NEW PARIS – After falling 54-51 in overtime to National Trail Thursday evening, Bradford girls basketball coach Patrick McKee emphasized to his team that every possession matters.
“The message to the girls simply was every single possession matters, but at the same point these are the games you learn from, these are the reasons you want to get better, these are the reasons these kids are going to be hungry to get in the gym tomorrow and try to get better at things,” McKee said. “We can’t hang our heads too much on a game that’s already happened and we can no longer control.”
There were several moments throughout Thursday’s Cross County Conference game that could have changed the outcome, and McKee wanted his girls to know that whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter, any play could be a deciding factor.
“We talked a lot about in the first half we made a lot of mistakes defensively, and at the time it doesn’t seem like a big deal because there’s another possession,” he said. “Eventually you get into a game where there isn’t another possession, and you look back and say, ‘Man, I wish I could change that,’ and that’s where we are tonight.”
Bradford got off to a strong start as the Railroaders built a 9-7 first quarter lead. But they went cold in the second quarter, and National Trail went on a 10-0 run to go up 17-9.
The Railroaders broke their scoring drought with 2:14 left in the half and went into the halftime break down 20-14.
After the intermission the Railroaders regrouped and came out playing stronger. By the end of the third quarter they had cut their deficit to 28-24.
Bradford sank four free throws early in the fourth quarter – first a pair by Chelsea Gill and then two from Abby Gade – to knot the score at 28-28 with 5:25 left in the regulation. It was the first time in almost two full quarters that the Railroaders had tied the score.
With 4:27 remaining, Gill drained a shot to put Bradford up 30-28, and from there it was back and forth through the remainder of the period.
National Trail drained a 3-pointer to retake the lead then Gill scored again to put Bradford back on top. With scoring from Emma Canan and Gill, Bradford built a 4-point lead, 39-35.
National Trail continued to battle and tied the score with just 26 seconds remaining. However, after the basket the Blazers were called for their second delay of game, resulting in a technical foul.
Gill went to the free throw line and made two free throws then moments later Brooke Fair drained a free throw to put the Railroaders up 42-39 with 18.7 seconds remaining.
Quick fouls by both teams resulted in four more free throws, leaving the score at 44-41 with less than 10 seconds remaining. With less than five seconds left Trail’s Evan Byrd sank a 3-pointer to force overtime, 44-44.
“Hats off to them,” McKee said. “I thought they did a nice job. They played with a lot of effort, and kid hits a real big shot there at the end of the game.”
National Trail scored first in overtime then Gill scored to knot the score at 46-46. Bianca Keener then hit a free throw to put Bradford up 50-49.
Trail scored to retake the lead then Gill made another basket with less than two minutes remaining to put Bradford back up 49-48, which ultimately was the Railroaders final lead.
National Trail outscored Bradford 6-2 in the final 80 seconds to give the Blazers a 54-51 victory.
Gill led Bradford with a game-high 20 points on Thursday. Also for the Railroaders, Canan scored 12 points, Skipp Miller scored 6, Gade scored 4, Hannah Fout scored 3, Keener scored 3, Brooke Fair scored 1, and Cassi Mead scored 1.
Evan Byrd led National Trail with 13 points. Also for the Blazers, Makena Laird scored 11 points, Bobbi Grimes scored 7, Davlyn Werner scored 7, Lexi Benedict scored 6, Savanna Abner scored 3, Angel Bowers scored 3, and Kelsey Patrum scored 3.
Bradford fell to 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the CCC with Thursday’s loss. The Railroaders will play host to Tri-County North on Dec. 28.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.