PIQUA – The Bradford Railroaders knew they faced an uphill challenge as they faced the No. 2 seeded Fairlawn Jets in the Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional tournament opening round late Friday afternoon.
The Jets are an upperclassmen-laden club looking to make a run deep into this year’s tournament. In the end the Fairlawn overall team experience, 33 points from senior guard Nathan Lessing and physical size wore down Bradford and knocked the Roaders out of the bracket, 72-44.
Fairlawn attacked Bradford by hitting the offensive glass early for offensive rebound put-back baskets and then putting on a full-court press that caused the Roaders problems. Were it not for the shooting of Parker Smith and Dialaquan Millhouse, Bradford may have been out of the game in the first quarter. The Railroaders figured out the press by the period’s end and trailed just 17-13 after eight minutes.
Just as the Roaders had been gaining a little momentum, the Jets hit them with a 15-3 run to begin the second quarter. Fueled by the work of Drew Brautigam inside and the switch from a 2-2-1 to a 1-2-2 full-court press, the Jets looked to take command of the game.
Bradford, however, was not finished. The Roaders commenced on their own 10-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 34-26, but just before the buzzer the Jets connected on a triple from the corner to stop the Bradford run and extend their lead back to double figures, 37-26.
“We got down 16-32,” Bradford boys basketball coach Mackenzie Perry said. “I’ve seen a lot of Bradford teams just fold and quit … We got it down to 24-32, before they hit a 3 that took the wind out of our sails but had been fighting foul trouble entire first half.
“One of my seniors said what could we have done if we would have been at full strength,” Coach Perry continued. “Told him that’s the way life is sometimes. You play with the cards you’ve been dealt.”
Fairlawn was in control of the game in the second half. The Jets stretched their lead as high as 20 in the third period before Bradford cut in down to 15 by quarter’s end and steadily pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“It was a tough game because that’s a great team,” Coach Perry said. “What I wanted to instill in our players was try to push them every possession and make them think and not shoot ourselves in the foot and see where we are at. “
Smith had 13 points to lead the Roaders. Millhouse had 12 and Alex Swabb and Josh Phillips both had 7.
Coach Perry spoke of the contributions of his four seniors – Alex Swabb, Walker Branson, Chase Gambill and Mason Justice – the effort the boys had given and what they meant to the program.
“We played close game after close game,” Coach Perry said of the season. “I asked a lot of my guards. Three guards averaged 30 minutes a game … It hurts to lose, but I’m so proud of those boys.”