Catholic Central sophomore Lizzie Bruce drives against the defense of Bradford freshmen Austy Millier and Rylee Canan during the Railroaders’ 52-40 victory Tuesday in the Division IV sectional semifinals at Brookville High School. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Traditional power, upstart advance in Division IV girls sectional

“I can’t stand the format — I wish they’d go back to the old format,” he said. “It’s way too long a layoff between games.”

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On Tuesday, the top-seeded Patriots plodded through the first half before putting away No. 9 Miami Valley School 62-26 with their defense. In the second game, No. 6 Bradford pulled away in the fourth quarter with a stingy defense to defeat No. 5 Catholic Central 52-40.

“We did not have a good night tonight,” Gray said. “This point of the season it’s all about surviving, but we’ve got to be better really quick.”

Gray hopes to use the extra time to get his team clicking on offense again. The Patriots lost junior point guard Andi Bietry to an ankle injury in the next-to-last game of the regular season. If the Patriots stay alive long enough, Bietry could play again. But she won’t be back for Bradford at 6 p.m. Feb. 27 at Brookville High School.

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“Offensively we’re really struggling in the half court to just find our flow,” Gray said. “It seems like we’re playing a slower pace, and that’s something we’ve got to be better with.”

Bradford is 18-6 with the second-highest win total in school history. They have a lone senior in 5-foot-11 center Bianca Keener, who dominated Central in the first half with 13 of her 17 points. The rest of the team is freshmen and sophomores and two of each start.

“She was real aggressive around the basket and we were able to establish that inside game early and stay with it all night,” Bradford coach Chris Besecker said.

Tri-Village (22-1) is ranked No. 3 in the state and trying to return to regionals. They start a senior, three juniors and a freshman. The big matchup problem the Patriots present is the Downing sisters. Maddie is a 6-1 junior who scored 12 points Tuesday. Meghan is a 6-2 freshman who scored 19. Tri-Village defeated Bradford in a early conference game.

“They’re going to play really solid defense,” Besecker said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball and get good looks. We’re obviously outmanned inside against them, but we’ll go out and do our best. I know we’re happy to be in the gym another week.”

Central finished 17-7 after winning only six games last year. The Irish are almost as young as Bradford, starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a one junior.

The best of the Irish is sophomore Abbigail Peterson, head coach Brandon Peterson’s daughter. She scored 25 points Tuesday and kept the Irish in the game with 21 first-half points. But Bradford face-guarded and double-teamed her in the second half and the Irish couldn’t keep up. When they resorted to fouling, Bradford closed the game by making eight of 12 free throws in the final 1:44.

“We expected the pressure they were going to bring and just felt like we didn’t adjust to it,” Brandon Peterson said. “But this is has been a great season for them. I’ve been saying with their youth they’ve kind of overachieved. The future is super bright.”

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