With just a couple minutes to go in Tuesday night’s Southeast Conference showdown with Tremper, the Bradford boys basketball team appeared like it could relax and enjoy a win.
The Red Devils may have relaxed a little too much.
The Trojans mounted a furious late rally that gave them a brief chance at stealing a shocking win, but the 26-point second-half lead Bradford had built courtesy of a 23-2 run held up as the Red Devils eventually sweated out a 77-68 victory at the Bradford Fieldhouse.
“We got caught up in the score and we didn’t focus and didn’t execute the way we needed to,” Bradford coach Greg Leech said.
“And they hit some shots. We were up 18 or 19 and there was a timeout, and I said, ‘There’s no time to celebrate, because they can shoot the ball, they can knock it down, and before you know it they’re back in it.’”
Bradford hung on, though, to even its overall record at 6-6. The Red Devils finally cracked the SEC seal as well, gaining their first league win to improve to 1-5 in the conference.
“Every win’s nice,” Leech said. “It’s nice to get a conference win, yes. As a matter of fact, I wrote up on the board the standings. We were at the bottom. I hoped that the kids would use that as motivation.
“We’re good enough to have more (wins). We’ve been right there in a lot of conference games, we just (have) to finish them.”
For Tremper, it was another tough defeat. Credit the Trojans for their late run, but the loss puts them at 1-10 overall and 0-5 in the SEC.
“We’re working really hard in practice,” said senior forward Riley Keckeisen, who amassed 18 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and at least three blocks. “It’s just not showing up (in) the wins and losses column. We’ll continue to work hard. Plenty of season.”
Tuesday’s game figured to be a showdown between a pair of talented junior point guards, as Bradford’s De’Monte Nelson came in averaging 21.5 points per game and Tremper’s Tristan Jass was averaging 19.1.
They didn’t disappoint. Nelson poured in a game-high 26 points to go with three assists, while Jass scored 16 of his team-high 23 points in the second half and added eight assists.
But it was Bradford junior guard Trey Glass who was arguably the key to the game.
One of the best inside linebackers in the conference — if not the state — Glass plays like it on the hardwood, throwing his body everywhere and using his strength to get to the basket. He had 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists, with nine of those points coming during Bradford’s massive run that stretched its lead from 40-35 to 63-37 with 5 minutes, 54 seconds to play.
“Just try to get my body into whoever I can,” Glass said of his style. “Drive, try to find my teammates. Kick out, whatever I have to do to (make) my team better.”
Said Leech: “The biggest thing is, Trey’s not afraid. When we need somebody to attack and dish, or we need somebody to attack and score, he does it. We don’t win tonight’s game without him. That’s not the first first time that’s happened. He’s carried us multiple times.”
Still trailing 71-52 with just over two minutes left, Tremper began pressing and trapping furiously to embark on its frantic run.
Senior guard Spencer Swift hit a 3-pointer, then Jass drilled a 3. Senior forward Alec Becker (12 points), Jass and Keckeisen then scored in quick succession, and it was suddenly 72-66 with just under a minute to go.
Nelson went 1-of-2 at the line with 50.8 seconds to play, and Jass followed with a bucket to make it 73-68. After Bradford’s Marshaun Bell missed two free throws with 37.2 seconds to go, Keckeisen grabbed the rebound, flew up the court and pulled up for a good look for 3 from the right wing that would’ve cut the Red Devils’ lead to two.
It didn’t go down, though, Glass grabbed the board and Bradford sealed it at the line from there.
“You just never know,” Tremper coach Ben Chamness said. “Credit to them, they could’ve easily just kind of packed it in and moved on to the next game. But they really battled and really made it interesting.”