No. 1 Brandywine rolls past Bucks; Rangers fall in double-overtime

Published 6:04 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

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WHITE PIGEON — The Niles Brandywine boys’ basketball team showed in their Division 3 district semifinal game why the Bobcats finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the state.

Brandywine sparkled in just about every facet of the game Wednesday as it rolled easily past Buchanan 68-30 in the night’s second game at White Pigeon.

Nathan Knapp’s Bobcats, now 20-3, advance to face the host Chiefs (19-4) in Friday’s finals at 7 p.m.

White Pigeon squeaked by Cassopolis (13-10) 76-74 in double overtime in the other semifinal contest.

Quickness, athleticism and stingy defense were three of the main components that set Brandywine apart from Buchanan (10-14).

“Buchanan did a nice job at first with that triangle and two, but our team is athletic and we play pretty good defense and we forced quite a few turnovers on them with our half-court defense,” Knapp said. “Our kids are relentless, we work hard defensively and are deep.”

Balanced scoring was pivotal for Brandywine, which had four players finish the night scoring in double figures.

Ja’Torian Smith poured in 20 points to lead Brandywine, which drained 26-of-62 field-goal attempts, including five triples, and made 8-of-9 free-throw tosses.

The Bobcats, co-champions of the Lakeland Conference along with Benton Harbor, soared out to a commanding 26-13 advantage after one quarter.

Smith put on an early shooting clinic by scoring 13 of those points for the Bobcats, including knocking down three of his four triples in the opening eight minutes.

A senior post player, Smith would score five more points in the second quarter to help Brandywine outscore Buchanan 12-3 and built themselves a comfortable 38-16 halftime advantage.

Brandywine used its relentless defensive pressure to force Buchanan into seven of its 19 turnovers in the third quarter, including four possessions that the Bobcats scored on.

Buchanan’s mistakes began to pile up and Brandywine capitalized on more of those opportunities and outscored the Bucks 25-6 in the third quarter in hiking its advantage to 63-22 entering the final stanza.

Knapp was able to substitute freely throughout the fourth quarter even though the Bucks managed to outscore the Bobcats 8-5.

Three teammates joined Smith in double figures. Seniors Robert Whiting and Jaremiah Palmer tossed in 12 points apiece for the Bobcats and classmate Jamier Palmer added 10. Byron Linley scored seven points, four steals and four assists for Brandywine.

Smith and Jamier Palmer pulled down six rebounds each for Brandywine and Brock Dye added five.

Brandywine outrebounded Buchanan 32-20.

Jamier Palmer also had four steals and three assists.

Jeremiah Palmer added five steals for Brandywine.

Whiting brought the crowd to its feet twice with a pair of first-quarter dunks.

The Bucks were led in the scoring column by Karmine Brown with 11 points. Senior Matt Trigg contributed eight followed by Jake Franklin with five points.

Logan Wiggins ripped down eight rebounds for the Bucks. Trigg and Brown hauled down four boards apiece.

Buchanan made 12-of-37 field-goal attempts, including four triples, and 2-of-3 free-throw attempts.

Buchanan head coach Reid McBeth, who completes his 24th season at the helm of the Bucks, searched for the right words to describe a difficult night on the floor for his ballclub.

“Brandywine is a pretty amazing ballclub. They are going to be a handful for anyone in the tournament. Coach Knapp and his staff have been working with that group for quite a few years. There was some frustration with our kids because it was a tough way for them to end the season and they did the best they could,” Buchanan’s head coach said.

Buchanan graduates just three seniors in Nico Finn, AJ Camille-McLeod, along with Trigg.

“I asked Nico and AJ what they wanted out of their senior year. They came back out after not playing as juniors. That’s difficult to return and be able to be a big big part of the team. I can appreciate and respect them for wanting to be a part of this team. The showed up everyday, worked hard and are great teammates,” Reid McBeth said.

“Matt is our one senior who played alot. As much as we were grateful to have him on the team, I think he was just as thankful to have the group of younger players around him that he has. His teammates trusted him and he appreciated them and he had some good words for them all afterwards. Our younger kids are gonna want to get back into the gym tommorrow and work hard.”


White Pigeon outlasts Cassopolis

Except for a brief 2-0 lead to start the game, White Pigeon led Cassopolis the rest of regulation until the Rangers’ sophomore Jaylen Pratt scored inside with 0.9 left to send the contest into overtime tied at 57-57.

