Brandwine assistants provide perspective
Nicole Newman knows the tradition of Brandywine girls basketball as a player and is now helping the Lady Cats as an assistant coach.
Kaitlyn Koster is learning about the program in her first year as a BHS physical education teacher and hardwood assistant.
Both lend their perspective as Brandywine rolls through another successful regular season and hopes for a deep run in the MHSAA Class C playoffs.
“The girls have a lot of heart,” Newman, a 2010 BHS graduate and former Cats point guard, said Tuesday, Feb. 16, the night Brandywine extended its home win streak to 78 with a come-from-behind 52-47 triumph against Class A St. Joseph.
Newman, a nursing student a Lake Michigan College, notes that the Cats’ seven seniors — forward Makenna Hartline and guards Michaela Hartline, Alyssa Bolen, Emily Erwin and Jaleesa Garner as starters and Libby Moody and Rachael Szilagyi off the bench — have played together since early in grade school.
“That drives them, being together for their senior year,” Newman said. “They are driven to play the best that they can.”
Newman’s responsibilities on a coaching staff led by Josh Hood and also featuring Kalie Wieger and Patrick Touhey are keeping track of Brandywine’s substitution patterns and just generally seeing to the girls’ needs.
As a former Brandywine point guard, Newman identifies with the girl now holding that role — the 5-foot-5 Garner.
“Jaleesa is a good leader,” Newman said. “I tell her to be positive. You will have errors and turnovers, but that can’t bring you down. When you are the leader, you have to stay up.”
Garner, despite hurting her neck and going to the bench for nearly two minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter Tuesday, tallied 17 points.
“They do a phenomenal job of hedging out,” Hood said of St. Joe defenders. “They are so big and strong and physical that it makes it tough sledding inside.
“Jaleesa Garner kept us afloat when we were struggling offensively. That’s probably her best game in a Brandywine uniform in terms of grinding it out and getting to the rim against some really big girls inside.”
Koster is a 2008 graduate of Bartlett High School in the northeast suburbs of Chicago. She lends encouragement to the Cats and passes along knowledge she gained as a point guard for the Bartlett Hawks.
“I’m kind of in the background,” Koster. “I’m learning as I go. I’ll put my two cents in if I see something the girls can do better.
“I’ve only been here for a year and I can already see that this is a very special group of girls. They always have each others’ backs. If someone’s down, someone else is there trying to pick them up. They are very encouraging with one another and they work very hard.”
Brandywine hustled its way from a 33-25 second-half deficit to beat the Bears. Erwin’s fifth 3-pointer of the night helped Brandywine take a 38-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
St. Joseph made things tough on the Cats much of the night with their strong help-side defense.
“On Saturday, we basically got what we wanted on offense (against Lakeshore),” Hood said. “(St. Joseph) coach (Paul) Brohman did a great job of scouting us and he was prepared for everything we were going to run.”
Brohman knew what his young squad was up against.
“I was proud of how our girls were able to handle this great situation,” Brohman said. “I’m just frustrated at the outcome.”
Erwin finished with 19 points.
Hood noted that Erwin made most of her shots with the hands of Bear Anna Fischer in her face.
“For Emily to knock those down in this atmosphere is big,” Hood said.
Shelby Madison paced St. Joseph with 11 points. Three Bears — Fischer, Katie Algyre and Lyndsay White — netted nine points apiece.
Both teams are in action again Friday Brandywine visits Parchment while St. Joseph goes to Niles.