ONEKAMA — A family reunion broke out at a basketball game.
Or maybe a basketball game broke out from a family reunion.
Either way, Bradfords ruled the day at Onekama Consolidated Schools on Thursday.
Brothers Jason and Nathan Bradford squared off for the first time as varsity head coaches, with Jason’s Glen Lake squad emerging with a narrow 38-36 win over Nathan’s Onekama program in Thursday’s Northwest Conference boys basketball game.
The game featured seven Bradfords — four players and three coaches.
After the game, Jason Bradford tapped each of his four Portager nephews on the shoulder with the scorebook and said, “Good job. Next time is not going to be as close.”
“It’s kind of funny, I’ve never had him as a coach or opponent, so it was kind of cool,” said Onekama sophomore Luke Bradford, who produced 11 points, seven rebounds and a block while playing against his uncle. “Like when I shook his hand right at the beginning, it was pretty funny. I watched him coach girls all these years and win the state championship last year, so I’ve always thought of him as a really good coach.”
Division 4 No. 8-ranked Glen Lake (13-3, 9-1 Northwest) needed the win to stay within a game of first-place Benzie Central, getting another shot at the Huskies on Feb. 16.
Onekama (10-8, 5-6 Northwest) hasn’t beaten Glen Lake in boys basketball since re-joining the NWC ahead of the 2016-17 season.
Nathan’s sons — junior Caden and freshman Carson — play for the Portagers, as well as his older brother Arden’s two sons — junior Arden IV and sophomore Luke. Jason and Nathan’s youngest brother Nick is Onekama’s junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant.
Jason Bradford, a 1996 Onekama grad, played football, basketball, baseball and track for the Portagers. Nathan was the football team’s quarterback, with Jason catching passes from him.
They call each other on game nights to see how each did, especially since they coach in the same league.
But until Thursday, they hadn’t coached against each other in basketball. They played several scrimmages against each other when Nathan coached Onekama’s girls team from 2008-12. Jason coached Glen Lake’s girls team for the last 15 seasons, culminating in last year’s Division 4 state championship. He took over as boys coach when Rob Flaska was let go early in the season.
Onekema’s boys beat Glen Lake by two points in the 2016 track regionals, coached by Nick Bradford at the time with Jason Bradford leading the Laker squad.
“We had him sweating over there,” said Nathan Bradford, whose nine-player roster doesn’t have a single senior. “We made him work. We got him talking a little to the refs, so I told them, ‘You had him worried.’ They’re all fired up. We have him once more, so hopefully we can make it as good as this one. It’s a little different seeing him on the other end, but he does a heck of a job with the kids.”
The Bradford head coaches grew up as the third and fourth oldest of eight siblings on a cherry and apple orchard fewer than 10 miles from Onekama’s school on M-22.
Six of the eight siblings went on to become teachers. Their sister, Becky, still adorns the Onekama gym’s track record mural for her school record in discus in 1995.
“Dad would make us work on the farm — unless we were in the barn playing basketball,” Nathan said. “So we usually spent a lot of time out in the barn.”
Their first meeting earlier this season was snowed out, rescheduled for a Feb. 23 matchup in Glen Lake as the final regular-season game for both squads.
“A game like this, we’re going to go back, we’re going to learn from it,” Jason Bradford said. “We saw our weaknesses. So it’s better to be tight like this. It might not look good in the newspaper, but we’re going to learn a lot more.”
Among those lessons were shooting the ball confidently and getting the ball inside against a 2-3 zone, he said.
When the Lakers fed 6-foot-6 Jacob Plamondon inside, he was able to feast.
“It’s knowing when to hit him at the right time,” Jason Bradford said. “He can finish, he rebounds, he works hard. Quiet kid who can finish inside and when you look at the stats end of the day it’s like, ‘Whoa.’”
Plamondon finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
“I told the kids, ‘You didn’t quit, don’t hang your head. We had good shots at the end. They just didn’t go in,’” Nathan Bradford said. “The third and fourth quarter, we did a much better job boxing out, sealing their big guys and getting rebounds, and it gave us chances down on the offensive end.”
After a slow and deliberate first quarter that saw the Lakers lead 7-4, Glen Lake turned it on a bit in the second, led by Plamondon inside.
Plamondon scored nine of the Lakers’ 11 second-quarter points and had 12 by halftime, including blocking a 3-pointer, securing the ball and scoring a fastbreak layup. Glen Lake led 18-13 at the intermission.
The Portagers kept pace with a trio of 3-pointers, including ones from Caden Bradford, Tyler Hart and eighth-grader Max Lamerson.
The Lakers started the third quarter with an 11-2 run to create the game’s biggest lead at 14 — 29-15 — on a Michael Houtteman triple. Onekama chipped away at that lead slowly but surely, getting within one on Hart’s 3-pointer with 4:20 remaining. Luke Bradford’s bucket inside made it 38-36 with 1:32 remaining.
“It was a lot of energy from our bench, especially our eighth-grader stepped up at the end there,” Luke Bradford said. “We played as a team and got moving on offense and played good defense.”
Glen Lake missed five of six fourth-quarter free throws, including all four in the final minute. Onekama managed a good look at a baseline 3-pointer just before the final horn, but it skipped off the rim.
“We’ll be ready for them when they come to our gym,” Jason Bradford said. “Playing as a team, having confidence, that’s the biggest thing to take from this. Learn how to execute at the end and have confidence when you step up the free-throw line.”
Hart ended with 14 points for Onekama, while Arden Bradford added four points and three rebounds.
Houtteman had five points and two boards for the Lakers, while Dylan Cundiff produced four points and seven rebounds.
The Lakers play in the Northern Michigan Showcase at Traverse City St. Francis, playing the host Gladiators at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. The Portagers host Grand Traverse Academy on Friday.
ONEKAMA — A family reunion broke out at a basketball game.