Unknown milestone

NEWTON FALLS – When Brooke Barreca stepped up to the foul line with 3:55 remaining in Newton Falls’ game against Brookfield on Monday night, she didn’t realize how close she was to reaching a milestone.

The senior forward was one point away from 1,000 in her career, but ignorant of this fact, Barreca drained her first shot from the charity stripe without any fanfare. While she concentrated on her second shot, Barreca finally realized something was different when she heard coach Mark Baker whisper something at the scorers’ table.

“I heard him go over to the scorers’ table, but I was trying to focus on my foul shot,” Barreca said. “It didn’t really work because I missed my follow-up shot. I knew something was happening, but I didn’t know what.”

Not wishing to break Barreca’s concentration, Baker whispered to announce Barreca’s achievement during the Tigers’ 56-43 win over Brookfield and to tell the referee he was going to call a timeout after her second free throw to get a break to announce to the crowd. Because of the miss, however, it was 20 seconds before they stopped the game to recognize the 5-foot-10 forward and give her the game ball.

“She had absolutely no clue whatsoever how many points (away she was),” Baker said. “I think that she knew she was close even coming into the season, but she had no idea how many she actually needed.”

For Barreca, she reached a goal she set for herself when first stepped on the court as a freshman at Newton Falls High School, and she was happy to reach the 1,000-point plateau at home.

“One thousand points was definitely my goal,” Barreca said. “I knew I could get it if I put in all the hard work and have enough people supporting me. I’ve had my family and my friends and all these coaches, they’ve supported me this whole time. I couldn’t have done it without them. It meant so much to me that I was able to get this tonight.”

Barreca’s free throw meant more than just individual success – it came at a crucial time for Newton Falls (5-0).

The Tigers held a 19-point lead halfway the third quarter following a Barreca basket underneath, but the Warriors (3-2) clawed their way back into the game. A 9-3 run that ended with a Danielle DiCristofaro putback bucket at the 2:57 mark in the fourth pulled the Warriors to within nine points.

Newton Falls managed to stem Brookfield’s comeback and see out the game at the charity stripe in the closing minutes.

“We talked about doing (a couple of) simple things when we came down on offense – just get more aggressive, taking the ball to the hoop and trying to draw some fouls and get to the free throw line and creep back into it,” Brookfield coach Shawn Hammond said. “They did that.”

Senior forward Ashley Kirila sparked the Warriors in the second half, scoring seven points over the final 4:20 in the third to cut the deficit to 13 points going into the final quarter. The 6-foot Kirila finished the game with a double-double, amassing game-highs in points (19) and rebounds (10).

“I will definitely give her credit,” Barreca said. “She’s a very good player, and I loved playing against her in this game. She has great sportsmanship, and she’s an all-around great player. I think we could have done better, but she just had some good moves that we really couldn’t stop.”

Back to Barreca, Baker said he’s proud of a player who started out her career as being “too unselfish.”

“She’s been so special over the years,” Baker said. “She does everything for you. If you ask her to take on this role for the team, she’s going to take this role on that role. She’ll do anything you ask her to do and do it absolutely to the best of her ability every single time. She’s that type of a kid.”