Division 3 District preview: Field at Coloma filled with talented teams

Published 11:18 am Sunday, February 26, 2023

BUCHANAN — One of the toughest girls basketball districts in the entire state of Michigan kicks off Monday at Coloma High School.

The four teams competing for the Division 3 District championship that have played a complete varsity schedule this season — Brandywine, Bridgman, Buchanan and Cassopolis — are a combined 71-13.

The host Comets played only a partial varsity schedule.

Buchanan will enter the tournament as the favorite as the No. 3-ranked Bucks are 19-1 and boast a lineup that includes Miss Michigan Basketball finalist Faith Carson.

Buchanan is the defending district champion. The Bucks are looking to win their third consecutive title, having also won the Division 2 crown in 2021. There was no state tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The 6-foot-4 Carson, who has committed to Ohio State University, is averaging 19.3 points per game, 11.4 rebounds and 6.21 blocks.

Carson has plenty of help as LaBria Austin is averaging 11 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.78 steals per game, while Alyssa Carson, Faith’s sister, is averaging 9 points, 5,9 rebounds and 1.75 steals a contest.

Hannah Tompkins is the Bucks’ reserve as she comes off the bench averaging 5.7 points and 2.4 rebounds.

Buchanan’s lone loss of the year came in the season-opener when the Bucks were defeated by No. 7-ranked (Division 2) Vicksburg 47-42.

The Bucks also loaded up their schedule with the likes of Brandywine, which they swept for the Lakeland Conference championship, along with Division 3 powers Watervliet and Bronson. In preparation for the state tournament, Buchanan also competed against Division 2 teams Benton Harbor, Edwardsburg, Lakeshore and Paw Paw.

Veteran Buchanan Coach Gabe Miller knows despite the lofty ranking and impressive regular-season record; it will not be easy hoisting the district trophy at the end of the week.

How will the Bucks do that?

“We keep talking about communication, execution, and effort,” he said. “Our success I believe, starts on the defensive end. If we are communicating on defense, matching up in transition and limiting the opposition to one shot, we should be given ourselves a good chance to compete. On the offensive end, we want to take advantage of transition opportunities when they arise, but at the same time, be patient on offense and make sure we are getting quality looks at the basket. Like I told the ladies, we’re at the point of the year where we will play nothing but quality teams.”

Buchanan will take on the winner of Monday night’s district opener between Bridgman (16-4) and Cassopolis (16-6).

Miller knows his squad cannot afford to lost past the Bees or the Rangers to a potential third meeting with arch rival Brandywine in the championship game Friday night.

“We will play the winner of Bridgman and Cass, who both are 15-win teams, and have athletes and contrasting styles we will have to prepare for,” he said. “Then, if we get by those teams, obviously, we anticipate meeting Brandywine in the district final. Brandywine is coached as well as anyone; and has an all-state guard in Ellie Knapp that can do so much on the offensive and defensive end. Then you have an all-conference player in Kadence Brummit, who does so much for them both defensively and on the offensive boards.

“Finally, you look at their sophomores; although young, they are all major two-year contributors and are experienced and seasoned. When you look at them as whole, they are a very complete team that will provide a very big challenge for us.”

The Bobcats come into the district at 20-2. The 20-win season is Brandywine’s 11th in Hood’s 14 years of coaching the team. The Bobcats are seeking their first district championship since 2020.

Brandywine is finally getting healthy after battling a season full of injuries.

The Bobcats began the year without Knapp, who had off-season knee surgery. She returned to the lineup in late January, but It has not been until the last three weeks she has started to look like her old self after having ditched the knee brace.

She will enter the postseason averaging 15.6 points and 4.5 steals per game. Adeline Gill is averaging 12.1 points per game for the Bobcats, while Brumitt is averaging 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Adelyn Drotoz averages 7.5 points per contest.

Despite the challenges it faced, Hood has been impressed with what his team has done.

“We had an excellent season while battling a ton of unfortunate injuries throughout,” he said. “A lot of girls stepped up on our young team that includes only one senior and three juniors. We played the fifth toughest schedule in the state according to our MPR ranking and beat four conference champions during the season.”

In other to get to the title game and have a shot at knocking off the Bucks, Hood said his team must play well at both ends of the court.

“We need to defend well and shoot the three at a high level,” he said. “It’s no secret that the district title goes through top 3 in the state Buchanan.”

Cassopolis much shake off the disappointment of not winning the Southwest 10 Conference championship last Thursday night in Bloomingdale.

The Rangers, who won the Southwest 10 South Division with an undefeated record, were upset by the host Cardinals. Head Coach Stefon Luckey will need to get his team refocused to face a strong Bridgman squad Monday night.

“The key to winning our district is focusing on one game at a time and executing on both ends of the floor even when a team goes in a run,” he said. “I believe our key games this year, win or lose, were our out-of-conference games. Each team attacked us with something as a team that we needed to work on.”

Cassopolis is led by Atyanna Alford, who is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game.