PRICEVILLE — How much did Brewer High’s Rheagan Harvel want to beat Danville for the Morgan County girls basketball tournament title Saturday?
Consider a moment in the second half as the Lady Patriots’ defense forced a loose ball. Tracking the ball like a beagle does a rabbit, Harvel rushed by her defender, ran around an official, and with her brown ponytail flying behind her, she lunged for the ball as it rolled toward the Brewer bench. Instead of getting it, however, she wound up seated in the lap of Patriots assistant coach Ron Smith.
She wore an embarrassed smile and remained there for just a moment before Smith simply picked up the 5-foot-4 senior and plopped her into the seat next to him.
“That’s the first time that’s ever happened,” Harvel said with a smile afterward.
It marked about the only time she or her teammates rested. Of course, by then, Brewer had the game won. Ranked No. 1 in Class 5A and defending county and state champions, the Patriots led by 19 after one quarter and 28 at halftime as they rolled to a 65-28 win over Class 3A Danville.
“This was our chance for redemption,” Harvel said, explaining why she and her teammates worked so hard to win.
When Harvel was in eighth grade at Union Hill, she and current Brewer teammates Riley Northway and Savana Flack were unbeaten before losing to Danville in the Morgan County finals. Danville scored another big win two years ago when Harvel was injured and the Hawks beat Brewer in the county girls varsity finals.
Brewer’s two other starters — Cheyenne McLemore and Malerie Drinkard — said they were part of a team at Eva Middle School that lost to Danville as well.
For Brewer coach Ricky Allen, however, redemption for past losses wasn’t on his mind. Instead, he worried if Danville came out hot from 3-point range, his heavily favored team could wind up with a loss. He urged his team to remain focused on offense, especially early. Brewer wound up scoring on its first five possessions and led by 11 four minutes into the game. The lead never dipped below that.
“The main thing is Danville shoots 3’s by the dozen,” he said. “They create their offense by getting tremendous pressure with their defense. If they feel good on defense, they feel good on offense.”
Afterward, Danville coach Paul Wilson sought out Harvel, drawing a big grin from the Brewer guard by telling her how pleased he was she played this time but wouldn’t have minded if she hadn’t been out there.
“Brewer was very relaxed, very confident and very focused,” Wilson said. “We knew if they were, it was going to be very hard on us. Last year, three of my starters were playing in the middle school tournament, while five of their starters were playing in the state finals in 5A.”
Perhaps the most satisfying moment of the night for Brewer came after the game. As the all-Morgan County team was introduced, all five of the Patriots’ starters made the squad — Northway, Harvel, Flack, Drinkard and McLemore.
Afterward in the locker room, Allen told his squad how pleased he was to have five make all-county.
“They all deserved to make it,” Allen said. “This group is as finely tuned as any five I’ve ever had.”
Sophomore forward Malerie Drinkard figured she wouldn’t make the squad because she is Brewer’s youngest starter. Imagine her thoughts when she heard her name.
“I was shocked,” she said. “We had four last year when we won it. So I was thinking it would be four this year. I was just happy for everybody who made it.”
Added McLemore, her friend and teammate: “It was well-deserved.”
Northway, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the finals, won the county most valuable player award. Drinkard had 15 points and six rebounds. Emily Oden and McLemore each had nine points, and Harvel finished with five points, four steals and four assists.
Flack played only one quarter as she hurt her knee. Allen said it appeared she twisted it, and afterward, the junior was walking around the court with barely a slight limp.
Contact Mark Edwards at email@example.com or 256-340-2461.