By: Jim Steele
McKenzie's boys and girls basketball teams had been on a bit of a roll lately, but a make-up visit with Bradford Saturday evening ended all of that.
The visiting Lady Red Devils had their hands full against McKenzie in the opener before the Lady Rebels went ice cold in the fourth. Bradford came away with a 53-38 victory. In the nightcap, the Rebels and Red Devils teetered back and forth before Bradford turned away a late MHS flurry. Bradford ended McKenzie's seven-game winning streak with a 47-44 setback.
In the opener, McKenzie matched Bradford's defensive intensity to take a 12-9 lead in the first, but the Lady Red Devils responded with a 9-3 run and a 20-15 lead in the second frame. Shelby Butler drained the first of her four triples to cut the lead to two, 20-18, but Bradford edged ahead 22-18 at the half.
In the third frame, McKenzie hit six of nine field goals and Butler sizzled. She hit three triples in the first 3:57 of the third and McKenzie girls took a 28-26 lead. Lilly Bennett tacked on two more shots and McKenzie was up 32-28. At the horn, the Lady Rebs held a 34-32 lead. Bradford managed just one field goal, a three ball by Anna Taylor.
As hot as McKenzie was in the third, it was equally frosty in the fourth. The Lady Rebels were just 2-of-10 from the field while Bradford found its range. The Lady Red Devils opened the fourth on an 18-2 run. The Lady Rebels never recovered.
Hannah Avery led Bradford with 12 and Rebecca Walter scored 11.
Butler was tops for McKenzie with 15. Bennett added nine, despite being the target of a gimmick defense for much of the game. The Lady Rebels fall to 15-11 on the season.
In the nightcap, McKenzie faced a big, strong and fast Bradford team and almost pulled off a victory. The Red Devil defense disrupted McKenzie's timing. For the game, the Rebels were 13-of-50 from the floor and they had trouble finishing from the block. The Red Devils took a 16-9 lead at the end of one.
But the Rebels proved they could play defense, too. Bradford was just 1-of-8 from the floor in the second. McKenzie was 5-7 from the line. Lucas King scored with 2:47 left in the second to cut the lead to five. Ben Austin connected on a pair of free throws with 1:07 to play. With :03 to play, Ben Austin buried a three and the Rebels went into the dressing room deadlocked at 19.
As the third began, Bradford started to heat up. It outscored the Rebels 11-2 during the first 5:18 to lead 30-21. Ben Austin and Nate Whitsell rang the bell and kept McKenzie close. Bradford, however, closed the third, leading 34-27.
McKenzie slowly climbed back into the game. With 3:18 to play, King flushed a three and the Bradford lead had been pared to three, 41-38. Whitsell scored with 90 seconds left to cut Bradford's lead to 45-42, then he scored again from the block with :12 to play. McKenzie trailed by one, 45-44. McKenzie fouled Bradford's Chancy Roach, who hit his free throws for a 47-44 lead with :10 to play. That's how it ended.
Phenix Street and Kobe Roach each led Bradford with 10. Whitsell led the Rebels with 13 points and five rebounds, Ben Austin scored 12 points and grabbed nine boards, and King added 11.
The Rebels fall to 20-6 overall and will face Huntingdon Tuesday night in the season finale. The winner of that game will capture the District 11A regular-season championship.