Return of Faith Carson, stifling defense lift Buchanan to district crown

Published 12:49 am Saturday, March 5, 2022

WATERVLIET — All it took was a little defense — and a lot of Faith.

Sparked by the return of 6-foot-4 junior center Faith Carson and lockdown team defense, the Buchanan girls basketball earned its second consecutive district title on Friday, defeating Watervliet 44-30 on the Panthers’ home court.

After missing nearly the entire season with an ankle injury, Carson posted 15 points and 10 rebounds, including 10 points in the fourth quarter. She also went 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the final frame to help seal the victory.

“It feels amazing, honestly,” she said. “I didn’t expect to come back this soon.”

Many of Carson’s fourth-quarter points came in transition thanks to the Bucks’ disruptive defense and Carson’s ability to run the floor.

“We pulled her off the court. She said she felt great,” said Buchanan coach Gabe Miller, of Carson’s performance. “She said her wind was good, the tempo of the game was a little better. That benefitted her being able to stay in the game.”

Miller said Carson’s presence in the paint impacted Watervliet’s offense by allowing Hailey Jonatzke, Hannah Herman and Jillian McKean to put more pressure on Watervliet’s perimeter players.

“Hailey did a great job on [Grace] Chisek,” Miller said. “Hannah, that’s who she is. Hannah’s got some focus and drive and has come a long way as a player. Being able to put her and Jillian out there on two quality guards when they’re dialed in, they make your life tough.”

The Bucks outrebounded the Panthers 37-28, and held them to their lowest point total of the season. Watervliet’s previous low this season was 46 points.

“As any coach, when you execute your game plan, you feel really good about it,” Miller said. “Sometimes the girls get a little frustrated with me because I know how much talent is in this gym. Even when Faith went down, I know how good we are when we do the little things.”

LaBria Austin contributed with 11 points and five rebounds for the Bucks, including five free throws in the first half. Alexa Burns had four points and eight rebounds, while Alyssa Carson had four points and seven rebounds. Maddie Flowers led Watervliet (19-3) with 12 points, while Sam Dietz had nine.

After last season’s regional semifinal loss, Buchanan made its schedule tougher in an effort to get back to regionals and beyond.

“Even when [Faith] went down, I told the girls ‘our goals for the season don’t change,’ Miller said. “It’s been a great year, and today things clicked. It’s a great win over a great team, and I’m proud to be a Buck.”

The Bucks (18-5) take on Bronson in the regional semifinal on March 8 at Hartford High School.