WILLIAMSBURG — A late-season ankle injury and a global pandemic could only delay the inevitable so long.
Saturday was finally the day for Brayden Sipple.
Playing his father’s alma mater, Williamsburg, in front of family and friends and what community members were allowed into Williamsburg High School, Sipple etched his name in Clinton County basketball history in the most Sipple-like way possible.
The Blanchester senior made two free throws with 4:39 left in the third quarter Saturday afternoon which first tied, and then surpassed Jarron Cumberland’s Clinton County record 2,408 career points.
The game was paused so BHS athletic director Brad Ballinger could present Sipple with a plaque commemorating the milestone. He took the plaque to his dad, Rob, while his mom, Jennifer got the game ball.
For Sipple to pass someone that he watched growing up made the moment even more special.
“It means a lot,” Sipple said. “Watching Cumberland through high school and his four years at UC, living only 25 or 30 minutes down the road, growing up knowing him, it means a lot.”
Sipple, who has made more free throws than all but five high school basketball players in OHSAA history, finished with a game-high 28 points in Blanchester’s thrilling 58-57 victory over Williamsburg.
It certainly hasn’t been easy down the stretch. Teams have double- and triple-teamed Sipple regardless of the score. Games have been postponed due to COVID and winter weather.
Then, Sipple was injured early in the first quarter of the Jan. 30 game against Williamsburg at BHS. He missed two weeks before returning against Gamble Montessori on Friday. Sources put his health at “about 70 percent” for Friday’s game, and there was a real concern with him playing twice in less than 24 hours.
Yet there was the BHS senior both setting records and helping rally his team from an 11-point deficit with four minutes remaining to keep Blanchester’s slim league title hopes alive.
“Carrie (Ottopal), our trainer, did everything to get me back,” Sipple said. “To grab another league win was good for us.”
Sipple is one of six seniors on this Blanchester squad, and to be able to finish the journey with those seniors added special meaning to a basketball season that has been anything but normal.
“The experience has been fantastic,” Sipple said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since sixth grade. To get to play our last year of high school basketball means a lot. (BHS head coach Adam) Weber has done a great job with all of us this year, especially through COVID and all the craziness.”
Weber has enjoyed the ride with his senior star. Whether it’s coaching Sipple for four seasons or going with him to college visits before his commitment to Cedarville University, the experience is one that Weber won’t ever forget.
“I’m so happy for him, his teammates, his family, the community that has rallied around him and the teams he’s had and the players that get to say they were a teammate for a year, or two, or three,” Weber said. “It’s such an accomplishment that’s been a lot of hard work coming.”
His dad’s alma mater has had a front-row seat for Sipple’s biggest moments. His 1,000th point, his school record-breaking point, and now the county record-breaking points were at Williamsburg’s expense.
It was fitting for a family with so many ties to Williamsburg.
“A lot of them are from Williamsburg so a lot of them got to come to see it happen,” Sipple said. “I was happy that they could all be here.”
It came as no surprise that the record was broken at the charity stripe. Sipple has made 606 career free throws. He is two made free throws behind Bellaire’s Nate Davis for fifth all-time in Ohio boys basketball history. Franklin’s Luke Kennard is first all-time with 760.
With the Clinton County scoring record now in his possession, the only remaining question is how high Sipple finishes on the OHSAA all-time boys basketball scoring list.
He passed two locals on Saturday — Wilmington’s Jarron Cumberland and former McClain star Dante Jackson. Sipple is 14th all-time with 2,425 points. Next on the list is West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, who amassed 2,438 points at Bowerston Conotton Valley and Gnadenhutten Indian Valley.
While he wished that his final high school basketball games could be played in standing-room-only gymnasiums like last season, COVID safety protocols have prevented that from happening.
Nevertheless, Sipple is grateful for all the support he and his teammates have received from the community, even if they can’t all be there in person this season.
“I just want to say thank you, because the Blanchester community has been outstanding with their support through my four years in high school,” Sipple said. “They packed the stands for three years — COVID wouldn’t allow it this year. Their support has been fantastic.”
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @MattSextonPxP.