By Pedro Velazco
Eastern girls basketball standout Brittany Neeley hadn’t envisioned how she wanted to score her 1,000th point, but when her first opportunity came to cross the milestone, the Comet guard raced up court to fashion a storybook moment with her twin sister Bethany.
Bethany was on a solo fast break, but slowed to give Brittany a shot.
“Bethany had that breakaway layup and I did call her name,” Brittany said after her team’s 64-24 victory over Madison-Grant Tuesday night. “It did kind of flash through my mind that it would be very cool if we could do that, like our little twin thing. I know I was smiling as I went up. Obviously it didn’t go in.”
Brittany Neeley’s shot rimmed out and she was still standing at 999 career points. The storybook chance had come and gone, but she crossed the milestone about a minute later, and it couldn’t have been more fitting.
After a Madison-Grant made basket, Brittany Neeley pushed hard upcourt after the inbounds pass and drove right into the heart of the M-G defense for a driving hoop. Plus she got fouled on the play. If she has a signature play, that’s it.
“Push in transition and draw a little contact, an and-one situation,” Eastern coach Jeremy Dexter said. “That’ll about define her in transition. I think it was the next possession [after the missed layup] when she did that, so she didn’t prolong us that much.”
After a brief pause to present her with a basketball to commemorate the occasion and some photos with teammates, it was back to business. Brittany Neeley hit the free throw too en route to a game-high 23 points. Class 2A No. 7-ranked Eastern improved to 8-1 with the victory.
When she hit quadruple digits, Brittany Neeley joined former Comets Beth Dean (1,113 points), Brenda Nicholson (1,072) and Stephanie Creek (1,007) in an exclusive club. Brittany Neeley, a senior, now has 1,009
Brittany Neeley and sister Bethany have made their biggest impact in cross country and track, where the two are state-level athletes. To carve her name into the school’s basketball lore too has yet to sink in, but Brittany knows her school’s history. She walks by the school’s wall of fame when she heads to her weights class, and soon will have a spot there for her basketball exploits.
“I know the girls’ names, especially Beth Dean, the leading scorer, she comes down and talks to us a lot,” Brittany Neeley said. “I know that almost the only way you can go up there [on the wall] for basketball is 1,000 points.
“It means a lot, there’s some really good athletes [on the wall], especially basketball players. I by no means consider myself the caliber of basketball player that they were, but I guess my athleticism has got it done and the teammates and the coaching staff. They’re the ones that got me open. I’ve had some past teammates that are pretty good, really good. Carly Miles and Amanda Alexander and a lot more, the main defenders keyed on them, left me open.”
She’s made the most of it, especially as an upperclassman. Brittany Neeley struggled shooting as an underclassman and in her second season, asked for help.
“Halfway through her sophomore year we had a conversation and she actually came to me and said ‘can we really break down my shot and can we shut me down from 3-point range and can we just develop that?’” Dexter recalled. “We took the entire second half of her sophomore year and through summer and developed that. I think it gave her a lot of confidence that it was there.”
Brittany Neeley said the key was a shooting drill that focused on her form, where she has to make five shots in a row from different spots on the floor.
“It used to take so long and I used to get so mad,” she said. ‘I’d come home and get text messages from coach that it’ll be worth it.”
A spot on the wall is testament to that.
Against Madison-Grant, sister Bethany added 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Taylor Holiday added six points in the post, and reserve inside player Emily Richards added another six.
Bethani Herniak led Madison-Grant (1-6) with nine points, and tied for the team lead with six boards, sharing the honor with teammate Rose Perry.