WORTHINGTON, Ohio -- Coming into Friday, Hilliard Bradley had not lost an OCC league game since current Ohio State upperclassmen Andre and Kaleb Wesson both starred for Westerville South in 2016.
Matching up with a Thomas Worthington squad with as much talent as any in the area, the Jaguars maintained the old guard, grinding out the Cardinals on the road in a big-time 49-46 victory.
While Thomas Worthington jumped out to a hot start, relying on the three-point shooting of Jalen Sullinger to build a 24-19 lead at the half, Bradley relied on senior Matt Allocco to take the game over late. Allocco, who scored his 1,000th career point on Friday, powered the Jags in the fourth quarter with his clutch free-throw shooting and ice cold composure.
After Tyrese Hughey knocked down a mid-range jumper to put Thomas Worthington up 40-38 with 6:12 remaining, Hilliard Bradley responded with a 6-0 run to take the game over.
During that run, we saw an emergence of sophomore Tayshaun Mayfield, whose back-to-back inside scores put the Jags up for good, extending its lead to 44-40 with 3:50 remaining.
Thomas Worthington struck back moments later with a mid-range jumper from Hughey and had a chance to tie the game with 3:15 remaining and Sullinger at the line. Unfortunately, the junior guard split the pair at the line, helping Bradley maintain its lead at 44-43.
Doing what big-time players do in clutch moments, Allocco drew a big intentional foul with 2:05 remaining on Thomas Worthington junior Isaac Settles. Splitting the pair at the line, Allocco put Bradley up 45-43 with under two minutes.
Holding the ball for the next minute, Bradley put the ball in the hands of Allocco who was fouled with 58 seconds to go. Knocking down both attempts at the stripe, Allocco put the Jaguars ahead 47-43 and gave Bradley the all-important four-point lead.
Thomas Worthington struck back 20 seconds later, as a big Hughey tip out led to a three-point field goal from Cardinal junior Omari Effiong. Trimming the Bradley lead to 47-46 with 30 seconds to go, Thomas Worthington had its best chance to at least force overtime.
Unable to send one of Bradley's non-shooters to the line, Thomas Worthington fouled Keaton Norris who knocked down both attempts with 25 seconds to go and holding a 49-46 advantage.
On Thomas Worthington's final possession, the Cardinals got multiple looks to force overtime. Sullinger attempted a step back three that was blocked by Bradley junior AJ Mirgon, however, the Cardinals got one more attempt to tie the game as Effiong had an open look at the top of the key with three seconds remaining. Effiong's attempt was off as the clock struck midnight on Thomas and extended Bradley's historic OCC-Cardinal win streak to 44 games.
Allocco led the Jaguars with 22 points, going 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. The senior scored his 1,000th career point on his final free throw, putting another notch on a belt with plenty of accomplishments already. Mayfield had a terrific showing, going for 13 points, pulling down a handful of rebounds and providing excellent energy and toughness on the defensive end of the floor.
For Thomas Worthington, Sullinger was the only player in double figures with 20 points. The junior guard knocked down five threes and helped the Cardinals have a chance to either tie or win the game late.
Effiong added nine points, while Settles finished with eight points, but was held scoreless in the second half. Hughey had a relatively quiet night, going scoreless in the first half and finishing with six points.
Bradley returns to the floor on Tuesday when it hosts Olentangy Berlin in OCC-Cardinal play.
For Thomas Worthington, the Cardinals will hit the road and head to Dublin Jerome on Tuesday.
Matt Allocco (6'4 PG / Hilliard Bradley / 2020): Allocco is a winner. After all, he's 39-0 in his career in regular season league games. And judging off Friday's performance, we aren't sure he may ever lose in the Cardinal division. The 6-foot-4 senior took over in the second half, drawing foul after foul and keeping Bradley cool and under control. The biggest thing that we love about Allocco is his desire to win, as he truly doesn't care about who scores the most points and will do anything it takes to win. Allocco showed confidence in his jump shot, something he didn't have as a junior, which kept the defense honest and helped him draw so many fouls. Going 11-of-12 at the line, Allocco brought Bradley home when he needed to, which ultimately decided the game.
