BRADFORD – Bradford overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat Tri-County North 41-39 in a Cross County Conference girls basketball game on Thursday.
It wasn’t always pretty for the Lady Railroaders Thursday night, especially in the first half, but coach Patrick McKee and his team were simply happy to come out with a victory.
“Right now with the way the last couple games we’ve had, a win’s a win,” McKee said. “We’re not going to sit here and overlook that. We’re happy to come away with a win, but like we told the girls with the level that we want to get to with this program and this team individually we have to learn from that. We have to learn from our mistakes, and we have to get better, and it’s as simple as that. But at the same point it feels good to get back on this side of things.”
Neither Bradford or Tri-County North could get much offense going in the first quarter. The Railroaders were limited to just five points in the period with baskets by Olivia Hart and Bianca Keener plus a free throw from Kelly Moore. The Panthers didn’t get much going offensively, either, but took an 8-5 lead with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Sara Harris to end the quarter.
Led by Mandi Bates’ six points, Bradford doubled its offensive output in the second quarter. But the Railroaders struggled to slow down the Panthers as the trio of Harris, Cassi Stinson and Riley Cruse propelled Tri-County North to a 22-15 halftime lead.
“We got into them a little bit at halftime as far as just playing our style,” McKee said. “We thought they were getting frustrated because some shots weren’t falling, some things like that. So we really just harped on them about let’s go back to our style, let’s move the ball. Let’s play defense our way. They hit two 3s in the second quarter just because our hands weren’t up, and that’s something we’ve taught these girls since day one with me and (assistant coach Chris) Besecker being here, just little things like that.”
Momentum shifted in the second half with Bradford going on a 12-0 run to reclaim the lead midway through the third quarter.
After Stinson scored the first points of the third quarter to give Tri-County North a game-high nine point lead, Bradford went on its 12-0 run. Ally Booker, Bates and Olivia Hart got the Railroader offense started, and Bates then hit a game-tying free throw with 3:45 remaining in the quarter.
Bradford retook the lead less than 30 seconds later on a Moore free throw and went up 27-24 with a basket by Chelsea Gill.
Tri-County North regained the lead, however, as the Panthers scored the final six points of the period with three each from Cruse and Stinson to go into the fourth quarter up 30-27.
Bradford kept pushing Tri-County North with Bates, Moore and Hart each scoring early in the fourth quarter to keep the Railroaders close. Moore then came up big with a 3-pointer, a field goal and a game-tying free throw to knot the score at 39-39 with 1:19 left in the game.
“She’s not been shooting that well all year from 3, and then they kind of let her have that open 3 look, and she hit it,” McKee said. “She had a nice elbow shot. Hit a free throw. She had some big shots there late in the game.”
With time winding down, Bradford came up with another big shot as Bates hit the go-ahead basket with just 32 seconds remaining.
“We’ve been jumping on Mandi Bates’ back a lot lately, trying to have her lead us,” McKee said.
Then in the final seconds, Bradford got a defensive stop to hold off Tri-County North and win 41-39.
After allowing Cruse, Harris and Stinson to combine for 30 points in the first three quarters, Bradford held the trio to just two points the entire fourth quarter.
“We mixed it up a little bit,” McKee said. “We went to a little full court, a little 1-3-1 at times, tried to trap, tried to do some different things, and I think it just kind of threw them off. And I think it also kind of sparked our girls’ energy. Those quick, easy points that we were getting off of those, I think that was a real big change in this game tonight.”
Harris and Stinson led Tri-County North with 13 points each in the game. Also for the Panthers, Cruse scored six points, Tiarra Alford scored three, Preston Lipinski scored two, and Shyanna Baker scored two.
Bates led Bradford with a game-high 16 points. Also for the Railroaders, Moore scored 12 points, Hart scored five, Keener scored four, Ally Booker scored two, and Gill scored two.
Several players stepped up in the win, McKee said, as the Railroaders had to fill the void left by Kenzie Weldy’s absence as she missed Thursday’s game with a concussion.
“We told the girls a lot with Kenize out we’re not asking anybody to be Kenzie,” McKee said. “But someone has to step up and change your role slightly.”
Weldy and the rest of the Lady Railroaders will return to the court on Monday when they play at Twin Valley South.