Division 3: Buchanan wins first regional since 2001

Published 1:11 am Friday, March 10, 2023

CENTREVILLE — Buchanan basketball stars LaBria Austin and Faith Carson draw lot of attention from opponents.

But Austin and Carson are the first ones to tell you that Buchanan’s success is a full team effort.

Despite their modesty, it was the play of Austin and Carson that played an instrumental role as No.1-ranked Buchanan downed Kalamazoo Christian 70-47 in Thursday’s Division 3 regional championship game at Centreville.

Both Austin, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, and Faith Carson, a 6-4 senior center, scored 29 points each for Buchanan, which won its first regional title since 2001.

Buchanan (23-1) advances to face Hart (23-3) in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. at Bangor High School.

Hart knocked off defending state champion Kent City 37-34 Thursday to win the Shelby Regional.

“We’re blessed to be here,” said Buchanan Coach Gabe Miller. “Nothing is guaranteed and now we have to get ready for Tuesday. Kalamazoo Christian is a great team, but we came out and did everything we were supposed to do. I was really proud of our defense tonight. In our win over Bronson on Tuesday, our defense didn’t really perform that well. We were probably lucky to be here tonight.”

Buchanan did not have to go very far for inspiration heading into Thursday’s final.

“When you look up at the banners in our gym, there aren’t that many regional titles”. He said. “So, to be able to win this one is really special. These girls have worked hard and have been in the gym alot since they were in fourth and fifth grade. We knew they could be a special group, but we owe their parents a lot of thanks for getting them to all the summer workouts. Our community has really supported us as well.”

Carson, who is bound to play at Ohio State University the next four years, added 15 rebounds to go with seven blocked shots for Buchanan.

Austin knocked down four triples in the game, including three in the opening quarter, as Buchanan built itself a 22-16 advantage.

Just having Austin on the floor for this week’s regional games was enough motivation for Buchanan.

Austin twisted her ankle in last Saturday’s district semifinals against Cassopolis.

“I really worked hard to be able to play this week,” she said. “It was my biggest game and the proudest moment of my career. I knew I had to step up tonight. I’m just really proud of our team and the hard work we have put in during practice.”

The Bucks’ height was a decisive factor from start to finish. Buchanan made five baskets inside the paint in the first quarter as well, including two by Faith Carson and one from her sophomore sister Alyssa Carson.

“Credit my girls, I challenged them tonight,” Miller said. “When you don’t move the ball very well, it’s easy for teams to double-team Faith. Tonight, we had to adjust and took advantage of their [Kalamazoo Christian’s] box-and-one on Faith. We ran some high-low action by moving her sister (Alyssa) to the free-throw line and we got some good looks off that. We were successful in getting ball side to side and we attacked the paint. LaBria played outstanding and opened things up, and that put pressure on them to adjust their defense.”

Miller also praised the play of his bench, especially sophomore guard Maddie Young and sophomore forward Katie Ailes.

“Maddie and Katie came in and gave us really good energy tonight, along with the other girls,” Miller said.

Faith Carson scored eight second-quarter points as Buchanan outscored Kalamazoo Christian 19-5 and extended its advantage to 41-21 entering halftime. Buchanan’s defense was smothering with the Bucks (22-4) forcing the Comets to commit 10 of their 18 turnovers during the period.

Kalamazoo Christian head coach Kelly Allen agreed that Buchanan’s defense and offensive production during the second quarter were key factors in the Bucks’ win.

“Out of all the film I watched on Buchanan, tonight was the best game I’ve seen them play all year,” she said. “It makes it very difficult when you have two players that score nearly 30 points on you like Austin and Carson did tonight.”

“Kudos to them [Buchanan]. They have some very talented players. At halftime, I told our girls that they were going to play hard until the very last second and they did exactly that. They gave me their best effort.”

Kalamazoo Christian was able to whittle its deficit down to 14 points during the third quarter, 45-31, after taking advantage of a few Buchanan turnovers. The Comets’ momentum, however, was short-lived as the Bucks finished the quarter strong with a 13-4 spurt and hiked its lead to 60-35 entering the fourth quarter.

Kalamazoo Christian managed to outscore Buchanan 12-10 in the fourth quarter, but the earlier deficit was too deep to make up.

Faith Carson’s bucket inside the paint with just over three minutes left put her over the 1,000-point barrier for her career.

“We go against a lot of teams who gear up to stop me,” she said. “What they don’t understand is that we have several other good shooters. I don’t carry our team. It doesn’t matter if opponents crash on me because tonight you saw what happens when they do. We have other people who can score plenty.

“It’s amazing and a big relief to be able to score over 1,000 points. We’re really happy with where we are at and are excited to keep going forward.”

Hannah Tompkins added seven points for the Bucks, Alyssa Carson totaled four.

The Bucks made 27-of-58 from the field and went 11-of-17 at the free-throw stripe.

Buchanan outrebounded Kalamazoo Christian 31-21.

Alyssa Carson and Austin added four rebounds apiece, while Jillian McKean added four assists for the Bucks.

Kalamazoo Christian was led in the scoring column by Jordyn Bonnema with 16 points, while Alli Pschigoda chipped in 11 and Lily Manion scored eight.

The Comets, who finished the night shooting 18-of-73 from the floor and 6-for-11 at the foul stripe, forced Buchanan into 16 turnovers.



At Centreville


Maddie Young 0, Jillian McKean 0, LaBria Austin 29, Caito Horvath 1, Hannah Herman 0, Katie Ailes 0, Alyssa Carson 4, Hannah Tompkins 7, Faith Carson 29. TOTALS: 27 11-18 70


Aubrey Herder 5, Lillian Klooster 2, Makenna Ekkens 4, Jordyn Bonnema 16, Alli Pschigoda 11, Carien Ybema 1, Lily Manion 8. TOTALS: 18 6-10 47


Buchanan                         22        41        60        70

Kalamazoo Christian   16        21        35        47

3-point baskets: Buchanan 5 (Austin 4, F. Carson 1), Kalamazoo Christian 5 (Bonnema 2, Pschigoda 1, Herder 1, Manion 1). Total fouls: Buchanan 11, Kalamazoo Christian 11. Records: Buchanan 23-1, Kalamazoo Christian 22-4