After leading Glen Lake girls to state title, Bradford brings boys into final week

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Mar. 15—MAPLE CITY — Eight is enough.

Or is it?

For Jason Bradford, growing up on the farm of Arden and Lynn Bradford as one of their eight children, it probably was enough. Bradford's upbringing might have been slightly similar to "Eight Is Enough," a comedy-drama television series about a family with eight children that aired on ABC from March 1977 to May 1981.

But the show didn't depict pick-up basketball being played in the barn like it was for Bradford and his siblings. And surely eight would not be enough regional basketball championships for Jason Bradford, nor enough district titles.

After leading Glen Lake to the Division 4 girls basketball state championship last year, Bradford stepped away from coaching. At the time, his teams had won five regional and six district titles.

Now, his teams have won six regional and seven district championships. He took over Glen Lake's boys program during the holiday break this winter as the Lakers were off to a 4-2 start. They finished the season 22-5.

It was the Laker boys' first 20-win campaign since the 2018-19 season, and they clinched their first regional title since 2018.

Glen Lake went 19-5 last year, losing to Traverse City St. Francis in the district final. The season before ended with a first-round loss to Elk Rapids and a 15-6 record.

Bradford led his girls teams to the MHSAA state semifinals four times and almost got a fifth this year with the boys. Their run ended Tuesday with a tough loss in the Division 4 quarterfinals to Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 63-51.

"We're licking the wounds of that one," Bradford said. "We've got to remember to look at the big picture — they are young men becoming men."

But Bradford already has turned his thoughts to next season and is making plans for summer basketball.

"Having the summer with them — if it goes the way we want — is going to be huge," Bradford said. "There are a few things going through my head I can change or adjust. We want to continue to build on our philosophy of what Glen Lake is and my philosophy of what Glen Lake is."

The Lakers graduate Cooper Bufalini, Gage Baker, Dylan Cundiff, Tyler Bixby and Jamie Blondia. But they'll have their top two scorers back, sophomore Jacob Plamondon and junior Benji Allen. Plamondon kicked in almost 20 points per game and led the team in rebounding with more than 10 per contest. Allen averaged more than 11 points per game and led the team in assists.

Glen Lake finished second in the Northwest Conference behind Benzie Central, which was undefeated in league play. The Lakers knocked off league opponents Frankfort in the Division 4 district title match and Buckley in the regional semifinal.

The battles with Benzie for the conference title might have been the highlight of the season, Bradford noted. Those were Glen Lake's only losses in league play, and a share of the title was within their grasp late in the second game with the Huskies.

The Lakers lost 60-51 on their home court in the first meeting but took Benzie to the limit in the rematch before falling 41-39 on the road.

"We had a lot of great games and a lot of great memories," Bradford said. "Going for conference, it pretty much came down to the last few seconds with lead changes. We were up by one point with less than 30 seconds left, and that was the high point. We came up short, but we learned from that game."

Also among the highlights for Bradford this year was the chance to coach against his brother Nathan for the first time in their careers.

The Bradfords started coaching girls varsity basketball 16 years ago, but their teams were in different conferences at the time. Nathan coached the Onekama girls but moved to the boys program before Onekama and Glen Lake had a chance to compete against each other in the Northwest Conference.

The Bradford coaches often talk after their games and learn from one another. They have also seen their parents frequently in the bleachers as they rotate home game sites to see their grandchildren play and their sons coach.

When Onekama and Glen Lake played this year, eight Bradfords were on the rosters as players or coaches. Jason's son Toby, a freshman, played on the Glen Lake junior varsity team, as Nathan's son Carson played for the Portagers' JV squad. The Onekama JV team is coached by another Bradford, Nick — Jason and Nathan's brother. And there were three more Bradfords on the varsity, Nathan's son Caden and his cousins Luke and Arden.

Glen Lake won both varsity games, 38-36 at Onekama and 61-33 at home.

Jason and his wife Jackie have five children. Their youngest son, Drew, is now a sixth grader at Glen Lake. His oldest son, J.J., is at Michigan Tech and has begun officiating basketball after his senior season at Glen Lake was cut short by the pandemic while the Lakers were preparing to play in a 2020 district final. Daughters Maddie and Grace are playing basketball for Lake Superior State University.

Maddie and Grace were big parts of Glen Lake's deep postseason runs with Jason as girls coach. With many games played on Saturdays and not conflicting with coaching, Jason, Jackie and the younger boys were able to travel to see the Upper Peninsula's Lakers play regularly.

This season, the Glen Lake girls, under first-year head coach Brad Fosmore, went 16-8 and won Northwest Conference and district titles before losing a nail-biter, 45-42, to league rival Frankfort in the regional semifinal.

"Jason did a good job, and it felt good to carry on the tradition," said Fosmore, who previously served as a Lakers JV coach. "We took it one game at a time. Jason worked hard to build a great girls program. It made it pretty simple because they had that winning tradition and kind of kept it rolling."