No. 4-ranked Bucks beat Bobcats for Lakeland title

Published 1:53 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

NILES — Longtime rivals Brandywine and Buchanan have been slugging it out for a conference championship, no matter what the name of that league may be, for the last 10 years.

The Bobcats and Bucks renewed their rivalry Thursday night, this time in the Lakeland Conference, with first place hanging in the balance.

The Bucks, ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press poll, brought a one-game lead in the loss column over the host Bobcats, who are an honorable mention selection in Division 3.

When the smoke cleared in the Bobcat Den Thursday night, Buchanan claimed the Lakeland Conference championship as it completed a sweep of Brandywine with a 52-41 victory that was not as close as the final score might indicate.

The Bucks won the first meeting in Buchanan 49-45 in overtime.

The win improved Buchanan to 7-0 in conference play and 14-1 overall. The Bucks’ lone loss came at the hands of No. 8-ranked Vicksburg (Division 2) in the season opener. The Bobcats fall to 4-2 in league games and 11-2 overall.

Buchanan got off to a great start behind the play of 6-foot-4 senior center Faith Carson, who dominated on the block and inside the paint. Carson, who will play at Ohio State University next season, scored six of her game-high 18 points in the opening quarter as the Bucks took a 14-6 lead. Carson would finish the night with 11 rebounds, five blocks and a pair of steals.

Brandywine struggled throughout the contest shooting the ball, while it also failed to create turnovers with its pressure defense, which usually leads to easy baskets for the Bobcats.

Buchanan would score the first seven points of the second quarter to extend its lead to 21-6 before Brandywine’s Miley Young hit a 3-pointer with 4:35 remaining in the first half to stop the bleeding.

The Bucks, who led by as many as 18 points in the first meeting before the Bobcats came roaring back in the second half, led 28-13 at the intermission.

“I don’t know, that last minute was kind of hectic,” answered Buchanan Coach Gabe Miller when asked when he felt comfortable that his team was going to win. “This is my 10th year doing this. They are always close games. They [Brandywine] never quit.”

In his team’s battles with Brandywine Coach Josh Hood’s Bobcats, Miller said that no matter the score, Brandywine finds a way to push you until the end.

“The way they shoot the ball, if you don’t get back in transition, which I thought we got a little loose there in the last few minutes, they will crash the boards, and if they hit two or three 3-pointers they are right back in it. We really didn’t have a big enough lead where I felt comfortable, but we were playing well and I am really proud of the effort my girls gave today.”

Unlike the first meeting, there was no huge comeback for Brandywine. In the third quarter, the Bucks built a 22-point lead (39-17).

Buchanan then came out and held the basketball to start the fourth quarter, which shortened the game and cut down on the number of possessions Brandywine would have in the final eight minutes.

“Coach Miller and his team deserve all the credit for coming into our gym and dominating in every facet of the game,” Hood said. “We were out coached, out hustled, and in simple terms, got our tails kicked. We have a lot of work to do to get ready for the postseason, and will continue working hard each day to better prepare ourselves for these types of games. Congrats to Buchanan on a conference championship.”

The Bucks and Bobcats could meet for a third time this season in the Division 3 District Tournament, which is being hosted by Coloma.

The current power rankings have Buchanan No. 1 at 0.724, Brandywine No. 2 at 0.600 and Cassopolis No. 3 at 0.533.

Besides Carson, the Bucks got nine points from her sister Alyssa Carson and six points from Jillian McKean and Hannah Tompkins.

Kadence Brumitt led the Bobcats with 17 points, while Adelyn Drotoz added nine and Adeline Gill six. Buchanan held all-state point guard Ellie Knapp to two points on just five shots.

Buchanan is back on the court Monday as it hosts Lakeshore in a non-conference contest. Brandywine will hit the road on Tuesday to face Schoolcraft in a non-league game.