LAKELAND — Like great players regularly do, Brittany Brown took ownership of Choctaw’s 50-49 6A champion loss to defending champion Edgewater on Saturday.
The 4-of-18 shooting effort, the eight missed threes, the lack of free throw trips, the four turnovers and the last-second foul that sent Nyala Shuler to the line for the game-winning free throw all weighed heavily on the 5-foot-9 point guard, who sat arms crossed and head down in the postgame news conference.
Disregard Choctaw’s ball security issues down the stretch, the lack of urgency to force fouls and get to the lines (attempted three free throws to Edgewater’s 15) and the rebounding differential on the offensive glass (15-4 in favor of the Fightin’ Eagles). Forget the fact that Nyala Shuler and Trimaine McCullough gouged the Indians for 17 points each. Those weren’t the reasons why the Indians had lost. To the two-time Northwest Florida Daily News Player of the Year Florida State signee, the go-to force behind Choctaw’s 31-0 season entering Saturday night, she only needed a mirror to view the culprit.
Entering the game averaging nearly 19 points, 5 rebounds, five assists and six steals a game, her stat line of ten points, five rebounds and five assists
Saturday just didn’t cut it in her eyes.
“My teammates stepped up tonight, but I didn’t,” she said. “They played their heart out this who entire game and they were dependent on me and I didn’t come through.”
Yes, Lauren Day delivered a double-double of 14 points and 12 boards. Yes, Brittany Washington combined to shoot 8 of 12 for 19 points. And yes, her teammates shot a collective 18 for 31.
But as stated above, there were several factors that played roles in the loss.
But when you’re a nightly threat for a triple-double, the expectations can be lofty. And no one knows that more than Brown, who couldn’t even flash a smile over her 30-foot buzzer beater at the end of regulation to force overtime.
Quick to come to her defense in the postgame conference was her coach and father, Don Brown.
“She’s done a lot for us this year,” he said. “Those 31 games, she’s done tremendous. She’s beating herself up over it because things didn’t go her way this game. It’s a hard pill for her to swallow.”
And that makes sense considering the season — and more specifically state tournament run — she’s put up.
Averaging more than 27 points in the state tournament entering Saturday, the senior had posted point totals of 24, 39, 22 and 26 against four ranked opponents. That included three straight double-digit efforts in the fourth quarter, including a buzzer beater against Pine Forest to give her 20 for the final frame and extend Choctaw’s season.
But on Saturday, she couldn’t put the team on her back like she had done time and time again. Instead it was the team picking her up.
And on this stage, the biggest game in the history of the Indians program, her biggest critic was herself.