When Carlie Newman headed to Spring Arbor and Madison Pellow to Glen Oaks to play college basketball, the pair took 31 of the 55 points Niles Brandywine averaged last season.
A year ago, Brandywine was content to pound the ball inside to Newman (20 points per game) and Pellow (11 p.p.g.), but without those two, coach Josh Hood decided a makeover was needed.
“We’ve changed our whole system this year because we were built around post play,” Hood said. “Now with being limited in the post and not having much size — our sophomore is 5-11, but she’s really a shooting guard — we had to do something.”
The “something” Hood devised is a style that features the three-point shot and a pace that borders on breakneck.
The results have been amazing.
Brandywine won its 10th straight game Thursday when it knocked off Mendon, No. 7 in Class D, 51-47, to remain atop the Class C rankings. The Bobcats were 10-for-26 from beyond the three-point arc against Mendon and have made 81 three-pointers this season.
“Our perimeter shooting doesn’t consist of 12-footers, it’s usually threes,” Hood said. “We’ve had games where seven girls have hit threes. It’s an exciting style of basketball.”
The three-point shots aren’t the only exhilarating aspect to Brandywine’s style. The players like to get the ball and go at every opportunity.
“We don’t necessarily like to work the ball around for 30 to 40 seconds because we like keeping the tempo,” Hood said. “When we’re not hitting threes sometimes we go in lulls of scoring, but then we’re capable of hitting four or five in a row and going on 12-0 runs and 15-0 runs, and in girls basketball it’s hard to make up that difference.”
To increase the pace, the Bobcats employ a full-court press that plays to their strength — overall team depth.
“On a lot of girls teams there’s one or two good ballhandlers and we try to take them away and teams don’t like to go real deep,” Hood said. “We try to rotate 10 girls in and keep constant pressure, and by the second half we try to wear teams down with our style.”
Brandywine is really on a roll now that senior point guard Mackenzie Shelton has returned from a high ankle sprain that kept her out a month.
The new system has enabled the Bobcats to spread the wealth when it comes to scoring. Sophomore Brooke Smith (10 points a game) is the lone double-digit scorer, but six girls are averaging at least 7.2 points. Also helping mold the new style are three freshmen who are key ingredients in the main playing group.
“We saw this great group of freshmen coming up who were 23-1 in junior high and won an AYBT national tournament in Ft. Wayne last summer,” Hood said. “We knew we’d be small for the next couple of years so we switched our style to a dribble-drive offense.
“We like shooting high percentage shots and getting the ball inside, but we have five different girls who have hit more than 10 threes.”
This is Hood’s fourth season at Brandywine and the team is 81-6 in that time. But the most important number for the No. 1 team in Class C may be 97.
“Four years ago we started with 18 girls in the program and now we have 97 girls in the elementary school in our program,” Hood said. “As coaches you always want to downplay being No. 1 a little bit, but it’s exciting for the community. We have a lot of kids in our program excited about basketball.”