By Kyle Shaner
BRADFORD – Mackenzie Perry hopes Friday night was the start of a new era of Bradford basketball.
After finishing 0-23 last season, Bradford began the 2015-16 campaign Friday night with a 55-44 victory against Ansonia – a win the Railroaders’ first-year head coach thinks is just the beginning of a turnaround.
“It’s the beginning of a new era,” Perry said. “It’s the beginning of a new era of Bradford basketball.”
Bradford beat Ansonia with a balanced scoring attack as four Railroaders scored in double-digits and a fifth added nine points. The Railroaders were especially strong in the second half when they outscored Ansonia 38-21.
“Last year I think they averaged 30 points a game,” Perry said. “I think we put up 50 today. I was happy about that. They’ve got a renewed sense of confidence. They have a renewed sense of purpose. They believe in each other, and they believe in me.”
The game started out as a tight affair with the squads finishing the first quarter tied 9-9. In the second period Ansonia started to pull away with scoring from Dane Wentworth, Hunter Muir, Trevor Alexander, Aydan Sanders and Nathan Denniston helping the Tigers built a 23-17 halftime lead.
After making some halftime adjustments, Bradford came out strong in the second half. Led by Josh Phillips and Parker Smith, the Railroaders scored nine of the first 11 points in the third quarter to retake the lead at 26-25.
“We just kind of tried to exploit what they were trying to do,” Perry said. “You’ve got to make your adjustments. I have great assistant coaches that are on that staff.”
Denniston then scored to give Ansonia the lead once more, but Bradford scored six of the final eight points in the quarter to lead 32-29 entering the final frame.
“We told them the difference is because they were in front of our bench, and we can talk for them,” first-year Ansonia boys basketball coach Chad Cramer said of the difference from the first half to the second half. “Our guys aren’t the most talkative group on defense and so in the second half they go away from us, and then they have to talk for themselves, and it showed.”
Bradford continued to fire on all cylinders as the fourth quarter opened with Andy Branson, Phillips and Drew Patty scoring to push the Railroaders’ lead to 40-29.
Trailing by double digits, Ansonia started fouling, and Bradford kept sinking its free throws to prevent the Tigers from making a comeback.
“Instead of trying to come back the right way we were trying to steal the ball from varsity guards, and that just doesn’t happen,” Cramer said. “We put them on the line, and they made them. They have some good shooters. You can tell their coach has worked really hard with them, and they’ve really improved.”
By the end of the night, Bradford had an 11-point victory – its first win since Feb. 8, 2014.
“It kind of proves that Coach Perry’s not crazy,” Perry said. “I’m old enough to be some of these guys’ older brother, you know, and I’m talking about positive and preaching to them about visualizing your success and you’re going to make your mark. And now to see that first ‘W’ it just kind of … I guess for a lack of a better word … Coach is not crazy. I think he knows what he’s talking about a little bit. So that makes me smile about that. It’s huge.”
Patty and Phillips led Bradford with 12 points each in the victory. Also for the Railroaders, Branson scored 10 points, Smith scored 10, Alex Swabb scored nine, and Dialaquan Millhouse scored two.
“It’s not just going to be one guy,” Perry said of his team’s even scoring. “I’m not just asking for one person to shoot the ball. If you’re open, let it fly.”
Muir led Ansonia with 12 points in the loss. Also for the Tigers, Lane Clark scored nine points, Wentworth scored eight, Denniston scored six, Alexander scored four, Sanders scored three, and Devyn Sink scored two.
“We showed some opening-night jitters, and part of that is just how well Bradford played,” Cramer said. “Their guards handled our pressure really well, and then their post guys were just really aggressive on the boards, and they took it to us.”
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.