In the first extra session, Cassopolis’ junior Bradyn Gould drained a triple and Kenny May swished an 8-foot jumper to put the Rangers in front 62-59 with 1:44 left.

White Pigeon sophomore Ty Strawser nailed a triple to even the game up 62-62 and send it into a second overtime.

Both teams had opportunities more than once at the free-throw line near the end of the first overtime to make free-throw attempts but neither one could convert.

Sophomore Trevon Peterson-Evans scored the Rangers’ first five points of the second extra session to put his ballclub up 67-64.

Josh Davidson hit the second of two free-throw chances to pull the Chiefs within two points, 67-65.

Jordan Pisco’s putback increased the Chiefs’ lead to four, 69-65.

Davidson then drained a triple with 2:21 left to bring the Chiefs back within a point, 69-68. Pisco then drained the second of two free-throw attempts just moment later following a steal by Davidson and the score was evened up at 69-69 with 2:10 showing on the clock.

Pisco steal and layup at the other end gave White Pigeon a 71-69 lead with 1:42 left.

The Chiefs’ lead was shortlived, however, as the Rangers’ Jalyne Brown knocked down a triple to help his team regain a 72-71 lead with  1:27 left.

White Pigeon came storming back in the waning seconds to win it. Davidson converted a layup followed by one Pisco free throw and two from Davidson that gave the Chiefs a 76-72 advantage with 6.6 seconds left.

Cassopolis’ Peterson-Evans drove the length of the court to make a layup as time expired for the final two-point difference.

“We missed a couple of free throws in the second half that really cost us, plus we gave up alot of early buckets in the first quarter. White Pigeon came out swinging, but I thought we did a nice job rallying,” said Charles Superzynski II.

“Our gameplan in the second half was to put Roberts on an island and kind’ve isolate him. But our defensive plan kind’ve switched after we realized the 2-2-1 that we were in was still giving them open shots. We went man-to-man and it worked in our favor for a while,” Supercynski II said.

Davidson, who topped all scorers on the night with 32 points, and teammate Mekhi Singleton knocked down two triples apiece in the first quarter to help White Pigeon open up a 18-9 lead.

Drew Kobryn came off the bench to score four points in the second quarter to push the Chiefs’ lead to give, 24-19.

Wes Roberts scored inside for White Pigeon just before the second-quarter buzzer sounded, giving the Chiefs a 28-19 halftime cushion.

Cassopolis slowly worked its way back into the contest, however. The Rangers trailed the Chiefs by 15, 40-25, at one point in the third stanza. But layups to finish off the period by Jalyne Brown, Malachi Ward and Peterson-Evans, along with a Ward charity toss lessened the Rangers’ deficit to nine, 44-39 entering the fourth quarter.

Singleton chipped in with 14 points and Pisco ended the night with 12 for the Chiefs, who made 25 field-goals, including 11 triples, and 15-of-24 free-throw attempts.

Cassopolis received 18 points from Peterson-Evans, while Ward scored 17, May had 15 and Jadyn Brown finished with 12.

The Rangers made 33 field-goal attempts, including an astonishing 29 three pointers, and 4-of-12 at the free-throw line.

Jadyn Brown came up with six rebounds for the Rangers and May came up with six.

Cassopolis will lose four seniors to graduation including Jadyn and Jaylne Brown, along with Darion Peterson-Evans and Ward. The Rangers, however, will return six sophomores and two juniors, along with a couple of freshmen.

“This game came down to free throws and foul trouble. Kenny, Jadyn and Malachi all fouled out for us,” Supercynski said.

“Our season had a lot of ups and downs with alot of close games that we just couldn’t finish. We have alot of young guys returning and we’re looking forward to the future.”

White Pigeon head coach Shawn Strawser breathed a sigh of relief that his team escaped with the win.

“You have to step up and knock down your free throws at tournament time. There are a lot of things we have to fix before the final with Brandywine on Friday, but still this was a great tournament game,” White Pigeon’s coach said.

“I feel really bad for their seniors. No one likes to lose a double overtime game in their final season. Cassopolis had all the momentum, but our kids kept grinding and found a way to get it done. That’s all that matters now is win and move on.”