For the first time in his Shenango High basketball career, Brandon Bennett will play in the playoffs.
Bennett, a senior, has been an integral part of the Wildcats (8-6 section, 14-8 overall) returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2011-2012.
Bennett scored 21 points per game in Shenango’s three games last week against Sewickley Academy, Northgate and Bishop Canevin. The Wildcats went 2-1 in those games with victories over the Flames and the Crusders, with Bennett, a senior, hitting six 6-pointers against Bishop Canevin.
For his efforts, Bennett has been named the Lawrence County High School Athlete of the Week presented by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
“He always plays hard and one thing that we know coming into the games is that Brandon is going to shoot it well,” Shenango coach Bob McQuiston said. “He’s probably got the best pull-up in the section, if not the county. He’s a tough competitor. He gets after it every night and he works hard,”
Bennett is tied with Anthony Roth of Ellwood City Lincoln for second in the county in scoring at 18.1 points per game and his versatility is part of what makes him so dangerous.
“At the beginning of the year I told the guys Bennett is probably going to get most of the shots because he’s our best shooter and the guys find him,” McQuiston said. “He’s definitely our go-to guy. We try to create sets for him but at the same time I think he’s got, like I said, one of the best pull-up jumpers around.
“He can get you on your heals and if you give him an inch he can knock it down. He has a quick release, he gets good arc on it and you know he doesn’t need a lot of space to get his shot off. He’s very creative around the rim and you have to respect that. If you play him too tight he’s going to take a quick dribble and get you leaning and if you don’t play him tight enough he’ll hit the three.”
Bennett said his confidence is at an all-time high as his team prepares for the playoffs.
“We played really well last week so we’re pretty confident in our offense and we picked up our defense, too,” Bennett said. “My teammates have really stepped up and are getting me the ball when I need to have it and I’m knocking down shots.”
Bennett says that when he’s hitting shots he can occasionally feel like he’s in a groove, which is what happened in the win over Bishop Canevin.
“I think at one point I had made three in a row and I shot one from the volleyball line,” he said. “I missed it and I turned to the bench and said it was just a heat check.”
This will mark the first time that Bennett will appear in the playoffs in his high school career and the Shenango sharpshooter says he couldn’t think of a better way to cap his career.
“It’s been six years, so it feels good to bring Shenango back on the map,” he said. “You know, it’s a goal we had set at the beginning of the year and now that we’re there we just want to make as deep a run as possible.”