The Bradley men’s basketball team’s season came to an end Saturday after a 62-54 loss to the Loyola Ramblers.
The Braves came out of the gate hot, jumping to an early 7-2 lead, but as the first half progressed, they cooled off and struggled to make shots fall.
The Ramblers took their first lead of the game with 14:37 left in the first. Loyola dominated the final ten minutes of the first half by pushing their lead to 14 points.
Junior Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye made three free throws at the end of the half to cut Loyola’s lead to 25-36. Loyola head coach Porter Moser said he warned his team of letting up after taking the lead at halftime.
“We 100 percent knew they wouldn’t quit at halftime,” Moser said.”They got a little bit of momentum going into halftime with those three free throws.”
The Braves did not quit in the second half as they burst out on a 6-1. Sophomore Nate Kennell said the time spent with teammates at the break helped them rebound.
“We just had a lot of guys talk and get on each other at halftime,” Kennell said. “I think it shows growth that we can challenge each other and hold each other accountable.”
The Braves cut the lead to two at 45-47 with 10:53 on the clock as Kennell sank a three-pointer. The Ramblers responded with five quick points, but Kennell put another three-point shot on the board.
Loyola got a bucket back, but Brown stepped up and dropped a three of his own and Kennell followed it up with a layup to cut Loyola’s lead to one with 6:42 left. Wardle said the Braves relied on Brown and Kennell to get them back in the game.
“We had the right guys shooting the right threes to get us the lead or tie it,” Wardle said. “[Brown] and [Kennell] were the right people for us.”
But the Braves struggled to keep their momentum rolling and only scored one more point the rest of the game. Bradley missed the front end of a one-and-one, as well as several open shots, and ultimately dropped the ball game 62-54.
Wardle said he was satisfied with the fight his team put in despite being down by double figures.
“I’m very proud of this group and how resilient they were in the second half,” Wardle said. “We had our opportunities to win, we just didn’t make shots.”
Wardle said hopes remain high for next year as the Braves return their entire roster expect senior forward Donte Thomas.
“There is a lot to look forward to,” Kennell said. “We have a lot of young guys and we just keep getting more experience.”
Lautier-Ogunleye said this loss only motivates the team to work hard in the offseason.
“It just adds fuel to the fire,” Lautier-Ogunleye said. “We don’t want to be in this position next year. We are going to start working right now.”
With the Braves’ loss, Wardle said the team has not considered playing in any postseason tournaments.
“I don’t have any thoughts right now,” Wardle said. “It is something we will think about when we get back to Peoria.”