On the mark: Everett’s Phipps finally gets shot at states

The bow is one of Aubrea Phipps’ true passions.

“My dad always has been a really big archery hunter since he was a teenager. One day, I saw him shooting a bow, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty neat. What is that?’ I think I was in fifth grade. This was great,” Phipps said. “He said, ‘You can try it,’ and he bought me one of those play bows at Wal-Mart. I was shooting around, and I got into it.”

By then, though, Phipps already loved basketball and established herself as a promising upcoming prospect by playing on an AAU team with older girls a couple of years earlier.

Now, with her high school career – and possibly her athletic career – winding down, Phipps is taking aim at one of the few targets that has eluded her: a PIAA postseason win.

“It feels great. The team hasn’t been in this position for, what, 10 years. We just want to go out there and play our best and show everyone that we can make it, that we can win,” said Phipps, a 5-foot-10 swing player who leads the District 5 champion Everett Lady Warriors into Friday night’s Class AA interdistrict playoff opener against Mohawk of the WPIAL at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

The Lady Warriors are one of 10 teams from the Mirror coverage area still in the running for state championships. Five play on Friday and five on Saturday.

Everett coach Keith Moyer said it’s a fitting way to wrap up one of the most accomplished careers in a program with a pretty strong tradition. Phipps heads into this weekend with 1,350 points over four seasons as a starter that include an Inter-County Conference title and a trip to the PIAA play-in round as a freshman. Phipps is more than a scorer – she can handle the ball like a guard and has averaged double-figure rebounds twice.

“She’s the type of kid that you want to have on the team,” Moyer said. “She works hard. She never complains. She wants to win. It’s a good combination to have as a coach who wants to put a good product on the floor.”

Phipps’ senior campaign has been a testimonial for that attitude.

Phipps is averaging a team-best 14.9 points per game to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 20 blocked shots, and she’s gotten to the foul line more than 130 times for the third straight season. Those numbers, though, pale in comparison to her junior year, when she collected 18.1 points and 11.4 rebounds and made 99 of 146 free throws.

Everett entered the season with some pretty lofty expectations, as did Phipps, but both of those seemed endangered when she reaggravated an ankle injury in the second game, forcing her to miss almost two weeks. Phipps came back and played through the pain, but she said she’s only been 100 percent for about the last two weeks.

“It was really depressing. It was tough sitting out and watching my team play without me,” Phipps said of the injury. “Instead of driving, I would settle for jumpers. I would pass it more. I think it did make me better. Physical therapy made me better. And I think my teammates saw how good they were without me, and that made us a stronger team.”

The Lady Warriors went 5-3 after Phipps’ return. Then Everett turned things around, going on an eight-game winning streak that included victories over Tussey Mountain and Southern Fulton.

“When you have a three-year, a four-year starter coming out hurt, and you don’t have anybody [to step in], everybody just has to kind of step it up and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to fill in this role,'” said Phipps’ friend and teammate Bailey Morral, a guard who is the team’s second-leading scorer. “It was nice that everyone stepped up, but it also was nice to have her back so everyone could go back to normal.”

“Normal” isn’t a word Phipps’ friends use to describe her a lot of the time.

“If you know her like me and [fellow senior] Laura [DuVall] do, she’s really goofy. You wouldn’t think that on the basketball court, where she’s really serious,” Morral said. “She’s very random. If you didn’t know her, you’d think it was two different people. It’s funny to see how crazy and hilarious she is compared to how serious on the court she is.”

Phipps also is very serious when she has a bow in her hand. Since she began hunting at the age of 12, she’s bagged a doe and two bucks.

“Oh, my goodness. She’s crazy about hunting,” said DuVall, who has lived across the street from Phipps since they were 4.”In hunting season, she’s always with her dad at their camp or she’s out back. I’ve watched her shooting at targets. She’s really good.”

Phipps laughed when asked about any dreams she might have to take over for Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” series, but she’s very focused on taking her best shot in the basketball playoffs. Phipps is considering playing college basketball at UPJ or Juniata, but she also might stop playing competitively and just concentrate on medical school.

“It’s a mixture between anxious and sad, because, if we lose, this could be my last game ever,” Phipps said. “At the same time, you have to work hard every practice and stay focused, so, when it’s game time, you can practice what you play.”