Anitra Thomas went over the fundamentals all week. She made sure her team had practiced the basic skills they’d need heading into a tough Seminole District matchup, and that her E.C. Glass girls basketball squad knew the game plan for its Friday night battle with Brookville.
But above all else, she preached one message. On Friday night, against a team that typically dominates the district, nothing would come easy. On Friday, they’d have to earn it.
That’s exactly what the Hilltoppers did. Thanks to intensity on the defensive end, a commitment to hustling after the ball and making most of their trips to the free-throw line count — along with a big night from senior Mya Hamlet — Glass left the Bees’ gym with a 50-42 win Friday.
“I thought tonight we earned the win,” said Thomas, the Glass coach who once was a standout for the Bees, “and that’s what felt best.”
Thomas, who returned to Brookville a few years removed from her standout high school career, was still emotional after the win. Relief, she said, had finally set in, as well as appreciation for her support system and the place that helped make her into a standout ballplayer. Of course, being able to pull out a win — even after Brookville trimmed her team’s lead from 12 points to six late in the game — also played a part.
The Bees (9-4) held an early advantage Friday night after scoring the game’s first four points. The Hilltoppers answered, though, and pulled ahead 10-9 on Hamlet’s three-point play. From there, Glass never trailed again.
Glass (10-1) led 39-27 heading into the final quarter, but Brookville didn’t go away. Brynna Elliott scored two of her 10 points to open the quarter, then got help from Kylie Stark and Tavia Christian as the Bees whittled the lead down.
Christian’s free throws with 2:21 left cut the Glass lead to 46-40. The Bees and Hilltoppers traded missed free throws next, but Hamlet ultimately sealed the win for Glass by hitting 4 of 4 from the line to end the game.
“I feel like I got the job done in a sense,” said Hamlet, who showcased her versatility all night, “but there’s always something I can improve on.”
In addition to drawing the toughest defensive assignment of the night — guarding Brookville standout guard Stark — Hamlet did a little bit of everything offensively. She finished with a game-high 26 points as she took defenders off the dribble to create her own shots (and draw fouls), handled the ball as time ticked away down the stretch and got the ball to teammates.
“In tough situations, she’s kind of come out and set herself apart,” Thomas said of Hamlet. “She’s a senior and she’s in a leadership role, so she’s been handling what she has to handle for us.”
In addition to Hamlet, the Hilltoppers were bolstered by the effort of Jordyn Goode on the boards. She had a game-high 13 rebounds, including two key offensive rebounds that extended possessions down the stretch for Glass. Both of those boards came after Glass missed the front end of a 1-and-1 from the line with Brookville trailing by just six points.
“My coach told me, ‘If you don’t get the ball, it’s gonna be trouble,’” Goode said. “I already have ambition to go get the ball, but that pushes me more.”
Goode, a sophomore, also had 12 points to finish with a double-double.
Defensively, she and Hamlet had four and three steals, respectively, while freshman guard Jeriyah Osborne led the way with six takeaways, many of which came as a result of Glass’ havoc-creating full-court press.
The Bees turned the ball over 21 times, often leading to easy baskets in transition for the ’Toppers.
“Twenty-one turnovers? You ain’t gonna beat this team with 21 turnovers. Cut that down to 15, maybe,” Brookville coach Gary Ferguson said. “But you ain’t gonna beat a whole lot of teams with 21 turnovers.”
There were glimpses of hope for the Bees, who twice came up with easy baskets of their own by throwing over the top of the press. Other times, Brookville knocked down shots from point-blank range off an out-of-bounds play. And when BHS got into its half-court sets, players did a good job of driving to the basket.
Stark, who finished with a team-high 16 points, created her own opportunities that way while she failed to knock down any shots from beyond the arc. The senior, like her Glass counterpart, did it all for the Bees on Friday, adding eight rebounds and six assists to go with three steals.
All three of those steals led to seven points — a layup and pull-up jumper to start the game and a three-point play in the fourth quarter.
Christian was the Bees’ other double-figure scorer with 10 points. Kim Brown chipped in six points on 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc, but she didn’t attempt a shot in the second half.
The Bees shot 42.1% (16 of 38) from the field and 23.1% (3 of 13) from 3, while Glass hit 39.1% (14 of 43) from the floor and 10% (1 of 10) from 3-point range.
The Hilltoppers, though, made nearly double the number of free throws (21) Brookville attempted (12). BHS hit seven of those tries, while Glass went 21 of 35.
Glass remains undefeated in district play (6-0), while BHS suffered its first loss in the Seminole (5-1).
“For us to lose tonight, I think it’s gonna motivate us,” Stark said.
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.