BRADLEY – Early in the second quarter of a SouthWest Suburban Conference matchup between Bolingbrook and Bradley-Bourbonnais, the favored Raiders did not appear to be quite themselves.
Holding only a four-point lead, the Raiders had been agitated a bit by the less-than-frantic pace they typically prefer.
But it seemed unlikely that the Raiders were going to be kept in check for the entire contest, and indeed they weren’t as they cranked up the pace and went on a 20-2 run to close the first half, which eventually led to a comfortable 76-39 victory for Bolingbrook.
“We’re on the road and they are well-coached and they know how to play, and their coach does a great job with them,” Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. “So I don’t really worry about that. We just play right and eventually wear teams down and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Raiders quickly pushed the lead to nearly 30 in the early stages of the third quarter and pressed the running clock into action by taking that lead over 30 with just over six minutes to play.
The win didn’t look like it was going to be that easy in the early stages of the game.
Bolingbrook quickly took a 10-point lead at 14-4 early in the contest behind a flurry of scoring from Darius Burford. Burford found himself in double-digit scoring only four minutes into the game, as he scored all but two of the Raider points during that early run.
“He can do that,” Brost said of Burford. “He’s an All-Stater for a reason, and that’s why he does what he did.”
But the Boilermakers had a little fight in them and got a strong sequence from 6-foot-6 freshman Owen Freeman, who led Bradley with 15 points, as his singular scoring push helped Bradley quickly close to within 16-13.
And the Boilermakers still threw a few punches early in the second quarter to keep the game manageable.
However, Bolingbrook’s defensive intensity started to wither the Boilermakers’ resolve and with it a litany of turnovers soon followed, which sparked a number of easy transition baskets, and allowed the Raiders to almost instantaneously push the lead at halftime to 48-26.
“We’ve been talking about our defense,” Brost said. “We gave up 90 to Neuqua with one kid scoring 49 and we gave up a lot of points to Marian, but we won. We want to use the defense to speed teams up and that’s exactly what happened tonight. We play fast and we’re going to continue to do that against whoever we play.”
Burford would finish the game with 21 points, all of which he’d score in the first half. Isaiah Stafford also contributed 16 and Kai Evans finished with 11. But all of those starters saw extremely limited action in the second half, as the Raiders turned over the reins of the game to some of their reserves to finish things out.
That did not mean, however, that the Raiders were going to ease off defensively as they continued to harass the Boilermakers into miscues and ended up containing Bradley to only 13 second-half points.
The win pushed Bolingbrook’s record to a 17-4 on the season and the victory marked their 11th triumph in their last 12 outings, a fact made even more impressive considering the gauntlet of opponents the Raiders have faced of late. As in their custom, the schedule won’t get any easier, so continuing to stay in attack mode regardless of the opponent will be essential, Brost said.
“We’ve been able to persevere, at one point we were 6-3 and now we’re 17-4,” Brost said. “We’re coming. But we have to continue to get better. We’re pleased, but never satisfied, because we’ve got some things we have to work on.”