Emotional Brandywine ends Buchanan’s winning streak

Published 11:13 am Friday, January 14, 2022

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NILES — Sophomore point guard Ellie Knapp, of Brandywine, is not one to show much emotion on the court. She plays with plenty of it, but it rarely spills out into plain view.

When the host No. 9-ranked Bobcats began to take charge of their BCS Athletic Conference Red Division girls basketball game against arch rival, No. 4-ranked Buchanan, in the third quarter, Knapp could no longer contain herself.

Knapp scored a career-high 29 points to lead Brandywine to a 53-47 win over the Bucks, who entered the contest with a 9-0 record. She scored 21 of those points in the final 16 minutes of the contest as the Bobcats turned a 28-25 lead midway through the third quarter into a 43-31 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.

“In a big game, like Buchanan, it just brings out everything,” Knapp said. “I always want to play with emotion, but with Buchanan, it is the best feeling. You just want to scream and let everything out. It is so fun.”

Both coaches knew coming into the contest that Knapp was the key.

“We didn’t do what we said we had to do to win the game,” said Buchanan Coach Gabe Miller. “Obviously, we didn’t do a good job of slowing Ellie down. We didn’t win the rebound battle (Brandywine 36-31), and they beat us to a lot of the 50-50 balls. Our communication on defense was bad. Ellie just took over the game. We had a hard time limiting her penetration. We knew the play, but when they ran the play, they ran it well enough that we couldn’t stop it. And we couldn’t get the ball out of her hands.”

Brandywine Coach Josh Hood not only counted on Knapp to run the offense and fill up the box score, he decided to let her have the challenge of guarding the Bucks’ best player — LaBria Austin. Knapp and the rest of the Bobcats held Austin to nine points. She entered the game averaging nearly 11 points per game.

“Austin is one of their keys,” Hood said. “She can score and go to the rim. Leading up to the game in our preparations, we did not have Ellie on her. But I called Ellie as we were getting to the gym tonight and told her, ‘I think I’ve changed my mind. I think you need to guard LaBria.’ And she said, ‘Thank you, coach,’ and took it as a challenge. Austin is a phenomenal player and is very athletic, but I thought, between Ellie and our collective group, we did a good job of defending her.”

Knapp said she was up to the challenge.

“At first, I was going to guard No. 4 Hailey [Jonatzke],” she said. “But LaBria was the leading scorer, and I definitely wanted to. I mean, who wouldn’t want to guard the other team’s best player. That way, I am in more control of the game, and I like that.”

Buchanan (9-1, 2-1 BCS Red Division) got off to a quick start behind the play of senior Alexa Burns, who scored 12 points in the first half, but was held scoreless in the final 16 minutes of play.

“She [Burns] in the first half looked like a really bad coach,” Hood said. “Part of the game plan, because it is hard to defend two ‘bigs’ with 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-6, so we were going to let her shoot from the perimeter so we could guard the other Carson [Alyssa] in the block. Then she went ahead and hit two threes. My kids were looking at me like, ‘great coaching there.’ That was on me.”

The Bucks tried to get back into the game midway through the fourth quarter as they cut the Bobcats’ lead to 47-43. Knapp made sure that Buchanan would get no closer as she hit a pull-up jumper and then went 4-of-6 from the free throw line in the final 1:39 finish the deal.

“If you see a better player, I’d like to see them,” Hood said. “She’s a sure-fire first-team All-Stater, and she led this team tonight. With Ellie you see a multi-faceted player. She got to the rim, hit threes and when we needed a jump shot in the fourth quarter, even though she had dead legs, she hit it. I’ve coached 12 All-Staters in 13 years, and they were all phenomenal at their craft, so this isn’t a slight to any of them. But Ellie is as good or better than any of the girls I’ve ever coached. You saw her battle for 32 minutes, handling the ball, doing all the scoring and even making some super passes to the other girls.”

Knapp got plenty of help from her teammates as sophomore Kadence Brumitt pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds, and freshman Miley Young chipped in with 10 points.

Besides Burns and Austin, Buchanan got nine points from Hannah Herman and eight points from Carson.

Buchanan continues to play without All-State center Faith Carson, who after a doctor’s visit on Tuesday, remains in a walking boot.

The Bobcats return to action Saturday night as they host Cassopolis in a non-conference game scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.