By TIM CLEVELAND
Friday night’s game between Wellsville and Mineral Ridge was an early-season clash between undefeated schools expected to be among the best in the Inter Tri-County League’s Tier Two.
The Tigers and Seth Bradford punched Ridge in the mouth from the opening tip, dominating in a 79-55 rout that sent a clear message to the rest of the ITCL that Wellsville is a team to be reckoned with this season.
“The score says it all,” said Wellsville coach David Thompson. “This is the statement for the league, I guess. I thought we would be the team with the best chance of winning tonight. You’ve got to do that every night. You’ve got to be consistent, and over the years they haven’t been consistent. It looks like they’re turning the corner because we played good at East Liverpool the other night.”
“It sends the message that we’re here and we’re coming for the league title and we’re not backing down,” said Wellsville senior Seth Bradford.
Bradford led all players with 25 points — 18 in the first quarter on six 3-pointers — as Wellsville (3-0, 2-0) made 11 3’s and never trailed.
“It was pretty fun,” he said. “I was just feeling it early so I just kept on shooting. We came out with a big victory.
“We had it and they just gave it to us, so we just dominated from beyond the arc. We just crashed the boards, also.”
Bradford hit his first two 3’s for an 8-0 lead, and his final one of the first quarter gave the Tigers a 20-13 advantage.
“That’s big, but he’s done that before,” Thompson said. “It’s not the first time. These guys are all three-year starters and they’ve been playing like that. That was big.”
Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl said his team knew what it was up against but still was unable to stop it.
“We knew these guys were good shooters,” he said. “We practiced contesting shots and being up on them. (Bradford) hit some with guys right in his face, so that’s one of the things they do is shoot the ball real well. When you put yourself in a hole against a team like Wellsville, that’s a deep hole to get out of.”
Wellsville led by 11 at halftime and put the game away in the third quarter. Jordan Sloan made a 3 for a 45-30 lead, then added another to extend the advantage to 50-34. His free throws with 1:08 left in the quarter gave Wellsville a 56-35 lead. Sloan finished with 17 points, including 14 in the third.
Nate Scott had 14 of his 20 points in the fourth for the Tigers.
After Mineral Ridge (3-1, 2-1) pulled to within 16 points, Scott scored 12 during a 15-1 run for a 77-47 lead.
“Nate usually is our leading scorer most of the time, but tonight he was struggling early,” Thompson said. “He let the game come to him. In the fourth quarter he got done what he needed to do.”