PIQUA – Bradford came to play in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division IV Piqua boys basketball sectional tournament, facing Fort Loramie who was ranked fourth in the state in the last poll of the season.
The Redskins came out swinging with their leading scorer Dillon Braun firing up a triple only to be matched by Bradford’s Andy Branson.
The first half turned into a shootout between the duo with Braun scoring 9 of the first 16 points for Fort Loramie to give the Shelby County squad a 16-14 first quarter lead.
Branson was up to the task, scoring 12 of 14 for the Railroaders to keep them within striking distance.
Fort Loramie looked like it was starting to pull away in the second quarter as Braun was still filling it up, knocking down two more triples to go up 10, 24-14, at 5:22.
Branson led a charge to bring Bradford back, scoring 7 points, and a fielder from Johnny Fike and Josh Phillips helped close the gap to 28-25 with 1:55 to go in the second quarter.
Bradford had a chance to possibly tie the game, but a made basket on a drive by Dialaquan Millhouse was called a charge, and Loramie then took a 31-25 lead by the break.
Bradford battled in the third quarter early … but it was starting to become a grind. The points were harder to get, and the Fort’s deep bench was starting to take a toll.
A Millhouse fade away jumper at 2:52 made the score 39-32 … but the wheels fell off the cart as Loramie surged over the next two minutes, scoring 10 points to go up 49-32.
Phillips stopped the bleeding with a tough bucket inside to bring the third quarter to an end at 49-34.
Bradford had nothing left in the tank in the final stanza and Fort Loramie added another 18 points to Bradford’s 6 to record a 67-40 win and will move onto the sectional finals on Saturday at Piqua High School where they will face Ansonia at 7p.m.
“We came out here to tonight to win,” Bradford boys basketball coach Dante Dunston said. “We were excited about the opportunity to be able to play against a team like Fort Loramie.
“We gave everything we had and played a 100 percent. I think everyone in the gym saw that tonight. Late in the third quarter guys just didn’t have anything left. We were just a couple of substitutes short of being able to compete for an entire game,” Dunston said.
When asked about the performance of Andy Branson, who literally put on a show in the first half, Dunston was all smiles.
“It really was great to have Andy Branson back and in mid-season form. He missed the first half of the year with a knee injury and his first few games back were rough … but he got back in game shape over the last few games, and we started rolling because he brings a lot of continuity to our team on offense,” Dunston said.
It wasn’t the senior year Branson envisioned, but he was on full display in the final game of his career.
“Tonight we played with a lot of energy and fed off one another as a team. Shots were falling, and we worked hard defensively. That kept us in the game in the first half,” Branson said.
“It was rough coming back the first few games, and my confidence was down a little. My teammates helped pick me up, and Coach was a big supporter as well because he had a similar experience with a knee injury in high school so all of them helped me get through it,” Branson said.
“As I started to get back in shape and got the feel again everything started clicking,” he added.
Branson finished with 24 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Branson’s dream is to play college basketball and a few schools have expressed some interest … one thing for sure his performance Wednesday night was proof enough he has the skill and tools to do it.
Bradford as a team shot 47 percent for the game, good enough to win a lot of games … but Fort Loramie shot 57 percent and had just a little more firepower.
Phillips scored 10 points and had six rebounds. Millhouse had four rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Roaders in their final game as well.
Bradford’s season comes to an end along with the career of seven seniors.
“The seniors on this team were an awesome a great group of kids,” Dunston said. “They were all very close and came to work every single day. They never gave up on our record, never uttered a negative comment. They showed up every day, put in the work, and that’s all I can ask. I wish them great success in the future.
Score by quarters:
FL …. 16 … 15 … 18 … 18 – 67
BR … 14 … 11 … 09 … 06 – 40
Ft. Loramie – Nick Brandewie 2, Evan Berning 3, Cody Barhorst 2, Dillon Braun 29, Eli Rosengarten 8, Carter Mescher 2, Nathan Raterman 5, Austin Siegel 16;
Totals 8-18-7/11 – 67
Bradford – Dialaquan Millhouse 2, Johnny Fike 2, Andy Branson 24, Jake Barga 2, Josh Phillips 10; Totals 4-13-2/5 – 40