BATH TOWNSHIP — Bath’s Audrey Brandon spent the fall diving for balls in front of the soccer goal.
So it only makes sense that the Bath goalkeeper feels at home doing the same thing on a basketball floor.
The 5-foot-8 senior Brandon provides a spark with her physical play and role as a rebounder/defender/scrapper for the Bath Wildkittens. She’s started and come off the bench this year and is currently the team’s sixth man.
“My role is to play defense and make some tough plays,” Brandon said. “I enjoy the physical aspect of it, getting to be the real tough one on the team and does that role.”
Bath (21-3) will meet Toledo Rogers in the Division II girls basketball regional semifinals at 8:15 today at Ohio Northern’s King Horn Center. Bath lost to Rogers in the regionals last year.
Other players score more points that Brandon, but few make a bigger impact on the game, especially with her offensive rebounds and putbacks.
“Audrey Brandon is not the most talented player on the team, but Audrey Brandon is the hardest worker on the team,” Bath coach Greg Mauk said. “Audrey Brandon is probably our smartest defensive player. She knows where to be and when to be. She plays with a lack of size for the position she plays at, but she uses her strength and she uses her head.
“She does all the blue-collar stuff. It’s tough to find a kid who does what she does.”
For the tournament, coming off the bench, she’s averaging 4 points and 4 rebounds, which is right at her season’s average.
Brandon is the team’s co-captain with Jenna Hollar.
Although she doesn’t start, Brandon comes in early and within seconds she usually has an offensive rebound, a putback or has hit the floor to gobble up a loose ball.
“I have to do everything to help our team win,” Brandon said. “I enjoy physical contact. That’s what I enjoy most about the game. I don’t have to pysch myself up. That’s just want I like to do.”
Mauk said, “When she comes in the game, she can change the flow and the attitude on the floor.”
In the 82-78 overtime victory over Wauseon in the district semifinals, she had six points and four rebounds. She hit 6 of 8 at the foul line, including hitting 2 of 2 in the critical overtime.
“We all got in the gym all summer and constantly worked on our shots,” Brandon said. “I knew that I’d end up at the foul line a lot so I did work on my foul shots.”
Brandon has embraced her role over her entire high school career. She’s followed in a similar path as her older sister, Alyssa, who played center/forward for the Wildkittens.
“At the end of my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year, I could see that’s what I could do for my team,” Brandon said. “I watched my sister do it. That’s what she did for the team. When she graduated, it fell on my shoulders and I took to it.”
Brandon’s physical role goes with her as the Wildkittens steady goalkeeper. She enjoys going from post to post making flying saves.
“Especially being the goalkeeper, I kind of have to run the show back there,” she said. “I get knocked around sometimes and I just enjoy it. Sports are for contact and it’s enjoyable.”
It marks the fourth straight regional trip for the Wildkittens. It’s a role and a tradition that the seniors take pride in.
“We always looked up to those girls and it means a lot to carry on that tradition and pass it on,” Brandon said. “We want to set a good example and we want to express how important it is and how much fun it can be to make it this far.”