State finals notebook PDF Print E-mail
Written by George Browning   
Thursday, 02 March 2017 08:45

Both teams

have young talent

Eastern loses four seniors, but only two, Taylor Drury and Holly Purlee, who played major minutes and Oak Hill only has won.

Both teams depend heavily on underclassmen.

Oak Hill Head Coach Todd Law admitted to being surprised by the state finals run and said he was hoping for a different outcome, but he thinks the experience will be huge for his young team.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to win a sectional,” Law said. “I don’t think any of us had us being here out of the gate. Once we won the sectional my message to our team was to take it one game at a time and see where that leads.

“I think the most valuable thing we take from it is the experience of learning how you have to attack a tournament, because it takes seven games to win this thing and it’s not easy to do. You have to take it one game at a time and the kids learned that they can’t look ahead and they can’t look behind and have to focus on the opponent at the moment. The tournament experience is going to pay off for our program in the future.”

McBride agreed and was especially complimentary of the Lady Golden Eagles’ talented 6’1” freshman Taylor Westgate.

“She is a heck of a player and she is just a freshman, but that’s the thing with Oak Hill, they are very young,” McBride said. “So they have opportunities to come back.”

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State . . .

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Westgate entered the game averaging nearly 13 points game, but Eastern’s defense held her to six and only allowed her four shots.

While Eastern’s post-players get credit for that, McBride said the guards play a key role, as well.

“Post defense starts with ball pressure and I thought we did a good job of making it difficult and a challenge to feed the post on a consistent basis,” he said. “I give credit to our girls for playing defense without fouling. That’s what we talked about all week is how aggressive Oak Hill is at putting the ball on the floor and that leads to a lot of free throws. We did a good job of contesting and tracing the basketball without reaching or fouling. I am very proud of the defensive effort we had and controlling her (Westgate) in the middle.”

Law was equally impressed with Eastern’s youth. He admitted that he had not seen anything that would have made him expect that freshman Isabell Claywell and Caylee Graves would have 9 and four points respectively.

In addition to her nine points, Claywell was three of four from behind the three-point line.

“. . . When kids make plays like that you shake their hands and congratulate them,” Law said of Graves and Claywell knocking down shots. “That’s really all you can do, because they made the plays.”

Drury wins Mental

Attitude Award

Eastern senior Taylor Drury was presented the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award.

A player from each team is nominated by their coach and principal and one winner is selected from all four classes.

Drury was the winner in 2A.

“It’s been an unbelievable year,” Drury said of winning both the state title and the mental attitude award.

McBride was more talkative about the honor than his player was. He said Drury has given everything over four years to the Eastern girls’ basketball program.

“I can’t speak enough about Taylor and what she has done over the last four years,” McBride said. “We’ve grown so close to one another. She is like a daughter to me, because our families are so close, as well. This is a great way for her to go out, because she has put a lot of time in it and I am proud of her.”

McBride said Drury is the quintessential leader in that she is unselfish and works to make her teammates better.

“Taylor is motivated by winning,” he said. “That goes all the way back to her freshman year. She is unselfish and there have been times when I’ve had to encourage her to be more selfish and get shots and get to the free throw line. She is such a great teammate. They love her and she really challenges them, even during games, to make shots. Tonight she made a kick out to Isabell and Taylor fully expected her to make it. Her confidence in them makes it become our shot. It’s not just one player’s shot, you’re doing it for the team.

“Taylor’s leadership is really what has gotten us to this point this year. She has grown so much as a person and a leader of this team it makes my job easier as a coach.”


Stewart a star

in the making

McBride has known all along how special a player junior Rachel Stewart is, but thanks to the Lady Musketeers’ state championship, others around the state are beginning to see realize it.

After scoring 34 points in Eastern’s Semi State championship, Stewart followed it with 20 points, five steals, four blocks and four rebounds.

“Rachel’s motor is outstanding as far as her energy level and how she plays and competes,” McBride said. “She still works everyday at practice to get better. Now it’s going to be an adjustment for her to be the leader like Taylor was and hopefully she learned from Taylor how to do it and how to handle it. As good as she is, she still has a tremendous upside and is going to get a lot of opportunities coming up here.”

Stewart may have already started stepping into that leadership role.

“At the beginning we were anxious to get it started, but once we got on the court we huddled up and said, ‘we don’t have anything to lose, so let’s just go play.’  We knew Oak Hill was nervous, too, so we knew early momentum would be important.”

As far as getting four blocks and five steals, Stewart said she knew Oak Hill would be attacking off the dribble.

“I had to contain my girl and if someone got beat, I would try to be on help-side and make the other girls’ shot difficult,” Stewart said. “They were so caught up in trying to get past our guards that I was able to step up and block it.”

Run wasn’t a surprise for

EHS coach and players

After watching Providence make a run the past two seasons to Semi State, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that once winning sectional, Eastern could make a strong run as well.

A lot of people were surprised that the Lady Musketeers were still playing on the season’s final day, but McBride said he and his team weren’t among them

“We talked last summer about setting some challenging goals and not just winning sectional but looking beyond that,” he said. “We saw North Harrison get here and we saw Providence get to Semi-State two years in a row. That motivated us to challenge ourselves to do something bigger and once we put it together and got on this run the girls started believing and they belief gave them confidence to do it.”

Lady Musketeers

able to stay loose

With each round of the tournament being a new experience for most of the Lady Musketeers, they were able to maintain their cool and never be overwhelmed by the moment.

The players say that’s because their coach is tight enough for all of them and he agrees.

“They are a fun group for me,” McBride said. “I was probably tighter than anyone. This morning we had issues with the police escort and distractions before we even got here and the girls just brushed those things off and were ready to play. Part of their ability to do that is their belief in what we can do as a team and part of that is me backing off and letting them play. That’s kind of the transition we went through after Christmas break. We got on the same page and I just started trusting and they started believing.”

Drury said the tighter McBride gets, the looser they seem to. Plus they do a lot of group singing to calm the nerves.

“We can sense him getting tight at times, we try to keep it low key and let him do his thing and we do our thing,” Drury said. “And, we sing a lot!”


McBride on Oak Hill’s ability to control tempo:

“It was a great ball game,” McBride said. “You have to give Oak Hill credit for the way they play defense and controlled the tempo. Their style of play made it very tough on our offense. They made a run in the third quarter and we had to make a few adjustments and got a big shot from Isabell and Rachel had a big play as well.

“I really think late it was our rebounding that made the difference because we controlled the backboard.”

How long the celebration will last

“We are going to do a good job of celebrating and enjoying it for as long as we can,” McBride said. “It might be December before we get focused again. I’ll rely on Rachel and Isabell to make sure we get focused next October.”

On the community’s support

“It means so much to bring this back to our community,” Drury said. “They’ve been here to support us at all the games and made it so much fun for us with all the caravans. It means a lot for us to be able to bring it back for them.”