Here’s something folks in midtown haven’t been able to say in recent times: The E.C. Glass girls are Seminole District regular-season champs.
For a program that spent years occupying the bottom slots in the district, it’s quite a turnaround.
“It feels good,” Hilltoppers senior Mya Hamlet said with a smile after posting a double-double that helped her team defeat Brookville 46-43 at McCue Gymnasium. “We haven’t had a girls basketball team from E.C. Glass do something like this in a long time; so to be a part of this team is really an honor, and I love my teammates.”
Capturing the title wasn’t easy. Brookville took the Hilltoppers to the wire and nearly erased a 12-point third-quarter deficit in the final seconds. But Brynna Elliott’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key fell short at the buzzer and the Hilltoppers celebrated on Senior Night.
“I can’t tell you for sure the last time — I think it was 2010 that the girls won the Seminole District tournament and were No. 1 in the district,” first-year Glass head coach Anitra Thomas said. “So it feels good just to bring the program back, and we’ve got a bright future ahead of us. But everything from here on out is gonna be whether or not we’re ready to come in and work hard and learn from any mistakes we’ve made in the past.”
Both Brookville and Glass still have one regular-season game remaining. But they entered Friday’s decisive contest separated by one game in the standings. Glass is now 17-2 overall and 13-0 in the district, with a chance to go perfect in the eight-team league when it travels to Amherst on Tuesday. Brookville is now 16-5 overall and 11-2 in the Seminole play. The Bees head to Rustburg on Tuesday.
The Bees and Hilltoppers went back and forth in Friday’s first half, which featured five ties and eight lead changes. Neither team led by more than four points in the opening 16 minutes.
They went into halftime tied at 25 courtesy of Brookville’s Kylie Stark, who sunk a 35-footer at the buzzer. Stark was bringing the ball up the court when she stopped and let the shot fly.
“She [Hamlet] gave me plenty of room, so I just shot it,” she said.
But Glass stepped up its defensive intensity in the third quarter, outscoring Brookville 13-3 and holding the Bees to just one field goal. The Bees went the 7:59 without a made basket from the field and finally managed a field goal at the buzzer of the third quarter off a jumper by Elliott, which trimmed Glass’ lead to 38-28.
“We had six turnovers in the first half, which that’s a good half for turnovers,” Brookville coach Gary Ferguson said. “And then we give up eight turnovers in the third quarter. And the third quarter’s the most important quarter of the game, to me. … That’s probably the difference in the game.”
Glass was led by Hamlet, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore forward Jordyn Wright-Goode, who finished with nine points. Sophomore point guard Jamiyah Henry added seven points and five assists.
Stark led all scorers with 16 points and hit three first-half 3-pointers. But the senior fouled out with 1:15 remaining in the game, with Glass up 45-41. Her absence meant the Bees had to rely on guard Tavia Christian (five points, four assists) or Elliott for shots in the closing seconds. Elliott finished with 13 points.
Brookville had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final moments, but turned the ball over with 24 seconds remaining prior to Elliott’s last-second attempt.
After the turnover, Brookville put Glass freshman Jeriyah Osborne on the free throw line with 11.7 seconds left and Osborne sunk one of two foul shots for a three-point lead. That set the stage for Elliott’s final shot.
“I was impressed with the way we were able to fight back,” Stark said.
The senior added four steals and four rebounds for BHS, while forward Liz Pennington finished with a game-high 11 rebounds and eight points.
“Of course I wanted to stay in the game,” Stark said. “ … We kept fighting. I would’ve liked the ball in my hands [for the game’s final shot] but Brynna’s just as capable of making that shot. She didn’t get that one, but she can shoot the ball.”
Thomas, who coached against her alma mater for the third time this season (one game was in a tournament over the holidays), noted her team made a lot of “silly turnovers and got outrebounded” Friday.
But Thomas also was impressed with her team’s defensive intensity in the third quarter.
“I thought down the stretch when we went back to our press and tried to take Kylie away from the ball a little bit, it changed the game for us,” she said.
There’s a chance the two teams could play again in the upcoming Seminole District tournament.
“We got down by [12 points] tonight,” Ferguson said. “Five or six games into the season we would’ve lost by 20. So that right there proves to me that we’re in it for each other.”
Glass, meanwhile, is focused on perfection. The Hilltoppers took a big step in that direction by holding off the Bees.
“We just had to do what we do every night,” Hamlet said, “which was try to come out with the win.”
E.C. Glass 64, Brookville 37
In the nightcap, Glass guard Savion Austin celebrated his Senior Night by pouring on 17 points and fellow senior Rayvon Graham added five assists and two steals as the Hilltoppers had no trouble with visiting Brookville.
Brian Hunt added eight points for the Hilltoppers, who improved to 14-7 overall and 10-3 in the Seminole. Landen Mays led BHS with 10 points.
Liberty Christian (16-5, 11-2) maintained its one-game lead over Jefferson Forest (16-5, 10-3) in the district Friday by defeating Heritage 78-72 in overtime.
LCA overcame a double-digit deficit. The Pioneers are 9-10 overall and 9-4 in the district.
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.