No. 8-ranked Brandywine rallies to top Hart

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

NILES — The Brandywine girls basketball team usually spends its Christmas break in the gymnasium doing drills and working to improve on things it learned during the first couple of weeks of the season.

There has been no competition, just getting ready for the final two months of the regular season and the postseason.

Changing things up this year, veteran Brandywine Coach Josh Hood decided his team needed competition, not just practices, over the break. So the Bobcats went out and found the best competition it could for the two-plus week break.

That competition included No. 4-ranked Blissfield in the Michigan Hardwood Classic in Romulus and a home date with Hart, a Division 3 state semifinalist last season. It was Hart that ended Buchanan’s state championship run in the quarterfinals.

Tuesday night, the Pirates made the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Niles to take on the Bobcats, in a game that turned out to be a classic. Brandywine had to rally multiple times, including the start of the second half to pull out a 62-52 non-conference win over Hart, which has moved up to Division 2 this season.

Tied at 44-4 head into the final eight minutes, Brandywine turned to senior all-stater Ellie Knapp to keep the No. 7-ranked Bobcats undefeated.

Held to just five points through three quarter, Knapp exploded for 14 points in the fourth to lead the Bobcats to their fifth win of the young season. She scored seven points to put Brandywine out in front and then went 6-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch to protect the Bobcats’ lead.

“That is the difference in the mentality of Ellie the first couple of years and this year,” Hood said. “When she misses a few shots, she doesn’t stop shooting. She knows the team depends on her. She is really growing. I am super proud of her growth.”

While it was Knapp carrying the load in the fourth quarter, it was junior Miley Young and senior Kadence Brumitt that kept the Bobcats in the game early on.

Young, who finished with 14 points, had 12 of those, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the third quarter, while Brumitt had nine of her 11 points over the same stretch, many of which came off of offensive rebounds and put-backs.

“When the other girls are firing and playing well — Miley had a phenomenal game tonight and hit some big threes, and Brumitt has been unbelievable around the basket,” Hood said. “She [Brumitt] doesn’t care about the stats, she picks up the garbage rebounds and has the put-backs.”

Adelyn Drotoz also helped keep Brandywine close through three quarter with a trio of 3-pointers.

Hart (3-2) jumped out to an 18-13 lead in the opening quarter behind the play of Addi Hovey and Rilyn Porter. Both would get into foul trouble as the Pirates were whistled for 22 of them in the contest.

Brandywine used a late rally to end the first half, which allowed the Bobcats to take a 28-24 lead into halftime.

Hart came out and got itself right back into the contest by scoring the first seven points of the third quarter to grab a 31-28 lead. From there it was a back-and-forth battle. Another late run at the end of the third quarter, allowed Brandywine to tie the game at 44-44 and set the stage for Knapp.

Porter led the Pirates with 16 points, while Abby Hicks added 15 and Hovey finished with 10 points.

The Bobcats have another short break before returning to the court against visiting Dowagiac (4-1, 1-0 Lakeland) on Jan. 9 in a key Lakeland Conference contest. Brandywine is 2-0 in league games.