BRADFORD – Bradford gave itself an opportunity to win Saturday night but couldn’t quite finish.
Bradford led Parkway by seven points in the fourth quarter before seeing the lead slip away in a 34-33 loss, which coach Mackenzie Perry said is another lesson in the Railroaders’ quest to learn how to win.
“We did everything right to win the game,” Bradford’s first-year head coach said. “Last year they would not have been in an opportunity to win the game, but this year they are making the strides to actually being a part of winning the game. All we’ve got to do is just practice finishing. We’ve just got to finish the job.”
Bradford entered the fourth quarter up 27-23 and increased its lead to a game-high seven points on Parker Smith’s fourth 3-pointer of the game. Parkway scored to make it a five-point game, but the Railroaders responded with a Josh Phillips basket to push the spread back to seven points, 32-25, midway through the period.
In the final four-and-a-half minutes, Parkway slowly chipped away at the seven-point deficit.
It started with Logan Huff making a 3-pointer, his only basket of the night, to reduce the Bradford lead to four points.
After a Smith free throw for Bradford, Parkway’s Hadyden Lyons drilled a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game, 33-31.
“There was some key switches that we didn’t execute on, and then they hit a couple clutch 3-point shots,” Perry said. “There’s two kids who hit 3s I think were missing them all game, and then when they had the opportunity they put them in.”
With just 1:29 remaining in the game, Parkway’s Sage Dugan scored an old-fashioned three-point play, a basket and free throw, to give Parkway its first lead since the second quarter, 34-33.
Bradford had opportunities to retake the lead, including one with just 12.2 seconds remaining. After using a timeout, the Railroaders got the ball where they wanted it – in Smith’s hands on the wing.
The sophomore got off a shot, but Parkway blocked it. Phillips secured the loose ball, and the Railroaders had a shot at a game-tying free throw with 1.7 seconds remaining but couldn’t convert.
“We ran the play to where we wanted it,” Perry said. “We wanted to get it to our hot kid, the kid who that has been doing it for us. Unfortunately my shooter is 5 foot 8, and they’re 6 foot. That makes a difference. Even then we had an opportunity to win the game. One and one. Free throw line. This is what we practice, and we missed that opportunity. That’s all you can ask for as a coach is an opportunity to win.”
While the Railroaders couldn’t finish off the night with the win, they gave themselves an opportunity to win by playing one of their best games of the season.
Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Alex Swabb added a basket to keep it close, finishing the quarter down 9-8.
Smith and Walker Branson both hit long-distance shots in the second quarter to give Bradford a 14-12 lead early in the frame. Phillips, Drew Patty and Branson then each scored to put Bradford up by three, but the game went into halftime tied at 20-20 as Lyons made a game-tying 3-pointer late in the period.
In the third quarter Bradford went up 27-23 with a field goal by Swabb and a 3-pointer by Patty. The Railroaders held Parkway to just three points from Jeremy Feldes in the quarter.
“We did a great job scouting, and we took away just the little things that they wanted to do and tried to make them go down to a secondary thing,” Perry said of the Railroader defense. “And you’re right, if we hold a team to 34 points, usually you win the game. We just came up short by one.”
And it was in the fourth quarter when Parkway outscored Bradford 11-6 to beat the Railroaders by one.
“This is just part of the process,” Perry said. “This is just part of understanding how to do it. Like I said, next year and two years from now the games that we’re leaving on the table or the games we’re getting blown out you’re going to see us start to win them and make that change and turn that corner.”
Smith led Bradford with a game-high 15 points on Saturday. Also for the Railroaders, Branson scored five points, Patty scored five, Phillips scored four, and Swabb scored four.
Clayton Agler led Parkway with 10 points in the victory. Also for the Panthers, Lyons scored nine points, Dugan scored seven, Feldes scored five, and Huff scored three.
Bradford fell to 2-9 with the loss while Parkway improved to 3-11. The Railroaders will play at Temple Christian in Lima on Jan. 23.
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.