The Brandon-Evansville girls basketball team is working on finding its offense on a more consistent basis so far this early season, but effort on the defensive end will keep the Chargers in a lot of Little Eight Conference games.
That energy led them to a 62-51 win over Hillcrest Lutheran Academy on Monday night.
“Assistant coach (Mike Traphagen) told the girls after the game, ‘Basketball is about forming habits, and right now you girls have formed a habit of playing hard all the time,’” B-E head coach Zach Traphagen said. “That’s a really important habit to form. If you can do that and play with high energy, you’re going to give yourself a chance in most games. The other stuff, we have to work on that and clean it up. But playing hard with good energy and good effort, it’s fun to watch. They’re fun to work with when you know you’re going to get that out of them.”
Both teams battled turnovers throughout the night, but Brandon-Evansville converted enough of those Hillcrest miscues into points to make the difference.
The Chargers had 13 steals and grabbed 34 rebounds as they looked to push the pace off of almost every miss or takeaway. They hit just three triples, but they were aggressive going to the rim to get some easy looks.
“That’s kind of our identity is we want to create offense from our defense because we struggle a little bit when it turns into a half-court game,” Traphagen said. “We want to push the pace and make the other team uncomfortable. That’s always going to be our identity, and we’re hopeful that eventually throughout the game that our pressure is going to lead to easy baskets.”
Senior guard Bailey Schaefer had a lot to do with that attack. She used her speed to convert eight buckets around the rim. Her aggressiveness in going to the basket also got her to the free throw line, where she scored seven of her 26 points.
"When she has open shots, she is 100% capable of making them, but when she can take the ball to the basket like she did tonight and get to the free-throw line, that’s a good recipe for success for us."
- Zach Traphagen, B-E head coach on senior guard Bailey Schaefer
Schaefer finished with a double-double after adding 10 rebounds to go with five steals, two assists and a blocked shot.
“Bailey the last couple of games now has been lights out for us,” Traphagen said. “Things haven’t gone well for her at certain times. Last year, she kind of would have hung her head and got in a funk. This year, she’s a senior so she knows she needs to be a leader. We need her to keep being aggressive, keep playing within herself. When she has open shots, she is 100% capable of making them, but when she can take the ball to the basket like she did tonight and get to the free-throw line, that’s a good recipe for success for us.”
The Chargers could never fully shake the Comets as Hillcrest had its deficit down to three with almost eight minutes left. Schaefer then drove the left baseline for a runner that made it 44-39. Hillcrest hit six threes, and Mackenzie Foss had a team-high 13 points. But Brandon-Evansville had an answer for each run despite the Comets sticking close.
“We knew Hillcrest was going to play extremely hard,” Traphagen said. “(Head coach) Hannah (Clark) does a really good job with that group. They play super hard, and they play together...they have kids who can shoot the ball, and they made their shots tonight. Our girls didn’t play the cleanest that we could have. But in the end, we found a way to win.”
It was the second straight win for Brandon-Evansville after also beating Rothsay 57-22 on Jan. 21. The Chargers are 2-2 overall and in the Little Eight Conference, and they are happy to build on a couple straight wins while focusing on things they can do better.
Brandon-Evansville shot just 16-of-33 from the free-throw line and 22-of-61 (36%) from the field. Turnovers have haunted the Chargers at times this year, and they had 23 against the Comets.
“We lack good decision making at times. It’s trying to force something that’s not there,” Traphagen said. “They’re trying to make a play, but a lot of the turnovers we have are unforced ones that don’t need to happen. You can live with aggressive turnovers, and you’re going to have those when you play the type of style that we do. You can’t have the unforced ones.”
Traphagen said coaches will continue to stay on them during practice, while understanding that there are girls on the roster right now getting their first big minutes on varsity. Wins like Monday night’s against the Comets are important as the Chargers try to get better with more experience.
“I always am a believer that the more basketball you play, the better those things get,” Traphagen said. “The less you’ll see those silly turnovers. It’s a struggle, but we’ll keep working on it and hopefully we’ll get them fixed sooner rather than later.”
BRANDON-EVANSVILLE 26 36 - 62
HILLCREST LUTHERAN 21 30 - 51
B-E - Grace Otto - 3 points, 1 block, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Bailey Schaefer - 26 points, 2 assists, 1 block, 10 rebounds, 5 steals; Olivia Otto - 8 points, 3 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Sydney Schaefer - 3 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 3 steals; Kaytlyn Pattrin - 10 points1 assist, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; EmmaLee Brethorst - 6 points, 4 rebounds; Kiley Lund - 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Mikenna Pattrin - 4 points, 1 assist, 1 block, 6 rebounds, 1 steal
HILLCREST SCORING - Audra Ewan - 6; Madison Ballweg - 10; Ella Knutson - 6; Cassandra Twedt - 2; Madison Foss - 8; Mackenzie Foss - 13; Regan Wiertzema - 6