Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WINCHESTER — When Alexa Pennington touches the basketball, you make sure you’re watching. If not, you might miss what she does next.
Eastern Brown’s 6-foot-1 forward has an arsenal of tricks up her sleeve. She could score 20 points each night if she felt the need to do so. But she’d rather look for open teammates.
Over the past three seasons, Pennington has been the center of the Warriors’ success on the hardwood. As a sophomore, she helped lead the team to a 26-2 mark and a state semifinal appearance before the Warriors finished 20-5 and won a sectional title last season.
This year, Eastern Brown sits at 23-2 while Pennington, again, leads the charge. The senior is confident her Warriors are prepared for a lengthy tournament run.
“Honestly, I feel like we could go all the way, especially with our experience,” Pennington said. “We have a lot of experienced players. So I’m hoping we make it back to state. That would be a great end to my senior year. But that’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Hard work isn’t something Pennington is unfamiliar with.
There’s a reason she signed to play at Division I Eastern Kentucky in November 2018. After all the time, sweat and effort she’s put into basketball, the game returned the favor.
“I picked EKU because of the atmosphere there. The people there are really nice,” Pennington said. “The style they play is the style I fit into best. I know if I ever need anything, it’s a family atmosphere there. So I know I’ll be taken care of.”
The Colonels will be getting a player that now boasts of over 1,000 points and 700 rebounds in her high school career. Pennington broke the 1,000 point barrier on Jan. 21 before grabbing her 700th rebound on Feb. 16.
“It was pretty amazing,” Pennington said of her 1,000th. “Just knowing that I don’t normally score a lot each game, just going into that and getting it, it was such a weight off my shoulders. I have to thank my coaches and my team because without them, I don’t get the ball to do that.”
But scoring or rebounding isn’t Pennington’s favorite part about basketball.
In fact, any sense of actual gameplay doesn’t cut it. It’s the relationships that basketball has allowed Pennington to build off the court that makes the game so special.
“From playing AAU, ever since I was little, it’s everybody you meet playing the game,” Pennington said. “You meet so many people. I’m a people person so it’s a great experience for me. Playing basketball teaches you character, leadership and teamwork. Even if you don’t like somebody, when you step on the court, that has to go away. But I love all my teammates.”
So, you can imagine what she’s looking forward to most when she steps foot on EKU’s campus.
“I’m looking forward to building relationships with my teammates. That’s something I’ll take out of college and never forget about,” Pennington said. “I have a friend and former teammate, Allison Day, who plays college basketball [at Loyola-Chicago] and she tells me that’s the one thing she’ll probably never forget about, the friends she’s made and her teammates.”
The relationship that Pennington has built with Eastern Brown coach Kevin Pickerill has, in her opinion, gotten her to where she is now.
Pickerill’s coaching style is intense. But his style meshes with Pennington’s personality perfectly.
“I’m not dissing on all my other coaches in the past because they’ve all, obviously, helped me along my journey,” Pennington said. “But honestly, Kevin is a great coach and I love him to death. He’s a great coach and I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without him. That’s one of the reasons why I moved to Eastern. It was because of him. I knew he was going to push me past my comfort zone to get me to where I needed to be.”
Pickerill and Pennington’s top-seeded Warriors will be back in action on Feb. 23, facing South Point in a Division III district semifinal at Waverly’s Downtown Gym.
Pennington says the key to winning is a simple one.
“We just have to play as a team,” Pennington said. “We’re pretty close off the court, too, and we work well together when we’re playing. We want to keep playing as long as we possibly can.”