By: Jeremy Leveille
Going into the season the consensus was that Bishop Guertin had the best girls basketball team in the state. And for good reason - they're were the defending D-I state champs, they have all 5 starters back from last year and they have two two D-I recruits in Meghan Green (committed to BU) and Jamie Sherburne (committed to Niagara).
However there is a new #1 ranked team in New Hampshire, and it's the Bedford Bulldogs. Bedford crushed BG 54-37 on Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the Nashua North Holiday Tournament.
"They're better than us, they're the best team in the state" said Bishop Guertin head coach Scott Hazelton. "They're improving every time I see them."
Bedford played great team basketball, and they simply had too many weapons for BG to handle. They rotated 10 girls in and out of the lineup. All 10 of them scored, all 10 of them would start for pretty much any team in the state. And there's a chance that all 10 of them will continue playing basketball in college - that's unheard of in NH!
"It was a great team effort" said Bedford head coach Sue Thomas. "Everyone really stepped up. Caroline Conrad is usually a pass-first point guard for us, but she had 4 of our first 6 points and the rest of the girls fed off that."
Conrad hit a long jumper from just inside the 3-point line, then hustled inside for an offensive rebound and put-back and-1. She also drilled a dagger 3-pointer from the top of the key in the 4th quarter when BG was trying to make a comeback. That shot put the Bulldogs up 43-33 with 5:40 left in the game.
The Cardinals were still in the game though, and continued fighting to get back in it. But then Bedford junior forward McKenzie Brown made a great move - she made a drop step to the right, a spin move left into the lane and then finished inside with her left hand, and-1. A great move, a great finish, and it came at a key point in the game.
"I knew I was coming out after that play" said Brown, who has bee battling a sore throat. "So I was just trying to make one more play there to help the team."
BG was still clinging to life, but then Bri Purcell connected on a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbounds pass and Courtney O'Connell hit an 18-footer off the catch (both are only freshmen). That gave Bedford a 48-33 lead with 4:00 left in the 4th quarter. Guertin called a timeout, and both teams pulled their starters.
The Bulldogs led this game for virtually the entire way. They were up 12-9 after 1 quarter. After Conrad got Bedford off to a strong start Rachel Collins made a great defensive play by blocking a 3-point attempt by BG senior wing Nicole Hayner. Collins grabbed the loose ball and drove hard to the rim, but then she was blocked by Sherburne who sprinted back on 'D' to make the play.
In the 2nd quarter BG got the momentum behind strong play from their dynamic duo of Meghan Green and Sherburne. Green had a quiet 1st quarter but made a great post-move and finish off a solid post entry pass from Sherburne. Sherburne (who was playing with an injured back) was playing tough defense and strong slashes to the rim.
Then BG sophomore guard Megan Kerutis stepped in front of Bedford junior Ali Glennon to take a charge. It was anyone's game at that point. However the Bulldogs went on a run for the remainder of the quarter, and took a 28-17 lead into halftime. The run was a team effort. Glennon stepped up with some strong drives, Purcell was playing solid defense on Sherburne, Brown continued to score inside, Haley Driscoll made a strong drive and and-1 finish. And Collins connected on an 18-footer, and then hit a 3-pointer with :01 left in the half.
Bedford had all of the momentum at the half, and looking around the gym there were a lot of people in shock at what was happening. However in the 3rd quarter the Cardinals got right back in the game. Hayner (who sat for most of the 1st half after picking up her third foul) was on fire in the 3rd quarter. She hit four 3-pointers in the quarter, and single-handedly got BG back in it. Green then made a great move on the break with a spin and smooth left hand finish, showing tremendous agility for a 6-foot-1 kid.
Even with BG making a strong comeback bid in the 3rd quarter Bedford didn't fold. Driscoll and Maggie McGown converted quick layups to push the Bulldogs lead back up to 32-23. Brown then hit a great turnaround bank shot, McGown took a charge on a Kerutis drive, and Driscoll came from the weak side to make an impressive block on an inside shot attempt by Sherburne. A good crowd was on hand, and they were watching the 2 best teams in the state go at each other hard. Bedford took a slim 38-33 lead into the 4th quarter.
Driscoll stepped out and hit an 18-foot jumper, and then Guertin really picked up their defensive intensity and ball pressure. Still, they were never really able to get in a rhythm offensively and Bedford started to hit too many clutch shots down the stretch and then they broke the game open.
Also playing well was Nikki Tucci and Gabby Hunter for Bedford and Madison Gibbs for BG. Bedford avenged their 52-43 loss to BG a couple weeks ago.
"We had no offense that game" said Coach Thomas. "This time we moved the ball better."
3rd Place Game: North Over Milford in a Nail-Biter
In the 3rd place game it was Taylor Choate and Nashua North defeating Dina Pitsas and Milford by a final score of 51-46. This may have been just a consolation game, but it had the intensity of a NHIAA tournament contest. Both coaches - Ricky Oliver for North and Steve Signor for Milford were going all out trying to win it. Players on both teams were hustling after loose balls, going hard on drives to the rim and crashing into each other - it got pretty physical out there!
Taylor Choate was solid all game long on both ends of the floor. Her older sister Summer Choate provided a lot of energy and really pressed the basketball on defense which forced Milford out of their comfort zone. Then North junior forward Brittany Derosche converted a crucial and-1 finish inside late. Pitsas was making some great moves to get in close but had tough luck as a number of her shots just barely rimmed out.
Stepping up for Milford was junior Brianna Hoffman who hit a number of clutch outside shots to help keep the Spartans in it. Pitsas's younger sister Adelle also played well.
Genevieve Gosselin and freshman guard Marie Laplante also played well for the Titans.
"I wanted to make sure that we got the ball in the hands of our better shooters at the end" said Coach Oliver, referring to Taylor Choate and Laplante who both hit big free throws late.
North is in Division I and Milford is in Division II. Both teams played well in this game and both figure to be top 8 seeds come playoff time.