Gielczyk: Brethren Looks to Compete for League Title in 2020
With an almost perfect combination of experience, size and speed the Brethren boys basketball team has high hopes of making up some ground in the Western Michigan D League this season.
It’s not going to be easy by any means for the Bobcats to improve on its 10-7 record and sixth place finish in the conference last year, especially with Manistee Catholic and Mason County Eastern returning stellar squads as well.
But the Bobcats sent a message Tuesday night that they weren’t going anywhere when they overcame a slow start to escape with a 46-44 victory over MCE to remain very much in the title chase at 2-1.
Manistee Catholic took over sole possession of first place by getting past Mesick, 42-32 on the road. The Sabers are 4-0 in the league, and defeated the Bobcats, 45-35 in the season opener for both teams.
The Bobcats could not put the Cardinals away.
After opening the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, but the Cardinals tied it when they split a pair of free throws. Brethren big man Anthony Beccaria (6-foot-8, 340 pounds) converted an assist from Tyler Knight and Skylar Wojciechowski got a steal that he turned into a wide open layup that put the Bobcats up, 43-39 with 6:20 left.
If the Bobcats thought they’d applied the knock out punch to the Cardinals, they were proven wrong when MCE rallied to tie the score again with only 1:41 to play in the game.
Garrett Fraly pulled down a pair of crucial rebounds, and made two shots from the free throw line to give Brethren a two-point lead with five ticks left on the clock. The Cardinals had a 3-point shot clang off the iron to end the game.
“Our defense in the second half was tremendous,” Brethren coach Jonathan Randall said. “We want to push the tempo, running and gunning, so we have to be able to hit more shots than we did.
“We struggled a little bit to start the game against their physicality. We got behind by nine or 10 points at one point. We had to adjust defensively. Our energy just wasn’t there.”
MCE sharpshooter Daniel Knizacky pumped in 20 points in the first half, but was flustered by Kenny King’s defensive pressure in the second and scored just five in the final 16 minutes.
Beccaria put pressure on Eastern’s defense by using his big body which allowed the Bobcats to get some open shots. Despite his size, Beccaria has the shooting touch of a guard Randall says.
The Bobcats have experienced some struggles since the start of the season just hitting shots in general, and it’s a trend Randall is hopeful will end soon.
“We just have to understand we have to pick it up,” Randall added. “Our pressure defense has to work when we have a smaller lineup in going forward.
“I think we can contend for the conference, but we have to execute and just get better offensively.”
Although they had talent, the Bobcats were wildly inconsistent last year, going from scoring 80 or 90 points to 30 or 40.
Randall thinks the Bobcats can be more consistent this year with certain lineups.
“When we put Anthony in the game, it’s going to put pressure on defenses to guard him,” Randall said. “Teams double him, and that opens things up for our other shooters.
“On our press, with our smaller lineups we know we have to be aggressive. I think this year if we can consistently do that, we can contend for a conference championship.”
The Bobcats’ offense is triggered by Wojciechowski, their junior point guard and a three-year starter. He led the conference in assists last year with 5.5 per game.
Randall is still trying to find the right combinations to put out on the floor, and have the Bobcats improve from game to game.
Brethren hangs its hat on defense, and the Bobcats have been pretty consistent at the end of the floor.
It’s still a work in progress.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist who was sports editor at the Manistee News Advocate for over 30 years. You can reach him at email@example.com with story ideas.