NEW PARIS – The Bradford girls basketball team started the 2015-16 season on Friday night with a 45-27 win against Cross County Conference rival National Trail.
After a rough season last year when the Lady Railroaders won just five games, it was nice to get this season started with a victory, Bradford girls basketball coach Patrick McKee said.
“It was a long offseason after last year,” McKee said. “We were really just kind of putting in the dirty work every single day, and I tell the girls in the summer nobody likes the work you’re doing right now. I tell them in the preseason nobody likes this. What’s fun is games. And we have a little saying around our program that how you spell fun is w-i-n. So all the fun comes right now when we get a win.”
With the exception of a lull late in the third quarter, Bradford dominated throughout Friday’s season opener.
The Railroaders never trailed in the game as they took an early with on a Mandi Bates basket and a pair of Kelly Moore free throws. Bradford was aggressive attacking the basket early on and scored five of its nine first quarter points off free throws and built a 9-4 lead through the opening period.
In the second quarter Mackenzie Weldy took over for Bradford as she scored 11 of the Railroaders’ 16 points in the period, helping Bradford extend its lead to 25-11 at halftime.
“Our first half we were really excited about,” McKee said. “We did some good things offensively. We started attacking the basket. Defensively I thought we looked pretty solid for the most part.”
Bradford continue to dominate the game early in the third quarter and extended its lead to 20 points at 33-13, prompting National Trail to take a timeout with 4:30 left in the period.
Coming out of the break, it was all National Trail as the Blazers outscored Bradford 10-1 in the final four-and-a-half minutes of the quarter with an Olivia Hart free throw accounting for the Railroaders’ only points in that stretch.
“You can’t let up whether it’s the first quarter and it’s 0-0, whether it’s in the second half and it’s a situation like that, you’re up, you’re down, whatever it might be, you have to play the same all four quarters,” McKee said. “And I think our girls, no matter what they want to say, I think it became comfortable, and obviously becoming comfortable puts you in a bad situation.”
As the fourth quarter began, Bradford bounced back and started dominating again. The Railroaders outscored the Blazers 11-4 in the final period to close out the 45-27 victory.
Weldy finished the night with a game-high 17 points while Bates scored 14. Combined the two veteran Railroaders outscored National Trail themselves.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” McKee said. “Those kids put in a lot of work in the offseason to get better. It doesn’t come easy to them so they have to work at it, but at the same point they deserve it. There’s a lot of things we can build on. There’s a lot of things they can improve on. But at the same point I think there’s a lot of growth that they’ve made over the last year.”
Also for Bradford, Hart scored six points, Chelsea Gill scored five, and Moore scored three.
Payten Laird led National Trail with 10 points. Also for the Blazers, JaLynn Byrd scored nine, Katie Stan scored three, Savanna Abner scored two, Evan Byrd scored two, and Bri Dillow scored one.
While Bradford was happy to start the season with the victory, McKee said his team learned a lesson on Friday night.
“We keep preaching to the girls don’t be satisfied,” he said. “That’s what happened tonight. Last year the third quarter was our enemy, and it happened again tonight. We definitely had a rough third quarter. And that’s what we preach to the girls. You can always learn something from every situation, and tonight it was that you have to play four quarters.”
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.