It’s a golden era for Pioneer Panthers athletics.

Two student-athletes who have played a major role in that are senior Olivia Brooke and junior Hailey Cripe. And they are the Pharos-Tribune’s 2021 Loganland Girls Basketball Co-Players of the Year.

They were both key players for the Panthers in winning their first state title in girls basketball this winter, as well as winning their first state title in volleyball in the fall.

Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke said there’s no secret to Pioneer’s success in athletics, and that Olivia and Hailey are two great examples.

“These two girls are just workhorses. They come in, they’re the first ones in the gym, last ones out of the gym. They put in the time and you could tell that on the floor,” coach Brooke said. “They lead by example. They may not be super vocal leaders, but day in, day out, from one drill to the next drill, they work hard. I’m so excited to have them be a part of the program so that the other players can see what my expectation is.

“I’m happy for Olivia as she finishes out her senior year. I just think she probably couldn’t have played any better than she did this year. I’m excited to have Hailey as she continues to just grow with her basketball knowledge and skill and have her for another year. What two great girls to go through the program.”

Cripe is a repeat selection as Loganland Player of the Year. The 5-foot-6 guard averaged 18.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.0 apg and 4.2 spg. She made 89 3-pointers at 36% shooting from distance.

She splashed in four 3-pointers in a row in the first half in Pioneer’s 43-42 win over Loogootee in the Class A state championship game.

“That was very exciting, honestly,” she said of the title game. “We led for awhile and then getting it right back there, close together, it was a little scary at times, but I was ready, we were ready and it was our time.”

Good guard play often leads to postseason success and that’s what Cripe provided to the Panthers, who went 25-4 and finished the season winning 13 straight games and 22 of their last 23.

Olivia Brooke said Cripe was always a go-to player for the Lady Panthers.

“Everybody in the state know, hey, No. 30 can shoot, I mean, she’s got the hot hand. It looks like the girl’s right in her face and she’s like, bet, I’ll shoot it,” she said. “It’s just awesome. She’s my favorite person to go to if I get into the paint, I’m like Cripe’s open, there she is in the corner, she loves those corner shots. You see her in the regional, she knocked down like eight. She’s an awesome player, she’s a good teammate, she’s always there, she’s the first one to help somebody off the floor. She was just awesome to have around. I’m really going to miss playing with her next year.”

The Panthers were also able to dominate the paint this season. Cripe knows that won’t be as easy next year in Class 2A without Olivia and Madison Blickenstaff on the court.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge because we were so post heavy. We relied a lot on Olivia and Maddie in the post and we knew they were going to clean the boards up,” she said. “So going from having a team where you were probably bigger in 1A to going to probably one of the smallest teams now in 2A, it’s going to be a big difference. But they’ve set us up for success and we have their drive, so hopefully it just continues to get better.”

Olivia, a 5-10 forward, is a two-time All-Loganland Volleyball Player of the Year. She earned the girls basketball award by stepping up and showing great improvement her senior season.

She averaged 15.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.6 apg and 1.9 spg. She shot 51% from field and 74% from the free throw line.

She also made timely 3-pointers throughout the season, including in the state title game that stopped a Loogootee run. She also had the game-winning assist to her sister, Ashlynn, as she used her volleyball skills to perfectly set up her sister on the shot.

“It was awesome. Everyone worked together that whole game,” she said. “We’re going into the fourth quarter, we’re up. But the thing was the year before we were up too, so we knew that Loogootee was going to come back and fight. We weren’t on edge, we were expecting that. I just don’t think we were expecting it to get that back and forth, back and forth, and then for them to have the lead and us to be able to come back from that fouling, that never happens, the way that we had foul, foul, foul and then they missed both free throws. You felt like, yeah, it’s ours. Like we have to make this shot because of that happening.

“We can’t do it without the coaches, the teammates, God helped us through the whole thing. Everything just throughout this whole season has been amazing both seasons.”

