Braves advance to sectional semis

SALEM

Karla Rieckers told her team “to be the best, you have to beat the best” after drawing Charlestown in the Class 3A Sectional 30 quarterfinals.

That message resonated with the team.

The Brownstown Central coach and her crew rolled to a decisive 64-55 victory against the Pirates on Tuesday night at Salem, advancing to Friday night’s semifinals.

“I thought our girls stepped up to the challenge, but it’s one down,” she said, knowing a tougher opponent looms Friday night. “I’m proud of this and they can enjoy it tonight, but tomorrow, we have to come in and work for Salem.”

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The Braves (18-7) got off to a quick start against the Pirates (15-9), as Tayler Garland drained three 3-pointers in the opening quarter.

Garland would lead the Braves with 23 points with five of the team’s eight three pointers and went 6 for 6 from the free throw line. Ashley Schroer scored 15 for the Braves.

Payton Farmer then converted a three-point play, and the Braves jumped to a quick 12-5 lead.

Rieckers said shooting from the outside can change the dynamic of the game and that she’d like to see her team to continue to be aggressive from beyond the arc.

“We can shoot the basketball from outside, and it’s just whether or not we have the confidence to do that,” she said. “We can’t be hesitant, we can’t be afraid to shoot the basketball and that’s what we have to do.”

Samantha Matthews hit a 3 for the Pirates to stabilize a slow offense, and the Braves led 12-8 to close the first quarter.

In the first half of the second quarter, the Braves continued a hot offense, while the Pirates’ offense continued to struggle. The Braves outscored the Pirates 13-5 in the opening four minutes.

Schroer led the Braves through the stretch, scoring seven points off of three baskets, including a three-point play. Farmer scored four during the stretch, and Shelby Stuckwisch made two free throws.

The run prompted a timeout by the Pirates at the 4:31 mark.

The Pirates capitalized on some cool shooting by Brownstown and went on a 7-3 run until the last minute.

Kylee Wischmeier converted a late layup and Garland hit a jumper at the buzzer to boost the Braves faithful to send the team into the locker room with a 32-21 lead.

The start of the second half was evenly matched, as both teams exchanged baskets on the first seven sequences of the third quarter.

The Pirates, down 44-27, then turned on the offense and scored eight straight points to get back into the game and cut the lead to 44-35.

The Braves once again were able to tame down the Pirates’ momentum and ended the third quarter with five points from Garland to enter the final quarter up 49-35.

Brownstown had just enough cushion to ease to victory, as Charlestown outscored them 20-15 in the fourth quarter.

The Pirates were able to pressure the Braves with a full-court press and benefited from several missed opportunities.

The defense from the Pirates and misfired shots on offense for the Braves prevented them from recording a basket until a layup by Schroer at the 4:34 mark.

The spike in defense was too late for the Pirates, though, and the Braves sealed the victory.

The Braves got revenge on the Pirates as they fell 58-52 during a Jan. 6 matchup at home.

“I thought we played them a lot better tonight than we did earlier in the year,” Rieckers said.

Looking ahead to Friday night, Rieckers said the team will have to find a way to penetrate the Lions’ defense.

“We have to be able to handle their zone because they like to zone and pack everybody in the middle,” she said. “We’re going to have to knock down shots.”

Rieckers had a simple, but clear response when asked whether the Lions were a solid basketball team.

On Dec. 5, Salem (20-4) topped Brownstown 49-38.

The Braves and Lions will tip around 7:30 p.m. at Salem High School.

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Jordan Richart is a correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.