Boys Basketball: Hilliard Bradley Jaguars look to 2019-20 squad for inspiration

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After a tough start, Nick Bolin and Bradley are looking to the Jaguars' 2019-20 team for inspiration. That squad went 25-2 and reached a Division I regional final before the remainder of the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a tough start, Nick Bolin and Bradley are looking to the Jaguars' 2019-20 team for inspiration. That squad went 25-2 and reached a Division I regional final before the remainder of the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hilliard Bradley boys basketball team is having an uncharacteristic season in terms of wins and losses, but it got a reminder from the recent past about a possible course of action for the next couple months.

The Jaguars started 2-3 but then won five consecutive games, improving to 7-3 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Central Division after defeating Olentangy Orange 44-33 on Jan. 6.

On Dec. 22, Bradley honored its 2019-20 team, which lost only twice and had its season ended by the COVID-19 pandemic before competing in a Division I regional final. The players were presented with an “unfinished business” banner to hang in the gymnasium as a remembrance of what might have been.

That team had two sophomore starters — current senior forwards Tayshaun Mayfield and Peyton Murphy — and this year’s squad has three in Jeb Bischoff, Andrew Lamb and Cade Norris.

“What people don’t realize is that in the beginning of the (2019-20) season, we weren’t very good in the preseason,” coach Brett Norris said. “I was thinking that this would be a little different, but they just kept getting better. Led by (2020 graduates) Matt (Allocco) and Chris (Mayfield), we just kept growing and growing and getting better.

“This year, we’re also young. Nick Bolin is a senior but has never played varsity basketball. Tay didn’t play last year (because of a knee injury). E.J. (Teah) is a junior, but he didn’t play varsity last year. Two of our most experienced players (guards Bischoff and Cade Norris) are sophomores. We’re working to get better just like that team was early on.”

Through nine contests, Cade Norris led the team in scoring (16.7 points per game), assists (4.3) and steals (1.9) and was tied with Murphy for the rebounding lead with 4.8 per contest. Bischoff was the second-leading scorer, averaging 9.8 points.

“Whether it’s due to a lack of experience or whatever reason, sometimes in life you need some adversity in order to change some behaviors,” coach Norris said. “Honestly, through six games we had too many repeated mistakes, so you start to wonder whether the kids were really taking coaching or really studying the film.

“We weren’t practicing as well, and you just wonder if they’re mature enough to understand how hard you have to work because some of our mistakes were effort-based. But our effort has been much better.”

The 2019-20 team finished 25-2 after defeating Walnut Ridge 59-32 in a regional semifinal. Tayshaun Mayfield was happy to have been part of that team and be presented with the banner.

“Honestly, it’s kind of special,” said Mayfield, who was averaging 8.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals through nine games. “It was an unforgettable year, for sure. And if we’d had a chance to finish that season, there’s no doubt we’d have had a real banner up there.”

Murphy, who was averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals entering the new year, also was happy to see the 2019-20 squad recognized.

“It was cool to be a part of something like that (ceremony), but we didn’t get the job done because of COVID,” he said. “It was special to be a part of that.

“This year, we have a lot of sophomores starting and playing, but we’re all getting better each day and we’re getting better team chemistry. We have to have 100 percent effort, and when we do that, the outcome usually takes care of itself.”

Coach Norris said the 2019-20 team was playing at a high level when the season was halted.

“When you pop in the tape and watch that team more removed, it will give you chills just how well that team played from an execution standpoint,” he said. “It’s a team we’ll forever be proud of, and yet your heart still breaks for them because of the way we were playing.

“I credit (athletics director) Nick Van Dyne and (assistant principal) Cort Hamilton in the decision to honor them. I think the fact that they’ll always have a place in our gym is appropriate.”

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This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Boys Basketball: Hilliard Bradley looks to 2019-20 team for inspiration