Olivia went from averaging 3.4 ppg as a freshman, to 7.5 as a sophomore, to 11.1 as a junior, to 15.3 as a senior.

She had a team-high 13 points and eight rebounds in the title game against Loogootee and a team-high 19 points and 16 rebounds in the semistate game against Northfield.

She talked about her improvement and mindset this season.

“I kind of walked in and I was like, ‘OK, this year, we’re going back and nothing’s going stop us from going back.’ So we have to get better in the paint, outside of the paint. Ashlynn was out and the thing was she probably wasn’t coming back. So I was like, OK, someone’s got to help Cripe over here scoring, so I was like, OK, well I’ve got to work on that. Ashlynn helped me, she came in and worked with me in the mornings, worked on moves. So I guess the mindset was just, ‘you’re not going to lose,’ so that’s what I think helped me improve.”

Olivia turning herself into a great player for the Panthers helped get them over the top.

“A stud, absolute stud,” Cripe said. “Coming in freshman year and watching her transformation from sophomore, junior and now to senior, it’s been incredible. At practice we do this drill, it’s called Superman, and everyone has to play defense on all five offensive players and no one ever wants to play defense against Olivia because it’s like, is she going to break your ankles or is she going to make you foul her. So watching her improvement was incredible. And she was just great this year and it helped us out so much.”

The following are capsules of the rest of the All-Loganland team:

Madison Blickenstaff, Pioneer

Blickenstaff, a 6-foot senior, averaged 10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 spg and 1.0 bpg. She shot 55% from the field.

“She has come along every year she’s been here,” coach Brooke said. “If you look at her rebounding, you look at her scoring average, they have increased and increased. I’d love to continue to have her around. Her quickness, running the floor is really key to what we did this year. We call her Rim Runner, the other team would score a bucket and Blick would be off and running and then within 2 seconds we were scoring a layup and typically it was her. I’m excited that she was able to make the first team this year. She again has put in the work just like the other two did.”

Kendal Johnson, Cass

The transfer from Winamac made an immediate impact at Lewis Cass.

The Lady Kings went 8-13, which was more wins than they had the previous three seasons combined. They had their best season since their county tournament championship team in 2015-16 went 10-13.

Johnson, a 6-foot-guard, averaged 16.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg. She made 28 3-pointers and shot 36% from distance.

“Kendal brought a lot of things to the team that we didn’t have previously,” Cass coach Kyle Amor said. “When you’re a 6-foot, long, athletic point guard that can shoot from the perimeter and put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, you’re going to be able to have a solid season. But what impressed me the most with Kendal this year was her ability to make everyone around her better. Kyla Mennen’s points per game increased, Paxtyn [Hicks] was pretty consistent, just everyone improved when she was on the floor.”

Isabel Scales, Caston

Scales, a 5-6 freshman, averaged 13 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.6 apg and 3.2 spg.

The Comets went 15-6 and were the most improved team in the state. They had 11.5-win improvement after going 4-18 a year ago.

“As a freshman and having to step up and be a point guard on the varsity from eighth grade, she did a fabulous job for us,” Caston coach Josh Douglass said. “And we talked about that at the end of our season meeting, now what do we do to improve to take it to the next level. Averaging 13 points as a freshman, that’s pretty big. I told her it’ll get easier. The game was fast to begin with and you could tell as the season went on she saw the floor better and things like that. So as a freshman she had her ups and downs like all freshmen do, but I’m really excited to see what next year holds for her.”

Second team

Gabby Richie, Logansport

Richie, a 5-5 sophomore, averaged 14 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.7 apg and 1.6 spg for the Berries.

Logan went 5-16 and had wins over Cass, Peru, Muncie Central, Marion and Indianapolis Tech.

“Gabby has grown a lot from her freshman year,” Logan coach Meranda Cooper said. “She was a main contributor as a freshman but she’s played a great deal of basketball between last year and this year and I think it has shown. She led us in several statistical categories, she’s our point guard, our floor general. She’s involved in pretty much everything that happens on the court for the team.

