Bobcats win fifth straight championshipPublished 8:37am Saturday, March 2, 2013
WATERVLIET – The smallest player on the floor came up big for the Brandywine Bobcats in their “Drive For Five” district championships Friday night.
Cassopolis transfer Tammy Lee, who is listed at 5-foot-2, connected on 5-of-6 free throws in the final 1:06 to help seal the No. 2-ranked Bobcats’ 53-49 victory in the Class C District championship game over host Watervliet.
Lee also had a key steal in the closing moments that allowed Brandywine to win its fifth straight district title.
“I knew I could knock them down,” Lee said. “I was really nervous on those last ones.”
“What a big night for Tammy Lee,” Brandywine coach Josh Hood said. “This is her first year with us. She hasn’t been in a lot of big games. But tonight in a big game, what a big way to come through.”
Nothing has been easy for the undefeated Bobcats (22-0) so far this post season. Brandywine let a 20-point halftime lead against New Buffalo slip away before rallying for the victory in the semifinals Wednesday night.
The Bobcats led 37-20 in the early stages of the third quarter, but couldn’t maintain it as the Panthers (20-3) seemed to take control of the contest, finally catching Brandywine at 41-41 with 5:07 to play.
That’s when the Bobcats’ experience in playing in championship games took over.
Despite an off night offensively, Brandywine senior Mackenzie Shelton saw a slip in the Watervliet defense and slashed to the basket for her only bucket of the night snapped the 41-41 deadlock and gave the Bobcats the lead for good.
“They were spread out really far in their zone all night,” Shelton said. “And I knew I had to attack the gap if they were going to suck in and try and guard me. So I had to take it in because it was the only option we had.”
Brandywine junior Brooke Smith, who has played on three title teams, turned in her second straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Rachael Ort, who has been in a shooting slump since scoring a career-high 24 points two weeks ago, connected on a trio of 3-pointers to finish with nine points. Lee ended up with eight, all coming from the free throw line.
The Bobcats got a huge lift from its bench as Tia Hullinger, Emily Erwin and Michaela Hartline combined to outscore the Panther bench 19-0.
Watervliet got a big night from Lauren Richardson, who scored a game-high 17 points, most of which came in the second half. Casey Clark finished with 11 points for the Panthers.
Hood said a lot of people doubted that his team could win another district championship. He knew better.
“We lost two phenomenal players after last year (Carlie Newman and Madison Pellow),” Hood said. “They were two four-year players who had had a lot of success. But maybe these girls didn’t get the credit that they deserved the last couple of years. We did have six of eight back and they were confident even when Watervliet tied it.
Brandywine now travels to Bronson Tuesday night to face Decatur (12-10) in the first game of the Class B Regional at 6 p.m.
Hood would like to see his team open up a comfortable lead and then maintain it.
“Sometimes I feel like these kids don’t like me and they’re trying to take years off my life with these second halves,” he joked.
Brooke Smith 4 3-5 12, Victoria Knight 1 0-0 2, Rachael Ort 3 0-0 9, Trammy Lee 0 8-10 8, Mackenzie Shelton 1 1-2 3, Tiarra Hullinger 3 0-0 6, Emily Erwin 3 0-0 8, Michaela Hartline 2 0-1 5, Makenna Hartline 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17 12-18 53
Jayden McMiller 1 0-0 2, Lauren Richardson 8 1-2 17, Casey Clark 5 1-4 11, Kayli Dabicci 3 2-3 10, Nicole Winter 1 6-9 9, Alissa Rodriguez 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 18 10-18 49
Brandywine 19 35 41 53
Watervliet 6 20 37 49
3-point baskets: Brandywine 7 (Ort 3, Erwin 2, Michaela Hartline 1, Smith 1), Watervliet 3 (Dabicci 2, Winter 1). Total fouls (fouled out): Brandywine 18, Watervliet 13 (Winter). Varsity records: Brandywine 22-0, Watervliet 20-3