Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bedford Girls Dominate Boards, Push Tempo, Defeat Londonderry

Londonderry might have had the best player in the gym (point guard Aliza Simpson), but Bedford was deeper, had more weapons and had more size. Bedford came out in the 3rd quarter hitting on all cylinders, going on a 14-0 run to begin the 2nd half.

The Bulldogs got strong play from their big and talented front line of 6-foot-1 McKenzie Brown (9 points and 6 rebounds), 5-foot-11 Ali Glennon (11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals) and 5-foot-10 Haley Driscoll (14 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks).

Simpson played great, with a game-high 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. But it was not enough, as Bedford won 55-46. The size, quickness and aggressiveness of the Bedford bigs was just too much for Londonderry to handle. The Lancers have a strong big of their own in 5-foot-10 sophomore Casey Evans (7 points and 8 rebounds) but Bedford has three of them.

It was a statement win for the Bulldogs, in their first real test of the season as they make the move up from Division II to D-I.

"We wanted to prove that we belong, that we can play with anybody" said Driscoll, who had a breakout year last season as a sophomore. "We love playing together, and so we really came together as a team and played some great defense."

Bedford is a very deep team. They were led by their three bigs, but also got strong guard play from juniors Caroline Conrad and Rachel Collins and freshmen Bri Purcell and Nikki Tucci. Also providing depth on the wing was senior Maggie McGown and freshman Courtney O'Connell and sophomore forward Gabby Hunter.The Bulldogs second unit would beat most team's starting 5.

"That's the beauty of our team" said Bedford head coach Sue Thomas. "Ali was playing great early but then got in foul trouble, and Rachel has been sick. But no matter what happened there was always someone else ready to come in and step up for us."

1st Quarter
Bedford came out pressing full court right from the get-go. Londonderry was beating the press by releasing one of their guards (usually either Simpson or Jaime King) and throwing the ball to them over the top of the press. They were able to get to the line a couple times, but were struggling with free throws (both teams struggled form the line all game). There wasn't a lot of scoring early, as both teams really played tough defense. But Simpson hit a three, Driscoll drilled a 15-footer and then Katherine Dzenis made a nice high-low pass to Evans.

Driscoll was showing an impressive all-around game. Not only did she hit the jumper, but she also made a strong drive and once the defense collapsed she made a nice dish inside to Brown. Then Driscoll dove on the floor for a loose ball. Simpson meanwhile continued to assert herself at both ends of the floor, scoring 8 points in the 1st quarter. Simpson and Driscoll were clearly the standout players in the 1st quarter, and both of them played well all game.

Glennon then drilled an 18-footer, but then the both teams went cold from the outside. The scoring would soon pick back up though. Elisabeth Carton hit an 18-footer for Londonderry, then Simpson scored on a put-back inside, followed by a quick layup on the other end by Driscoll.

Lancers sophomore guard Jenna Conroy then hit a 3-pointer on the wing, followed by a good pull-up jumper in the lane by Simpson. That put Londonderry up 16-8 (their largest lead of the game). Bedford was able to close within 16-10 to end the 1st quarter.

2nd Quarter
The 2nd quarter was pretty even, with Bedford outscoring Londonderry 13-12. Bedford brought freshmen guards Nikki Tucci and Bri Purcell off the bench and they immediately gave the team a lift. Tucci showed a good shooting touch from the outside, and then finished on the break off a nice pass from junior guard Caroline Conrad.

Simpson answered back with another 3-pointer. Then Driscoll continued her strong play by blocking 2 shots - on the same possession. Bedford's good ball movement continued, as Brown hit a cutting Driscoll for a layup. Londonderry then answered back with some impressive ball movement of their own, as Simpson pushed the ball hard up the floor and on two different plays she found Evans around the basket for some tough finishes. At halftime it was Londonderry 28 Bedford 23.

"We didn't play well in the 1st half" lamented coach Thomas. "But we were only down by 5 so we knew we were still right there with them."

3rd Quarter
This is when Bedford took over. They went on a 14-0 run to start the 2nd half, going from being down by 5 to up by 9. Glennon really played some great all-around basketball during the run. She was active on both ends of the floor, attacking the rim off the dribble and crashing the boards.

Driscoll hit a layup, then Tucci drilled a nice turnaround jumper on the baseline. Driscoll then continued to attack the rim and finish. Then came one of the better plays of the game, as Bedford once again showed tremendous ball movement - Purcell returned to the lineup and hit a cutting Driscoll with a great pass in stride for a layup. The crowd got loud as they applauded the great teamwork of this young Bulldogs squad. That play put Bedford up 37-28 with 1:00 left in the 3rd quarter, completing the 14-0 run.

Londonderry had still yet to score a point in the 3rd quarter and was in desperate need of some offense. Simpson delivered it with a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbounds pass. The teams headed to the 4th quarter with Bedford up 37-31.

4th Quarter
Driscoll quickly pushed the ball up the floor, then dished it over to Brown for a layup. Londonderry then came storming back though, and after a 3-pointer by Dzenis they were now only down by 1, 39-38 with 6:00 left in the game.

The Lancers then completed their run on a floater by Simpson to re-take the lead, 40-39. It was a 12-2 run by Londonderry. Bedford answered right back though, as Brown hustled down the floor and then finished in transition off a nice pass by Collins. That put Bedford back on top 41-40. The Bulldogs would hold on to the lead from there for the win.

Driscoll made another nice block, this one coming as King was attempting a jumper. Then Brown once again beat the Londonderry defense down the floor fr another fast-break layup.

"We are definitely trying to run and push the tempo more this year" said Coach Thomas.

Tucci (10 points on the game) once again showed a nice shooting touch, this time on a foul line jumper. Bedford was on an 8-0 run and was once again starting to pull away. They now led 47-40 with 2:59 left in the 4th quarter.

Londonderry was not ready to give up just yet, though. Conroy and Caron hit back-to-back threes, and just like that it was a 1 point ballgame. Bedford was clinging to a 47-46 lead with just over 2:00 left.

Bedford was able to hold on to the lead though, as Glennon hit a pair of shots inside. The second one was an and-1 finish and came off a great pass by Purcell. Driscoll then came up with a crucial offensive rebound off a missed free throw. Simpson and Caron then fouled out for the Lancers, and Bedford held on for the 55-46 win.

"We just need to play more consistently" said Londonderry head coach John Fagula. "We'll get there."

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