“She obviously has a lot of room to grow but she is establishing herself as premier player in the county and in the NCC, so I know that she is willing to continue to work. She’s not satisfied with where she’s at right now, she wants to continue to improve for the betterment of the team. I’m proud of her and keep looking for her to be a part of good things for Logansport basketball.”

Maggie Smith, Winamac

Smith, a 6-foot senior, averaged 7.2 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 2.3 spg.

She averaged double digits in rebounds on the season and will graduate as Winamac’s all-time leading rebounder.

The Warriors went 11-9 and recorded their sixth straight winning season.

“We’re definitely going to miss her. She’s just somebody we couldn’t take off the floor,” Winamac coach Kole Kroft said. “I wish she would have scored a little more but she improved her shot the last two years and was knocking down 3s this year a lot. But the way she played defense and averaging 12 rebounds a game, you just couldn’t take her off the floor.”

Kingsley Kroft, Winamac

Kroft, a 5-8 guard, stepped up her junior season for the Warriors and averaged 12.1 ppg and 2.0 spg.

“She really improved her scoring and 3-point shooting from a year ago,” coach Kroft said. “She had to take on the point guard role, which she’s never been before. So I think that occupied a lot of her time. But she didn’t really force shots, she let them come to her when she had the opportunity. But same time, she was a very unselfish player with getting everybody involved. And I thought she adjusted well to handling the ball the way she did. It was foreign to her but that’s where we were at this year.”

Addison Zimpleman, Caston

Zimpleman, a 5-6 freshman, averaged 8.5 ppg for the Comets.

“I think the game was really fast for Addison to begin with, the same thing with Isabel. We’re still waiting on that game where they both click at the same time,” Douglass said. “This year they did a great job of kind of like Batman and Robin, one game one was on and the next game the other was on. We never had that game where they both were on together. I think as they get more comfortable in their roles because again, she had to handle the ball a ton for us too and that pressure and just being more calm, the game slows down each year for you. So again, we’re really excited to see next year for them because coming out junior high and eighth grade, she shot the ball extremely well from 3. She struggled from 3 this year and I think it was due to the fact of the game just being faster. So once that slows down a little bit more for I think her shooting touch will come there too.”

Ashlynn Brooke, Pioneer

Ashlynn returned from a second knee surgery in as many years to help the Panthers get back to the State Finals for a second straight year. This time she hit the game-winning shot with 7 seconds to go to lift the Panthers to the win.

Despite being limited to eight games and only playing about 16 minutes per game due to a minutes restriction, the 5-6 sophomore guard averaged 8.6 ppg, 2.0 apg and 1.0 spg and shot 91% from the free throw line.

Already holding several D-I offers, she’s projected to be one of the top players in the Class of 2023 if she can stay healthy.

“I’m excited to see what she can do in a full season,” coach Brooke said. “Hopefully next year we’ll be able to see what she can do in a full season of high school basketball. But she works hard, she continues to hone in her skill, continues to get better. I think her defense has come along tremendously. She’s got great court vision, does a nice job on defense and reading screens, reading on the ball, anticipating. I’m excited to have her obviously for two more years as well.”

Third team

Mackenzie Walker, Pioneer

Walker’s legacy as a defensive ace at Pioneer was cemented when she came up with the game-clinching steal in the final seconds of the state championship game.

The 5-5 guard averaged 4.5 ppg, 3.7 apg and 2.0 spg for the season.

“Mackenzie Walker just gets it done,” coach Brooke said. “She doesn’t do it with flair, she doesn’t do it fancy, she works hard, does what I ask her to do. I’m excited to have her a part of Panther basketball as well, see her on the All-Logan team. She’s just an example of doesn’t get the glory, doesn’t make spectacular plays or moves, but wants to be a part of something bigger than herself and she’s been rewarded through that hard work and that perseverance. It’s awesome to see.”

Walker and Blickenstaff have started on three of Pioneer’s six state championship teams in all sports. The other three were won in football. Walker’s brother Conner started on two of those teams.

