Fairmount — Two-time defending champion Tipton refused to go quietly in the girls basketball Class 2A Sectional 39 title game, swinging up to the end before Eastern pulled away in the final minute for a 53-44 win Saturday night.
Brittany Neeley scored 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as the co-No. 6-ranked Comets earned their second sectional crown in program history. The other came in 1999.
“Words really can’t describe it,” Brittany Neeley said, gripping a freshly cut piece of net in her hands. “I know I’ve been going after this for four years and it honestly hasn’t fully hit me yet. We’ve always wanted to hang a banner, and I can’t believe it’s actually here.”
Eastern (19-3) advances to play Winchester (20-4), a 56-49 winner over Frankton Saturday, in next Saturday’s Lapel Regional semifinal round.
“We knew it would go down to the wire,” Eastern coach Jeremy Dexter said. “I figured it would come down to a possession or two at the end. There is no other program out there that I respect more than Tipton and [coach] Nick Comer. We knew we would get their best shot.”
With 1:26 remaining in the game, junior Kacie Juday got Tipton (13-10) the closest it had been since the second quarter when she hit a pair of free-throws to make it a four-point game, 46-42.
Needing to extend the game clock, the Devils took to fouling. Eastern knocked down 7 of 8 freebies in the final minute. Brittany Neeley was 6 of 6 during that stretch, hitting 14 of 16 attempts from behind the stripe for the game.
“I shot so many free throws this summer, I have no idea how many,” she said. “I felt pretty good. I didn’t feel too nervous or fatigued down the stretch. We know Tipton pretty well and knew that they would just keep coming.”