Benton Harbor edges Brandywine; Bobcat girls rout Tigers

Published 9:12 am Sunday, February 19, 2023

NILES — In a hotly contested matchup of sixth-ranked teams, the Benton Harbor Tigers clawed their way back from a double-digit deficit to defeat the Brandywine Bobcats 58-56 on a last second basket at the buzzer in Lakeland Conference action on Friday night.

With the win, Benton Harbor claims the Lakeland Conference title outright.

A potential game of the year candidate in southwest Michigan, Brandywine (Division 3) led by as many as 10 points in the first and second quarters. However, Division 2’s Benton Harbor, which entered the contest on a three-game losing streak, was able to cut the Bobcats’ lead to single digits at the end of each frame.

Juniors Byran Linley, Jamier Palmer and Jaremiah Palmer did an excellent job in the first half slashing to the basket. A Linley 2-point bucket off a Brock Dye steal and assist gave the Bobcats a 16-6 lead. Brandywine (16-2, 6-2 Lakeland Conference) would increase its lead to 28-15, the biggest lead of the night, in the second quarter.

However, a Montell Hobbs 3-pointer would kick start a Tigers’ 9-2 run to close out the first half, leaving the Bobcats with just a 30-24 lead.

Benton Harbor (14-5, 8-0 Lakeland Conference), tied the game at 32-32 following a Hobbs lay-up, which forced Knapp to call a timeout.

The Bobcats would go on a 7-0 run spurred by a Linley 3-pointer. The Tigers managed to keep Brandywine close as they trailed 45-42 at the end of the third quarter. Linley finished with 12 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Hobbs would drain a 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 45-45.  He would finish with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

At the 2:43 mark of the fourth quarter, Brandywine led 55-50, but struggled to find the basket, which allowed Benton Harbor to take its first lead of the game with 1:15 left and the score 56-55.

Brandywine senior Michael Palmer was fouled driving to the basket with 13 seconds left. He would hit one of two free throws to tie the game, setting up Benton Harbor with what could be the last possession of the game.

The Bobcats struggled from the foul line, only going 7-for-19 on free throws.

“Free throws bit us a little bit,” said Brandywine Coach Nathan Knapp. “But I told the guys that I know they aren’t going to hit every free throw because we know you are exhausted and doing everything that we are asking you to do for 32 minutes.”

A frantic tangle under the Benton Harbor basket put the ball out of bounds with 0.7 remaining. Knapp tried to substitute Brad Covington in for height against the 6-foot-5 Brian Gillespie, but couldn’t make it in time. Damarien Bell would lob the ball up to Gillespie, who would complete the comeback at the buzzer. Gillespie led all scorers with 20 points on the night.

“I told the guys they left everything on the court,” Knapp said. “We had our opportunities. Last year we had the conference title, but were short in districts. I asked them which they would rather have, the conference or district title this year? We will continue to improve and get better.”

Brandywine will host struggling New Buffalo on Monday before heading to crosstown rival Niles on Wednesday.


Girls Basketball

All-state point guard Ellie Knapp led all scorers with 17 points and the Brandywine Bobcats dominated the Benton Harbor Tigers en route to a 63-26 victory in Lakeland Conference action on Friday night.

Benton Harbor (13-7, 4-4 Lakeland Conference) turned the ball over on its first six possessions and quickly found itself down 10-0 within the first three minutes. It didn’t help that the Tigers were without senior center Desrae Kyles, a Central Michigan University commit.

“She is a big deal,” said Brandywine Coach Josh Hood of Kyles. “It’s hard to match her man-to-man, especially with the other two good guards they (Benton Harbor) have. We weren’t sure if she was playing today, so I felt the girls did a good job playing at a high level.”

Sophomore Adeline Gill had eight points in the first quarter for Brandywine (18-2, 6-2 Lakeland Conference), who led 23-4 at the end of the first quarter. Gill finished with 13 points, four assists, two rebounds and a pair of steals.

Brandywine continued to pour on the pressure in the second quarter. Knapp scored nine of her 17 points in the second quarter, and by halftime the game was out of hand with the score 49-12.

Back from a knee injury in recent weeks, Knapp completed her night with seven assists, four steals and a rebound.

“Ellie is really coming into her own,” Hood said about Knapp’s recent performances. “She got rid of the brace a couple of weeks ago and since then she is scoring 18 or 19 points a night.”

Ireland Prenkert sank four 3-pointers on the way to 12 points for the game. Adelyn Drotoz also scored in double figures with 10 points.

“The one dynamic about this team is the girls can all score and shoot,” Hood commented. “That is something that we have never had. When we play at a high level, we can be one of the best teams we have ever had. That’s the message we send to the girls every day.”

With a running clock during the second half, every Bobcat saw the court.

“We’ve been notorious for not great starts over the past couple of weeks,” Hood said “I told the girls to commit to a fast start tonight as we did that. It has been rough stretch of games over the past couple of weeks, so our legs were a little iffy.”

The Bobcats will finish up their regular season as they travel to St. Joe on Tuesday night, followed up by Senior Night against River Valley on Thursday.