythe, Whitney Broughton, Alexa Pennington, Allison Day, Mikayla Farris, Emily Fannin, Haley Fannin, and head coach Kevin Pickerill.

Eastern girls wrap up regular season with victories over Ripley, Whiteoak – 

By Wade Linville – 

Eastern High School’s varsity girls basketball coach, Kevin Pickerill, and his Lady Warriors knew coming into the 2017-18 basketball season that repeating as Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division I champions would be no walk in the park. Not only would they take the court with a target on the backs after finishing last season as SHAC big school division champions with a flawless conference record and going on to finish among the OHSAA Division III Final Four, but they would enter this year’s court campaign without their star player from last season, the 2016-17 Southeast District Player of the Year Allison Day. After suffering a knee injury prior to the start of the winter season and committing to continue her basketball career on the collegiate level at Loyola University Chicago, Day would not be taking the court for the Lady Warriors during her senior season. Instead, she would provide senior leadership and support from the sidelines. Even without their top scorer from last season, this year’s Lady Warriors returned a very experienced and skilled crew of players that held high expectations with seniors Whitney Broughton, Mikayla Farris, Maggie Fultz, and Haley Fannin eager to cap off their high school basketball careers on a high note. In addition to the skilled group of seniors, there were also four juniors and at least one talented sophomores back with varsity experience and ready to aid in the team’s success that include Morgan Reynolds (jr.), Alexa Pennington (jr.), Andrea Edmisten (jr.), Allison Malott (jr.), and Camryn Pickerill (so.). Fultz returned to the court for her senior season after being sidelined with an injury nearly all of the 2016-17 season. In their quest for another league crown, the Lady Warriors would once again have to go up against very talented squads of North Adams and Lynchburg-Clay. The Lady Warriors came out victorious the first time they took on the North Adams Lady Green Devils in SHAC play this season on Dec. 11 at Eastern High School, but when venturing to North Adams on Jan. 22, it was the Lady Green Devils pinning the Lady Warriors with their first loss of the season that put the two teams in a tie for the top spot in SHAC Division I standings. Coming off their loss at North Adams, Pickerill and his Lady Warriors knew they still had two league games against the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs, who ranked second in SHAC Division I standings, remaining on their regular season schedule. Defeating the Lady Mustangs twice in as many weeks was no easy task, but the determined crew of Lady Warriors accomplished their goal. The Lady Warriors had overcome their early season adversity and would cap off their regular season with big SHAC wins over Ripley and Whiteoak. The Lady Warriors hosted the Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Lady Jays on Feb. 8 to capture a 65-24 victory. Broughton and Pennington shot for 10 points apiece in the win over Ripley, a league bout in which 11 Eastern players contributed buckets. Farris shot for eight points to aid the Lady Warriors in the win over Ripley, while Malott, Reynolds, and Pickerill finished with six points each. The Lady Warriors led the Lady Jays 19-12 after the first quarter of play and went on to outscore Ripley 17-7 in the second period to hold a 36-19 lead at halftime. The Lady Warrior defense held the Jays to only two points in the third quarter, going on a 14-2 run to up their lead to 50-21. The Lady Jays managed only three points in the fourth quarter, a three-pointer by Grace Mitchell, as the Lady Warriors capped off the victory on a 15-3 run through the fourth quarter. There were also 11 Eastern players to contribute buckets in the Lady Warriors’ 72-15 SHAC win on the road over the Whiteoak Lady Wildcats on Feb. 10. Pennington led the way in scoring with 13 points. Broughton and Reynolds racked up 10 points apiece, while Haley Fannin and Malott contributed with eight points. Edmisten shot for seven points in the Feb. 10 Eastern win, and Fultz added five points to the Lady Warriors’ side of the scoreboard. The Lady Warriors ended their regular season with an overall record of 18-5, and along the way they would also repeat as the Brown County Holiday Tournament champions. While the Lady Warriors were able to win the remainder of the SHAC games on their regular season schedule, so did the North Adams Lady Green Devils, and the two teams share in this year’s SHAC Division I crown with conference records of 12-1. “For the season we had, with the adversity we had at the beginning of the season, to bounce back and go through league play with only one loss was quite an accomplishment,” said Kevin Pickerill. “I felt like there were some games that we got everybody’s best shot, and we were still able to find a way to get the job done. We had an outstanding season from multiple players, and we had different players step up throughout the season when others were struggling.” With their regular season reaching an end, the Lady Warriors headed into Southeast District Division III Sectional Tournament play at Lucasville Valley High. As the No. 3 seed, the Lady Warriors were scheduled to face No. 14 seed Adena (2-17) on Feb. 15 in round one of the sectional tourney, and the winner of that contest moved on to face the winner of the sectional game between No. 6 seed Lynchburg-Clay and No. 11 seed West Union at Valley High School on Feb. 17. “We’re happy with the three seed we like how it lines up,” Kevin Pickerill said of the post-season tournament draw and seeding. “I wouldn’t say we’re thrilled about having the potential of playing Lynchburg a third time, but we will take it one game at a time, and (we) feel like we have a good chance to win another sectional and possibly another district (title) with a little luck.”