Division 3: Bucks survive Bronson upset bid

Published 2:07 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2023

CENTREVILLE — Rarely does a team make a long tournament run without at least one game that it has to gut it out and just survive.

For No. 1-ranked Buchanan, that game might have come soon than expected as the Bucks rallied from a double-digit first-half deficit to defeat Bronson 66-59 in the Division 3 Regional semifinals at Centreville High School Tuesday night.

The Bucks (22-1) already owned a 42-29 regular-season win over the Vikings, so Bronson had nothing to lose as it went for the upset.

The two are also no strangers to each other in the postseason, having met last year in the regional semifinal, in which Buchanan had to rally from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter on its way to a 45-37 victory over Bronson.

The third quarter proved pivotal again Tuesday night for the Bucks, who trailed 18-6 in the first quarter thanks to some red-hot outside shooting from the Vikings, including a pair of banked-in 3-pointers.

“Everything was working for them,” said Buchanan Coach Gabe Miller. “I think they banked four or five threes in. We know 30 and 12 are great players. We had to try something.”

That something was pressure defense, even though junior guard LaBria Austin was not 100 percent.

“We wanted to pressure them,” he said. “But she [Austin] wasn’t moving great early and we were hesitant to do that. We got a group that pressed well and caused some chaos. We chipped away at it. It was very similar to last year’s regional semifinal.”

Bronson (20-4) led 37-28 at halftime.

“We knew we did not start off well,” Miller said. “Execution-wise, we were giving up too much downhill penetration and then they hit shots. It just seemed like they made every shot. They had a balanced team effort and they played good defense. On offense, we rushed a little bit. We weren’t moving the ball side-to-side If you don’t execute well this time of year, you are going to find yourself in trouble. We were in trouble.”

Buchanan came out and scored the first 11 points of the second half to take it first lead of the night, 40-37, less than three minutes into the third quarter.

From there, it was a war as both teams tried to go for the knockout punch and take command of the contest. Neither team could get the job done.

Buchanan would take a 49-48 lead into the final eight minutes of the contest. Bronson refused to go away, thanks to the efforts of Haylie Wilson and Aubrey Calloway, who combined for 39 of the Vikings’ 59 points in the game.

The two teams continued to go back and forth, with neither squad being able to build any type of lead beyond a basket. With 1:27 remaining in the contest, the two teams were deadlocked at 59-59.

In its moment of need, Buchanan turned to its Miss Basketball candidate, senior Faith Carson, to carry the day.

Carson, an Ohio State University commit, was fouled with 1:15 showing on the clock and went to the free throw line, where she made one out of two shots to give the Bucks the lead for good, 60-59.

Carson was fouled again with 49.6 seconds remaining and returned to the line for another one-and-one opportunity. Carson made the first free throw, but missed the second. Buchanan was able to corral the rebound as it went from their tallest player [Carson] taking the shot to one of its shortest players, 5-foot-4 Hannah Herman, grabbing the rebound.

Herman got the ball to Austin, who was fouled with 43 ticks remaining on the clock. Austin knocked down both free throws to seal the victory as Bronson was unable to score in the final 75 seconds against the Bucks’ defense.

Carson turned in a career-high performance with 35 points. She also had 17 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. In Buchanan’s three tournament games, Carson is averaging 25 points, 17 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.

Austin finished with 18 points against the Vikings.

Wilson, the Concordia University commit, led Bronson with 20 points. Calloway added 19 points and Brealyn Lasky 11 points.

Buchanan will play for its first regional championship since 2011, taking on Kalamazoo Christian (22-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Centreville. The Comets advanced to the finals with a 60-51 win over Watervliet.