CLARION, Pa. – The greatest basketball feeling of his life.
That’s how Brockway head coach Dick Esposito described what he was feeling after his Lady Rovers claimed the first District 9 title in school history with a 46-37 win over Clarion-Limestone Friday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
“This is the greatest basketball feeling I’ve ever had,” Esposito said. “I just told the kids, 35 years I’ve been at this is just the greatest, greatest basketball I have ever had. I battled cancer to make that comeback to get to where we were today. It’s just phenomenal. I thank God and everyone, all our supporters.”
Esposito’s players were equally excited they could get their coach a championship.
“You probably saw the reaction of Dick,” senior Danielle Wood, one of two 1,000-point scorers on the squad, said. “He probably wanted this more than us.”
The reaction from the players said a lot as well, especially when one considers that Brockway girls’ basketball spent this season celebrating its 50th year of existence.
“Being the people that accomplished this for us, you don’t even have a feeling for it,” senior Ciara Morelli said. “It’s crazy.”
Selena Buttery, a senior 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound player, tried to put it into words despite a voice that was a little hoarse after so much yelling both during and after the game.
“It’s a crazy thing for us,” Buttery said. “We have been trying to get this every since we were in third grade. We have been working for. It is a pretty good experience overall, I would say.”
A start only the Lady Rovers (16-7) could have seen in their dreams played a large role in the championship.
Brockway led 16-4 at the end of the first quarter thanks in large part to nine points from Wood and terrible shooting from C-L, which went 2-for-21 in the quarter including starting the game 0-for-14 from the field.
“It’s what we wanted, definitely,” Buttery said. “It’s what we hoped for. But we didn’t expect to get that lead so quickly and such a big lead right away.”
Brockway needed that advantage, as C-L (12-10) found its legs starting in the second quarter and got itself back into the game closing to within eight, 25-17, by halftime thanks in part to six points from Kendall Dunn.
“We wanted to get out early so we could play our game a little bit,” Esposito said.
C-L got back within six, 25-19, early in the second half when Frances Milliron scored off an offensive rebound.
But Brockway responded going on an 8-0 run that saw Buttery score four points to push the lead to 14, 33-19.
“When we saw that they were starting to make shots and get a couple of rebounds, we were like alright next time they miss let’s get the rebound and go so we can get those points back.”
Up 14 still, 36-22, going to the fourth quarter nerves might have gotten the best of the Lady Rovers.
Brockway turned the ball over 12 times in the quarter allowing C-L to start the quarter on a 9-0 run that got the Lady Lions within five, 36-31, with four minutes to play.
Dunn scored the final five points of the spurt on an old-school 3-point play and a bucket.
“You could definitely feel it right there with a bunch of going out of bounds stuff,” Morelli said.
Buttery, though, helped calm some of those nerves when she dripped her only 3-pointer of the game with 3:15 to play to restore the lead back to eight, 39-31.
“I remember getting open,” Buttery said. “Everybody was like ‘no, don’t shoot it. Hold the ball.’ I was like, we need to get a shot. So. I fired it up. I was like, please go in. It went in. It was good overall. I think that is what hoisted us ahead of them.”
Watch the full postgame video with Buttery, Wood, and Morelli.
Wood led Brockway with 18 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and two steals with Buttery completing another double-double with 17 points and 19 rebounds while blocking four shots and handing out two assists.
Madelyn Schmader also went up and got 15 rebounds to go with four points.
Dunn paced C-L with 15 points and 10 rebounds with Milliron adding 10 points nine rebounds.
As the District 9 champion, Brockway will host a PIAA playoff game Tuesday, March 8, against the third-place team out of District 10, either Cochranton or Cambridge Springs. Those teams play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Meadville High School with the winner traveling to Brockway Tuesday. It is the first-ever PIAA playoff appearance for the Lady Rovers.
“We get to go to states for the time ever,” Esposito said. “It’s as I told the kids, everything is icing on the cake. I mean, it really is. We were going to get another game, but we wanted the game that we are going to host Tuesday night. I said, let’s play hard. Let’s get this one and then we’ll move on to the next one.”
C-L’s season isn’t over.
As the D9 runner-up, the Lady Lions will travel to Waynesburg Central Tuesday for a first-round PIAA playoff game.
NOTES: C-L finished the game 16 of 70 from the field or 22.9 percent … Brockway shot 17 of 40 (42.5 percent) but turned the ball over 28 times, including 19 in the second half. The 12 fourth-quarter turnovers were a big reason why the Lady Rovers were just 1 of 4 shooting in the final eight minutes … Brockway was making just its second D9 title-game appearance having lost in last year’s championship game to Keystone at Keystone … C-L was in the title game for the first time since losing to Karns City in 2015. The Lady Lions haven’t won a D9 title since 1988 in Class 1A.
BROCKWAY 46, CLARION-LIMESTONE 37
Score by Quarters
C-L 4 13 5 15 – 37
Brockway 16 9 11 10 – 46
CLARION-LIMESTONE – 37
Alex Leadbetter 1 1-2 3, Lexi Coull 2 0-0 4, Frances Milliron 5 0-4 10, Kendall Dunn 7 1-2 15, Alyssa Waint 0 0-0 0, Jenna Dunn 1 0-0 2, Samantha Simpson 0 3-4 3. Totals 16 5-12 37.
BROCKWAY – 46
Ciara Morelli 2 0-1 4, Danielle Wood 6 5-7 18, Madelyn Schmader 2 0-0 4, Selena Buttery 6 4-6 17m Raegan Gelnette 1 1-2 3, Lauren Rendos 0 0-0 0, Sarah Koehler 0 0-0 0, Kalina Powell 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 10-16 46.
Three-pointers: C-L (None). Brockway 2 (Wood, Buttery)