Brighton senior guard Noelle Ebel loves Howell sophomore guard Gabby Piepho.
That’s her girl. They’ve been tight since they first picked up a basketball in grade school. The families are tight and they all shared hugs after Howell and Brighton played another dramatic basketball game Friday night at Brighton High School.
Although they are close, business is business when the Bulldogs and Highlanders do battle. Ebel’s job is to shut down the high flying and high scoring Piepho every time they meet.
Ebel ran through every screen. She fought off picks and did her best to stay between Piepho and the basket every time she drove through the lane. They even joked around during games.
Ebel knocked Piepho to the floor. As Piepho jumped up to shoot free throws she quipped: “I see. You are trying to knock out the competition. Huh.”
The girls laughed during the heat of battle.
Let's be fair here. Ebel was wonderful but Piepho missed shots she usually makes in her sleep.
Ebel, a pass first point guard, only scored four points. But her main contribution to Brighton’s 42-35 victory over Howell was her stingy defense on Piepho who missed her first seven shots and didn’t score until nearly 2 ½ minutes into the third quarter.
Call it the Gabby rules as Ebel became the second coming of Bad Boys guard Joe Dumars.
After losing its first five games of the season Brighton (8-9 overall, 8-3 in the KLAA West) finds itself in an unlikely position after the win. The Bulldogs are tied for first in the league with Canton, which kept pace with a 48-38 win over Plymouth Salem. Howell (7-4 in the league) is one game back with three to play. But one of those games is a showdown game at Canton next Tuesday.
Brighton Coach Bob Wellman wanted to put another player on Piepho who has scored 30 points twice this season. Ebel talked him out of it because she knows Piepho better than most.
Piepho is no run of the mill basketball player. She is the top female in Livingston County and is used to sinking teams with her stellar three-point shooting and near perfect trips to the free throw line. She finished with 10 points.
While Piepho was busy trying to find her game, Brighton jumped out to 19-4 second quarter lead thanks to a killer 14-0 run. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to as many as 18 points (25-7) in the second quarter and the Highlanders looked sunk.
They bricked open shots and turned the ball over 16 times. They also struggled with Brighton’s Sophie Moir who scored 10 points, pounded the boards and made several key steals. She has accepted an offer to play at Kalamazoo College next season.
Although Brighton led big the Bulldogs were still on edge. It seems as if every Howell and Brighton game comes down to the final few minutes. This one did too as Howell outscored Brighton 21-2 in the third quarter to take a 28-27 lead into the fourth.
Junior guard Alison Farr played an aggressive game, scoring a game-high 17 points for Howell. But Howell’s offense sputtered and Brighton’s stifling man–to man defense and three quarters court pressure took over.
Genevieve Cox put Brighton ahead for good (29-28) early in the decisive fourth quarter. Brighton pulled away behind key buckets from Moir, Ebel and Grace Houck.
“Our energy was the biggest thing,” Ebel said. “As long as we have good energy we will win a lot of basketball games.”
Wellman also emphasized having fun during a fourth quarter time out.
“Get back to having fun and doing things you are doing well,” he said. “We came back and got some transition stuff. Those transition buckets were huge for us.”