4th quarter key to Brookfield win

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Brookfield’s Kenzie Drapola (2) hurries the ball down the court as Girard’s Samantha Cave (3) hustles to get back on defense.

GIRARD — The Brookfield Warriors used a 14-6 fourth quarter advantage to defeat the Girard Indians, 42-38, in Wednesday night’s All-American Conference girls basketball regular season finale for both teams. Brookfield, which made 17 of 21 free throws on the night, went 9 for 10 in the fourth period, alone.

The Warriors, who struggled for three quarters, finally took control in the fourth quarter. According to coach Marc Morgan, it all starts with changing the pace of the game.

“Basically, we just had to try to change the tempo of the game. We try to play an uptempo, faster game, and they (Girard) were slowing us down and making us more methodical,” Morgan said. “(They were) taking our scorers out of the game and we tried to change it up a little bit.

“Force some easy turnovers so we could get some more looks. Forcing tempo, putting a little more pressure on them full court, just changed the game around for us. Luckily, we came out on the good end.”

Brookfield trailed, 32-24, late in the third quarter before Kenzie Drapola made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 32-27 after three quarters. The Warriors then scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to open a seven-point lead of their own.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Girard's Megan Payich (4) looks for a teammate against the Brookfield defense.

The lead of 39-32 with 39.7 seconds left to play, was cut to five on a Meghan Payich drive to the hoop. Dana Sydlowski made a pair of free throws for Brookfield, and then Girard closed the gap to five again, as Payich hit a jumper off the glass.

Brookfield missed a one-and-one free throw opportunity, but then Payich was unable to sink a 3-pointer with less than 20 seconds to play, which would have closed the gap to just two points. Instead, Brookfield got the rebound and made another free throw with 7.7 seconds left to put the game on ice.

“I think we played really good for three quarters, and then we started to turn the ball over,” Girard coach Andy Saxon said. “We missed a couple wide open shots, which would have kept us up by a couple, (and then) down by one or two, we missed two or three really easy buckets.

“Then we turned the ball — there were four or five times we didn’t get a shot at the basket because we turned the ball over. It wasn’t so much what they were doing, we were just making silly mistakes.

“When you play a team like that, you can’t do that. We had them, going neck and neck with them, but it was unforced turnovers. I think that was the turning point, we just turned the ball over.”

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Dana Sydlowski of Brookfield passes the ball against the defense of Megan Payich (4) and Samantha Cave (3) of Girard.

A sluggish first quarter for Brookfield saw the Indians go up 9-4, as Makayla Trebella knocked down a triple and hit a quick jumper. A corner jumpshot by Emily Scarnecchia extended the Girard advantage to 13-6 to close out the first quarter.

The lead got up to 17-8, early in the second quarter, before the Warriors went on an 8-0 run. Eventually, Girard maintained a one-point lead, 19-18, going into the half. Morgan believes his team’s slow start was due to a combination of looking ahead to the tournament, plus, the fact that his Warriors beat Girard by 30 points, last time around.

“I said (to the girls), ‘Listen, they (Girard) will absolutely be prepared to play you way better than they played you last time,” Morgan said. “They are not gonna sit there and just let us take shots, left and right. We’re gonna have to make some adjustments during the game, we’re gonna have to play a different game tonight. And they sure did, they did a great job tonight.”

The Warriors led, 24-21, with 5:21 to play in the third, before Girard went on an 11-0 run of its own. Drapola then hit her 3-pointer late in the third to end the Indian run — and ultimately start what turned out to be a 15-0 Warrior run.

Brookfield (17-5) will host Berkshire in its Division III sectional first round game next Wednesday night. The district includes fellow AAC Blue Tier foes, Champion, LaBrae and Newton Falls — the defending district champion who beat Brookfield in last year’s title game.

Despite the familiarity, Morgan is happy to face off with a non-conference opponent.

“The biggest thing for us was playing teams that we don’t see during the season. Like I didn’t want to play LaBrae for a third time. I just didn’t want to do that, unless it was a district final or something (like that),” Morgan said.

Girard (10-11), meanwhile, will visit No. 2-seeded Howland in the Division II tournament Saturday afternoon. The Indians, who typically play in Division III, were moved up last year, and needless to say, the bracket provides quite the challenge for Saxon and company.

“They’re gonna be up in our face, man-to man,” Saxon said of Howland. “We gotta control the turnovers, we gotta keep (Sara) Price, pretty much keep her from scoring, (because) she’s pretty good. Basically, don’t let them pressure us, and we gotta score. That’s been one of our Achilles’ heels throughout the year, is putting the ball in the hoop. But, the girls will come out and play, they’ll play hard.”