Two of a kind
Up-and-coming Brookfield holds off Leopards in budding rivalry
The teams met up for the second time this season, with the Warriors coming out on top again, 71-66, in a Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference, Gray Tier shootout.
“I thought coming into this thing they were probably the most athletic and probably one of the best teams in the league and for us to be 2-0 against them, that’s a huge step for us,” Brookfield coach Ken Forsythe said. “With a bunch of sophomores and juniors and a couple seniors giving us time and experience, so we’ve got a lot coming back, we’ll be OK.”
Liberty wanted to come out of the gate on the right foot and was able to hold Brookfield scoreless for the first 3 minutes of the game, leading 6-0 early.
“It was just good for their confidence,” Leopards coach Deidre Watson said. “We have a really young team, mainly comprised of freshmen and sophomores. We lost a lot of senior leadership and so it’s important for them to be able to understand that they can hold the team together.”
Brookfield (8-1, 5-1) began to push back in the second quarter with a run that culminated in sophomore Sophia Hook hitting a 3-pointer with 1 second remaining in the first half to send her team into the break trailing 34-30.
Hook finished the night with 30 points. Audrey Reardon scored 25 on the night, 15 of which came from 3-pointers. Reardon sparked the team with two 3-pointers in the second quarter.
“We were down for most of the time, and I feel when I started hitting them, that made everybody else start playing harder,” Reardon said. “Then they got back into it, and I think that’s what helped us win too.”
Freshman Aaliyah Foster cleared the 30-point mark as well, tallying a game-high 32 points for the Leopards.
Two seasons ago, Brookfield and Liberty’s eighth-grade teams met up in the All-American Conference Blue Tier title game. Now, those eighth-graders are sophomores and are leading young squads.
Brookfield’s Hook and Liberty’s Demi Watson were a part of those respective teams and are now key players on the varsity squads.
Forsythe anticipates a lot of great matchups between these two teams in the next couple years.
“These guys battled it out when they were in junior high,” he said. “They met in the championship game in eighth grade and it was a good game then. The next couple years, it’s going to come down to them and us and a couple others.”
The Leopards had a senior-heavy roster last season, so getting the younger players acclimated to the mental side of the game as they take more prominent roles is crucial, Deidre Watson said.
“Last year they really relied on the seniors so they didn’t have to take all the pressure,” she said. “This year, the pressure is all on them. I talked to them a lot about the mental aspect of the game and being able to finish, so that’s really what we’re focused on this year.”
Liberty (4-4, 3-3) takes on another tough league foe on Monday against Newton Falls. The Leopards won by 20 in the first meeting, but with the Tigers fully into the swing of things now, Watson expects them to play much better.
“We played them in their first game back from quarantine, so they were a little bit sluggish,” Watson said. “We expect them to be a lot more aggressive this time and it’ll be a good day.”
Brookfield hosts Mathews on Saturday.