Another Bradley is lighting it up at Norfolk, but this one plays for the girls basketball team.
Sophomore guard Jaycee Bradley is following in the footsteps of older brothers Jonah and Jalen. She leads the Panthers in almost every offensive category while averaging 16.5 points per game.
Even better, she’s helped Norfolk — which hasn’t reached the state tournament since 2000 — to a 10-3 start. The Panthers are No. 9 in the Nebraska Top 10.
“We’ve really come together as a team,” Bradley said. “We’ve been working hard, really hard this season.”
It’s no surprise that Bradley, who led the team as a freshman with a 10-point scoring average, has been the key to that success. Jalen, who is redshirting this season at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, was a two-time All-Nebraska player who finished his career with 1,638 points — the most at Norfolk and fifth all time in Class A.
“I don’t feel any extra pressure because of what my brother accomplished,” Jaycee said. “He’s been a great role model, but he usually just tells me to play hard and have fun.”
Girls coach Bruce Shively said he sees similarities between Jaycee and her basketball-playing brothers.
“They all worked really hard,” he said. “They’re gym rats, and you’d always see a basketball in their hands.”
Shively added that he has seen his top player improve in her second varsity season.
“Jaycee has gotten better by leaps and bounds,” he said. “Not only has she improved but she’s shown tremendous leadership for a sophomore.”
The 5-foot-9 Bradley also leads the Panthers in rebounding (7.3 per game), field-goal shooting (42 percent), 3-point shooting (40 percent) and free-throw shooting (85 percent).
Bradley is one of five returning starters for a team that went 8-16 last year. The others are seniors Jordan Copple and Bre Hagedorn and juniors Skylar Starkel and Chelsea Johnson.
Norfolk found out in its season opener that experience still might not translate into immediate success. Perennial Class A power Millard West laid a 45-point loss on the Panthers, but that only served to make the team work harder.
“I was a little concerned at that point how we were going to react,” Shively said. “But we came back out the next night and showed that things could be different this year.”
Leading the way was Bradley, who had a big game against Omaha Marian. She was 10 of 16 from the field and 10 of 11 from the foul line to finish with 33 points in a 63-54 victory.
“That Millard West loss was an eye-opener,” Bradley said. “It told us we weren’t close to where we wanted to be.”
The Panthers won nine of their next 10 games, which included a championship run through the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference tournament and a 20-point victory against Class B power South Sioux City.
“We had never won that tournament before,” Shively said. “And we hadn’t beaten South Sioux since 1997. It just added to our confidence.”
Norfolk beat Lincoln High last Friday before losing Saturday to No. 2 Bellevue East 52-47. Still, a five-point loss against the powerful Chieftains showed Shively how far his team had come since that season-opening setback.
“We didn’t win the game but it was close right to the end,” he said. “I was proud of the way we played.”
The Panthers still have several games against ranked opponents before districts. That includes No. 5 Lincoln Southwest on Jan. 25, No. 1 Bellevue West on Feb. 2 and No. 3 Lincoln Southeast on Feb. 14.
“That will be a fair barometer for us,” Shively said. “Playing teams like that will hopefully get us ready for what’s down the road.”
While the Norfolk boys basketball team has been a regular at the state tournament — five trips in six years — the girls team is seeking its first trip to Lincoln in 13 years.
Bradley said her only goal this season is to help her team get there.
“You try not to look too far ahead,” she said, “but it would be great if we could make it. Everything’s been clicking so far and we want to keep it going.”
Contact the writer:
402-444-1350, email@example.com; twitter.com/MPattersonOWH