PITSBURG – Three things would happen with a Bradford victory in the eighth grade girls basketball Cross County Conference championship game.
Bradford could enjoy a perfect season, the Lady Railroaders would win the league title and Coach Chris Besecker would enjoy his first undefeated season in 32 years of coaching. After a 24 minute, hard-fought battle the orange and black could celebrate all three as Bradford defeated Bethel 18-16.
Bradford’s offense struggled mightily in the first period. The Lady Roaders could net just 3 points in the stanza, all by Skipp Miller. The Railroaders tried to get the ball inside, but the Bees’ defense was waiting for that particular play. Defensively, Bradford allowed just three baskets and a pair of free throws, but found itself trailing 8-3 after one quarter.
The Lady Roaders’ offensive turn-around came thanks to the outside shooting of guards Abby Gade and Emma Canan. These two popped in three perimeter shots, two from behind the arc, to give Bradford the lead at 11-10. This run happened in the final 3:28 of the second period as the Lady Roader clamped down defensively and only allowed Bethel one basket in the quarter. At the half, Bradford led 13-10.
If you like hard-nosed, get-in-your-face defense the second half was to your liking. Two minutes into the period the score was now 14-12 with Bradford leading when Bethel broke out its half-court pressing defense. This caused the Lady Roaders to turn the ball over on several possessions, but Bradford held up under the extra pressure and would not let Bethel score again in this stanza.
With 3:27 remaining in the game and Bradford leading 18-14 after a made free throw by Miller, Bradford would not score again. On the next possession Bethel unveiled a box and one on Miller. The Lady Roaders simply controlled the ball, forcing Bethel out of the zone/man defense.
Although Bradford did not score the Railroaders ran down the clock to nearly 30 seconds were remaining. The Lady Bees managed a field goal. On the ensuing in-bounds play during the madness that followed Bradford lost the ball out of bounds near the far end line with 10.5 seconds left.
After a timeout, Bethel drove the ball hard down the right sideline and missed a wild shot from the right corner and Bradford had held on.
“We had an outstanding effort today defensively,” Bradford coach Chris Besecker said. “You’ve got to out defend your opponent. That’s what it take to win.
“Key offensively was when guards got it lit up in the second quarter,” Besecker continued. “When Emma and Abby made shots, it made a big difference.”
On the undefeated season Besecker said, “All credit goes to the girls … They worked hard every day. They bought into what we were teaching. They listened. Played tremendous defense. In big games that’s what wins games for you, and that’s what won a game for us today.”
The Lady Roaders of Bradford eighth grade team is made up of Abby Gade, Emma Canan, Kendall Hill, Skipp Miller, Buzz Brewer, Cassi Mead and Maggie Manuel.