This regular season was hard for Bradford, but the road to their first state boys basketball title looked relatively easy for the Tornadoes.
Bradford (16-10) never trailed, using a 22-1 run spanning the first and second quarters to pull away and cruise to a 64-44 win over Paxton in the 1A State Championship Game at RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Friday.
It's the first state boys basketball title for Bradford, who once sported an 8-10 record late in the regular season but won their last eight games, including four games in the state playoffs by an average of 19 points.
And against Paxton (24-5), the story was the same. But the opening minutes of the first quarter were close, and when Latrell Sanders scored with 2:42 left in the opening quarter the Bobcats were within 9-6.
But then Bradford started pulling away. The Tornadoes scored the last 10 points of the opening period and led 19-6 at the end of the frame. Bradford shot 58 percent in the first quarter and forced 11 Paxton turnovers.
The second quarter was more of the same from Bradford. By the time Sanders scored again for Paxton with 1:59 left before halftime the Bobcats trailed 31-10. Paxton had gone 8 minutes and 43 seconds without a field goal.
Paxton made a late 8-2 run to get within 33-18 at halftime.
While Bradford didn't play as well in the second half, they did enough to maintain their lead, as the closest Paxton could get in the third quarter was 12 points on a couple of occasions.
The Tornadoes extended the lead back to 43-27 heading into the final period, and extended the lead to as many as 21 points late in the game.
Bradford shot 45 percent while holding the Bobcats to 38 percent from the floor. The Tornadoes forced 24 Paxton turnovers as well.
Shayne Davis led Bradford with 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists as he continued his fantastic run in the postseason. Jontez Williams, an Iowa State signee for football, was also in double figures with 13 points. Chalil Cummings chipped in 10 points and five boards, and senior Amari Jones, who was the quarterback in the fall for the Tornadoes football team, ended up with nine points and seven rebounds.
Latrell Sanders finished a standout career at Paxton by leading the Bobcats with 14 points. Kage Wibbing added 12 points and Kenyon Simmons also finished in double figures with 11 points for Paxton, who was seeking it's first boys basketball state title since 1962.
For Bradford second-year head coach Sampson Jackson, who is also the school's athletic director, it caps off quite a run the last three weeks. The Tornadoes also took home the girls weightlifting state title just two weeks ago.
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Marty Pallman is a sports correspondent and broadcaster for Main Street Daily News. Marty has worked in play-by-play and as color commentator for high school and college sports for 15 years, as well as a writer. He currently works for the University of Florida and Santa Fe College as well as the "Voice of the Bishop Kenny Crusaders" on radio in Jacksonville. Marty has also assisted Mike Ridaught with The Prep Zone since 2008.