Brandywine looking for postseason success

Published 9:52 am Friday, February 22, 2019

NILES — No one should be surprised by the fact that the Brandywine boys basketball team is 17-1 this season and BCS Athletic Conference Red Division champions.

After all, the Bobcats have been one of the top teams in the area for the past four years.

And while a division title and a gaudy record are nice, veteran Brandywine coach Nathan Knapp and his team want to excel in the post season.

After winning a Class C district championship in 2016, Brandywine lost to Bridgman in the district semifinals in 2017 and was defeated by Cassopolis in the district championship game last season.

With most of his players back from last season, Knapp said the expectations were high entering the season, and despite a slow start, the team has lived up to those heading into Friday night’s regular season finals against Parchment.

“The kids have worked hard,” Knapp said prior to his team’s 77-54 win over River Valley Wednesday night. “Still, we haven’t had that big game from Jaden (Croom) yet. He has been there for us, but he has not been that dominant force yet. Hopefully that is yet to come. Abrams (Jordan) was hot, but cooled off a bit. Shane (Brown) is starting to step up and Briggs (Jaelin) hasn’t had his breakout game yet. So, we are just waiting for those things to happen. But we play good defense, and that is the biggest thing.”

Knapp said the Bobcats’ biggest asset is being able to get out and run in transition, which is triggered by their defense.

“The kids play really hard defensively,” he said. “There are three or four kids on this team that could go to any other school and score 20 or 30 points a night. But they have bought into what we are trying to do. I asked them at the beginning of the season if they wanted to buy in or be selfish? Every kid in that locker room was about winning.”

Brandywine won its first seven games of the season, including a 61-57 overtime win over Comstock in mid-December.

Then came the lone loss of the season, a 79-75 setback at the hands of a talented Coloma group.

Since that time, the Bobcats have rolled off 10 consecutive victories.

One thing that plays into the Bobcats’ favor as the district tournament begins Monday is the fact that they are hosting.

One thing that scares Knapp more than anything else is that his team drew Bridgman for the opener at 7:30 p.m.

“I know they are going to try and slow it down,” Knapp said. “Coach (Mike) Miller does a great job and he will have his team ready.”

Knapp said that if his team is going to capture the district, in which it is the favorite to do so, it will have to continue to do the things that have gotten to this point.

“I told the kids, we have been great defensively,” he said. “Even in districts, once you get to the second or third round game, you are going to have to rely on your defense, but you are not going to be able to get as many turnovers as you are used to getting. Teams are going to be more disciplined and they are going to handle the pressure better.”

Knapp said that if they get past Bridgman, Eau Claire, with its new coach, will be waiting in the semifinals. He feels that Hartford is the team to beat in the other half of the bracket.

“I think we can get there (the finals), but we are only taking it one game at a time. We will worry about those other teams if we beat Bridgman.”

Bridgman and Brandywine will play at 7:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to face the Beavers at 7:30 Wednesday night.

Division 2 at Stevensville

Buchanan drew Berrien Springs for the first game of the district at Lakeshore High School Monday night.

The Shamrocks and Bucks will tipoff at 5:30 p.m. The winner advances to the 7:30 p.m. semifinal game against defending Division 2 state champion Benton Harbor.

The championship game is set for 7 p.m. next Friday.

Division 2 at Dowagiac

Dowagiac is hosting the Division 2 district, which will include Edwardsburg and Niles.

Five of the six teams are from the Wolverine Conference, so they will be very familiar with each other having already played two games this season.

The Vikings are the odd team out. Niles has played Dowagiac and Edwardsburg this season, losing to both squads.

Vicksburg and Edwardsburg will kick off the tournament at 5 p.m. with Dowagiac facing Three Rivers at 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs-Eddies winner will face Paw Paw in the 5 p.m. semifinal on Wednesday, while the Dowagiac-Three Rivers winner will face Niles at 7 p.m.

The championship game is set for 7 p.m. next Friday.