Bobcats lean on their defense to win another regional title

Published 8:13 am Thursday, March 14, 2024

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BRONSON — I you are going to take a shot at the king, you better not miss.

No. 5-ranked Kalamazoo Christian took its best shot at No. 1-ranked Brandywine in the Division 3 Regional championship game at Bronson High School Wednesday night.

Unfortunately for the Comets, they missed as the Bobcats returned to the top of the girls regional basketball world in southwest Michigan with a 59-42 victory.

The championship, which was the first for the Bobcats since 2019, advances the Bobcats (24-1) to the quarterfinals Tuesday night against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (19-5) at Fennville High School. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Ironically, the Brandywine boys advanced to Thursday’s Division 3 state semifinals at Michigan State University with a win over Covenant Christian.

The Bobcats played their first close game in the postseason. In fact, Brandywine has blown out it last 10 opponents, outscoring them 663-238. The Bobcats averaged 66.3 points per game over that stretch, while holding their opponents to 23.8 points a contest.

The starting five rarely saw action in the second half of any of those contests.

“The bottom line is we knew they [Kalamazoo Christian] were really, really good,” said veteran Brandywine Coach Josh Hood. “They have two girls who are getting looks from Division 1 and Division 2 schools. We knew we were going to give up some buckets early. The game plan was even if it was close at the half, we needed to do enough to wear them down.”

Hood’s game plan worked to near perfection a Brandywine led by two points, 26-24, at the break after Adeline Gill’s 3-pointer put the Bobcats back out in front after the Comets (23-2) took their only led of the contest (24-23) late in the second quarter.

“We needed to do enough so that it affected their jump shooting in the second half,” Hood said.

The constant pressure and speed of the game took its toll on Kalamazoo Christian in the opening 16 minutes of play as the Comets showed visible signs of fatigue with heavy breathing and hands on their hips when there was a break in the action.

Kalamazoo Christian remained within striking distance for most of the third quarter before a 13-5 run by the Bobcats helped Brandywine take a 45-35 lead into the final eight minutes of play.

One of the keys for Brandywine was to keep the Comets from attacking the basket in the paint.

“We did e phenomenal job of keeping them out of the paint with vertical penetration,” Hood said. “We knew we had to keep [Jordyn] Bonnema out of the lane because she is so talented. I can’t say enough about our team defense. Miley [Young] on the ball with her, but everyone else helping out and contributing. It has been a staple at Brandywine girls basket for 15 years. Defense wins championships, and tonight, we proved it again in the second half,” when we needed to, we buckled down.”

In the fourth quarter, Brandywine was able to maintain a double-digit advantage for much of the period. The Bobcats began to feel their hard work the past four years was about to pay off when Adelyn Drotoz, who also had some big baskets early in the contest, canned a 3-pointer with a few ticks over three minutes to play, extended Brandywine’s advantage to 50-37.

As the final three minutes ran off the clock, and Kalamazoo Christian unable to mount any sort of real comeback, the Brandywine faithful began the celebration of yet another championship.