There came a point during Saturday’s game at Columbia College when everyone knew where the ball was going.
The fans knew it, and the Cougars knew it. The Culver-Stockton Wildcats also knew it. They just couldn’t do anything about it. When the Cougars needed a big shot, the ball was going to senior Marcus Bradford, on a wing, behind the arc. The result was also fairly predictable. Bradford would let fly an arching jumper, the crowd would cheer, and it was again time for the Wildcats to play catch-up.
The final game of a two–day, four–game event billed as the Thanksgiving Classic lived up to its name – except that it wasn’t played on Thanksgiving – it featured ample drama and needed an overtime to decide a winner.
Thanks in large part to Bradford’s dominant performance — 32 points, including six 3-pointers — the Cougars defeated the Wildcats 77-75. The victory ended the Cougars’ four-game losing streak.
“Tonight, we just came in hungry. Those losses we had in the past, that wasn’t us,” Bradford said. “We came out with a focus. We’re looking forward — we don’t look back.”
If the Cougars lost their focus, coach Bob Burchard was right there to remind them. “Focus, focus, focus,” Burchard shouted at least a dozen times. Sometimes he stood, hands on his hips, stomping his foot. Other times he crouched. But “focus” seemed to be Burchard’s only message to his team.
Judging by his team’s play, the message came through loud and clear.
“The first thing that strikes me, more than anything, is that we had 19 assists to nine turnovers,” Burchard said. “The way our team has been playing previously was just the opposite.”
Previously, however, the Cougars didn’t have Marcus Bradford, who had been out all season with a dislocated left elbow. Bradford’s first action was Friday against Central Methodist, a game he spent kicking off the rust and the Cougars spent getting kicked, losing 76-50.
Saturday was a different story. The Cougars minimized their mistakes and moved the ball around. In the clutch, however, the offense ran through Bradford.
For his efforts, Bradford was named the event’s MVP. Junior forward Mikel Fields, a Hickman graduate, was also named to the all-tournament team.
“Marcus was a large part of our offense last year, so we know he’s a scorer,” Fields said. “He likes taking those shots when it comes down to it. When it came down to the clutch, he was already on a string, so we just kept giving him the ball.”
“It’s time for me to step up, and that’s what I did tonight,” Bradford said. “My teammates were behind me 100 percent. They wanted me to take big shots, and I did.”
Aside from his huge game, Bradford’s presence in the lineup brings a little something extra to the team, Burchard said.
“Marcus is one of the leaders of our team. He’s got a spirit about him that I think is infectious. Our team has lacked that spirit,” Burchard said. “Good players give you that extra bit of confidence. I think we saw that demonstrated today.”
Columbia College’s next game is 7 p.m. on Dec. 5 at the Arena of Southwell Complex.