Jordan Clingler, Caston

Clingler, a 5-10 senior, averaged 7 ppg and 5 rpg for the Comets.

“We’ll miss Jordan,” Douglass said. “Jordan did a lot of things on the floor for us that nobody sees, sometimes they didn’t come out in the stat sheet. That girl, help-side defense, talking on the bottom, jumping passing lanes and doing those things. We talked about the Rochester game, she only scored two points and it was one of the buckets to put us up. Same thing at LaVille, but that girl plays some defense inside that goes unnoticed. When you’ve got a kid that’s in the right spot all the time and plugs the middle and you don’t have to tell them, that’s hard to replace because that’s a learned thing. She’s learned it over the years and now you’ve got to go back and teach somebody what Jordan did. And she took a lot of pressure off of other kids because everybody had to respect her from the from the numbers should put up in the past. So we’re going to miss her a lot.”

Kendra Sutton, Logansport

Sutton averaged 7.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg her sophomore season.

“Kendra has really matured I think over the last year,” Cooper said. “Her freshman season she kind of got to play under Emilee Cripe who was a senior and had four years of experience. So Kendra got a lot more playing time this year and with that came kind of a heavier weight of needed contributions. So I think that she is really starting to grow into a great player for a Logansport.

“I think that she is a unique player in that she plays like a power forward or center and she’s not very tall at all, we’re talking 5-7. So I think that as she gets older, she gets more experience, she works on her footwork and she becomes more assertive, I think that actually that size disadvantage is going to be favorable for her because if big girls guard her, she can take them outside and it small girls guard her, she can take them down low. So again, she’s another one that I see really being a contributor and being involved in all good things that happen to Logansport girls basketball in the future.”

Kyla Mennen, Cass

Mennen, a 5-10 senior, averaged 7.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.0 spg.

“Kyla was our most improved player this year,” Amor said. “Her ability to score and rebound for us, she actually is going to land as our ninth all-time leading rebounder and again was the most improved player on our team. If you look at every statistic she had last year compared to this year, she improved in every category.”

The Lady Kings closed the regular season by winning six of their last eight and they played Manchester close in the sectional after Manchester upset Carroll.

“Kyla was one of second leading scorer just behind Kendal in that stretch,” Amor said. “She had an incredible season for us and she was a big reason why we had a few more wins this year than last obviously.”

Paxtyn Hicks, Cass

Hicks, a 5-11 senior, averaged 8 ppg and 7.4 rpg.

“She’s been the cornerstone of the program since her freshman year,” Amor said. “I think she’s nearly averaged a double-double since she started playing ball and she’s a kid that we’ve leaned heavily on. I think she was especially happy with Kendal joining the squad. I thought it took a lot of pressure off of Paxtyn and she was able to play a lot more loose and I thought we had a decent inside-out game between the two of them. But she’s just a kid that has been Lewis Cass basketball since her freshman year. It’s going to be tough losing her but she had a heck of a season, a heck of a career. She ended up being the third all-time leading rebounder at Lewis Cass with 530 rebounds."

2021 All-Loganland Girls Basketball

First team

Madison Blickenstaff, Pioneer

Olivia Brooke, Pioneer

Hailey Cripe, Pioneer

Kendal Johnson, Cass

Isabel Scales, Caston

Second team

Ashlynn Brooke, Pioneer

Kingsley Kroft, Winamac

Gabby Richie, Logansport

Maggie Smith, Winamac

Addison Zimpleman, Caston

Third team

Jordan Clingler, Caston

Paxtyn Hicks, Cass

Kyla Mennen, Cass

Kendra Sutton, Logansport

Mackenzie Walker, Pioneer

Honorable mention: Cass — Kyndal Silcox; Caston — Abby Williamson, Maddi Smith, Bailey Harness; Logan — Erica White, Malia Roberts; Pioneer — Brooklyn Borges; Winamac — Aubrey Gearhart.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Trending Video

Recommended for you