Jalen Sullinger (5'10 PG / Thomas Worthington / 2021): While he struggled against Hilliard Bradley in two of three matchups last season, Sullinger came out with passion and confidence, firing on all cylinders to help the Cardinals build an early lead. With the 6-foot-4 Allocco defending him, Sullinger showed the ability to score over length, using his high-level handle and pull-up shooting ability to knock down five threes. Despite his size, Sullinger is a stellar athlete that uses every single inch of his frame to finish at the rim. You can expect Sullinger to come out with a fire in him in the next matchup at Bradley, as he nearly did enough to lead the Cardinals to the victory. Defensively, Sullinger had his best showing yet, erasing Norris off the ball and holding him without a field goal. If Sullinger can continue to play at that level on the defensive end of the floor, he will take the next step as a player since he's already so talented offensively.
Tayshaun Mayfield (6'1 PF / Hilliard Bradley / 2022): Welcome to the big-time Tayshaun Mayfield. The 6-foot-1 forward was the most impactful player in Friday's game, providing elite toughness, energy, defense and grit in Bradley's win. Coming up clutch to score 13 points, Mayfield was highly efficient, navigating off the ball to get himself open on the backside of the defense. When the ball was in his hands, Mayfield did a terrific job opening opportunities up for his teammates, showing great chemistry in the post with fellow sophomore Peyton Murphy. The sophomore is a special passer who understands the game and simply doesn't make mistakes. Most impressive was what Mayfield did defensively, accepting the assignment against the 6-foot-7 Hughey and keeping him out of the box score for the most part. Mayfield put a body on someone each time a shot went up, was active on the offensive glass and always in correct help side position, which helped Bradley force plenty of one and one possessions for Thomas. When his older brother Chris gets back, Bradley will have an elite defensive front court with two powerful athletes in the Mayfield brothers.
Isaac Settles (6'5 WF / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Friday was a great showing on both ends of the floor for Settles, as he showed the defensive versatility that he can offer with his lengthy 6-foot-5 frame. The junior did an outstanding job on that end, matching up with Allocco for most of the night and making it difficult for him off the bounce. We love the confidence that the junior displayed with his outside jumper, showing no hesitation off the bounce as he knocked down a pair of triples and a pull up mid-range jumper. While he was not as active offensively in the second half, Settles remained engaged on the defensive end. For Thomas to win the division, they'll need these type of showings out of Settles, as they're at their best when his confidence is high and his shots are falling.
AJ Mirgon (6'0 G / Hilliard Bradley / 2021): On a Bradley team that scores by committee, Mirgon may not get to show his overall ability, however, he's an unselfish teammate that puts winning over individual stats. While his box score may not wow you, Mirgon provided a major impact on both ends of the floor, blocking Sullinger's potential game-tying three and dishing off a big-time assist minutes earlier to Mayfield which put the Jags up for good. Mirgon is an exceptional athlete, being recruited at the Division I level as a quarterback, but is no slouch on the hardwood. He's a knockdown perimeter shooter who takes advantage of bad closeouts with his ability to beat defenders off the dribble. The junior is a talented passer who sees the floor and will make the correct read each time. Defensively, Mirgon moves well laterally, really defends the ball at a high level, uses his strength without fouling and can always be found making the correct rotations. He's the type of hard nosed kid that Bradley grinds out in its program and will be ready for an expanded role next winter when Allocco moves on to Princeton.
Tyrese Hughey (6'7 PF / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Going up against an elite defensive team in Hilliard Bradley that prides itself on eliminating penetration and clean looks in the post, Hughey had his work cut out for him on Friday. The Jags did what most had expected, pushing Hughey outside the paint and limiting him to just one score inside of 16 feet. Despite his lack of offensive opportunities, Hughey worked hard on the glass, coming up with a few key offensive rebounds and tip outs that created second-chance offense for the Jags. We saw Hughey's upside as a rim protector, sending back a driving attempt from Allocco at the rim and creating a transition opportunity for Thomas. With a handful of Division I offers and a dynamite frame, Huhgey looks the part of a big-time prospect. In the next matchup against Bradley, we look for Hughey to come out with more aggression and to impose his will, as Thomas will need to find some sort of interior offense to take down this Jags team and it has to come from the junior big man.
Omari Effiong (6'1 WG / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Effiong is the type of player that would thrive at a program like Bradley. Thanks to his physicality, toughness and strength, Thomas Worthington has to be thankful he's on their side as he nearly hit the big shots late to push the game into overtime. Scoring nine points, Effiong was the only Thomas player to consistently get into the interior, as his foot speed, body control and strength were huge. Effiong showed the ability to finish through contact, knocked down a crucial three late in the game and was everywhere to be found on defense and on the glass. A tough kid who hasn't had it easy in life, Effiong is an inspirational story and someone we love to follow, as he brings 110 percent effort each night and will be a major reason why this Thomas team is going to be a threat for the next two years.