Bobcats come up short in Division 3 semifinals

Published 9:42 am Friday, March 24, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

EAST LANSING — The record-setting season for the Brandywine boys basketball team came to an end in the Breslin Center at Michigan State University in the Division 3 semifinals.

The Bobcats, who were playing in their first-ever state basketball semifinal, seem to run out of gas against No.8-ranked Traverse City St. Francis, which defeated No. 9 Brandywine 46-36 in the second semifinal Thursday.

Flint Beecher, making its third consecutive semifinal appearance, defeated Ecorse 56-46 in the first semifinal to advance to Saturday afternoon’s championship against St. Francis.

The Bobcats, who set a new school record for wins in a single season with 25, also captured the first regional championship.

Long-time Brandywine Coach Nathan Knapp was concerned about how the Bobcats’ legs would be heading into Thursday’s semifinal. Brandywine uses so much energy with its pressure defense and up-tempo offense, that he had to scale practice back as the Bobcats advanced down the tournament trail.

That may have caught up with Brandywine, especially in the second half. Shot that normally fall for the Bobcats, both from the outside and the inside, were coming up short. St. Francis also was able to hurt the Bobcats on the glass as they outrebounded them 36-24.

“The legs were tired and sometimes when you are tired and beat up your decision making isn’t always the best,” Knapp said. “We had a couple of kids some uncharacteristic mistakes tonight. I mean they are kids, and when you are tired and your legs are gone, you don’t always make the right decisions.”

Brandywine got off to a solid start, but could not seem to force enough turnovers to pull away from St. Francis. After one quarter, the Bobcats (25-3) led just 11-9.

Traverse City used a mini run early in the second quarter take its first lead of the game, 15-12.

The two teams continued to battle back-and-forth with St. Francis opening up a slight lead, only to have the Bobcats come battling back to tie it. St. Francis’s biggest lead of the first half was 19-12 with 5:29 left in the first half.

Brandywine would come back to tie it at 19-19 with 3:30 left in the first half. St. Francis ended the second quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 23-19 lead to the locker room at the intermission.

“We had wide-open looks,” Knapp said. “If we are hitting those shots it’s a different game. I still feel like we were the better team, but they got it done today. It still hurts, but you have to hit those wide-open shots. Their [St. Francis] plan was to pack it in a little bit and cause us discomfort in our motion offense because we couldn’t penetrate the middle like we wanted to.”

In the third quarter. The Bobcats reclaimed the lead, 25-23, with 6:01 to play in the period. It would be there last lead at St. Francis reclaimed the advantage and took its biggest lead of the contest into the final eight minutes, 35-28.

Brandywine would not get any closer than seven points in the fourth quarter as St Francis ran some clock and scored some easy baskets against a tired Brandywine defense.

Wyatt Nausadis led St. Francis and all scorers with 21 points. He was the only player to reach double figures in the game.

Brandywine was led by Jaremiah Palmer’s eight points. Byron Linley added seven points, while Jamier Palmer and Michael Palmer both finished with six points.

Despite the loss, Knapp knows as time passes, his team and the coaches will remember the 2022-23 season for what the Bobcats accomplished, not the one single game that did not go their way in East Lansing.

“For me is it hurts because these kids got so far and you are no guaranteed anything,” Knapp said. “We want to say we are going to be back there next year, but I told them, there are things in life that happen and there are obstacles. I told them you are never guaranteed tomorrow, you have to live in the moment. Never look ahead. Live in the moment and do you best. You can prepare to do better, but you are just not guaranteed that. They were just so close, and that is why it hurts so much.”

The future does look bright for the Bobcats, who return four of its five starters, along with several key reserves.

Michael Palmer is the lone senior starter for Brandywine. Also graduating off the record-setting square are Jaydon Spitler, Robert Hartz, Brad Covington and Caiden Wagley.