UNION CITY – Both teams had stretches when they went ice cold Thursday night, but ultimately Bradford was able to pull through and get a 51-46 victory at Mississinawa Valley.
Mississinawa Valley’s drought came in the first quarter as Bradford opened the game on a 10-0 run. It took the Blackhawks more than six minutes to score, which helped the Railroaders build a 14-5 first quarter advantage.
After not being able to get anything going in the opening period, Mississinawa Valley started to get the ball inside to Kelsie Hunt in the second and reaped the reward. The Blackhawk senior scored MV’s first 10 points of the second quarter and helped her team reduce its deficit to 23-17 by halftime.
“We got off to a slow start,” Mississinawa Valley girls basketball coach John Hershey said. “I started preaching at them let’s get the ball inside, work it inside, and the outside will open up. They finally started getting it in there, and when they did that’s when she started doing her thing. I love the way she plays.”
In the third quarter it was Bradford’s turn to go cold. Mississinawa Valley scored the first 14 points of the second half to go up 31-23.
“They’re a headache for a coach when you’re having one,” Bradford coach Patrick McKee said of the cold stretches. “You just try to outlast it, and you’ve got to understand that you’ve got to have faith in your girls and understand that they’re eventually going to get the job done once they start executing.”
Bradford finally was able to manage to score 2 points with free throws by Hannah Fout with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter, ultimately finding itself down 34-25 at the end of the period.
In the fourth quarter Mandi Bates started to heat up for Bradford. The senior, who finished the night with her third consecutive 30-point game, scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Railroader comeback.
“She came out early and said that she was feeling some pressure, and we talked to her a little bit about why, things like that,” McKee said. “And it’s just her shots weren’t falling and the last couple games when you put up 30 and 36 and all of a sudden you feel like I can’t score at all tonight, I guess I understand it a little bit. But we got her back into her groove, and we got her the ball where she can be successful, and we got her attacking the rim, and she came alive.”
After Bates scored Bradford’s first 7 points of the fourth quarter, Ally Booker added to the scoring and helped the Railroaders reduce their deficit to a single point, 39-38, with 3:45 remaining.
In the next 20 seconds Bradford proceeded to force two turnovers, resulting in quick baskets that gave the Railroaders a 42-39 lead.
“Mercedes Smith, who’s a freshman that came off the bench,” McKee said, “she’s quick, she’s athletic, and I just thought that was a time for her to step in and just cause chaos, and she did exactly that.”
Mississinawa Valley was able to regain the lead with 2:08 remaining on two free throws by Kylie Willis and with less than two minutes remaining knotted the score at 46-46 with a Madison Stachler free throw. However, Bradford finished strong and scored the final 5 points to pull out a 51-46 Cross County Conference win.
Bates led Bradford with her game-high 30 points. Also for the Railroaders, Booker scored 13 points, Chelsea Gill scored 4, Fout scored 2, and Liv Hart scored 2.
Kelsie Hunt led Mississinawa Valley with 21 points. Also for the Hawks, Willis scored 12 points, Olivia Murphy scored 6, Mikayla Stump scored 4, Sidnie Hunt scored 2, and Stachler scored 1.
“An all-out 110 percent effort. I tell you, these girls for the last five games, they have done nothing but progressively improve and improve and improve,” Hershey said. “I was really hoping we’d be on the other end of it because they could use that but still it’s uplifting for us.”
Mississinawa Valley fell to 1-16 overall and 0-10 in the CCC with Thursday’s loss. Bradford improved to 5-11 overall and 3-6 in the CCC.
“I tell the girls all the time we’re this close to being a real good basketball team,” McKee said. “And it’s little things like boxing out or executing offense. Those are the things that are holding us back.”
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.