By: Tuesday and Friday
This game had a shaky offensive start for both teams. Who could blame them? They found out by mid day the game would be moved up an hour due to the impending snow storm. The Winnacunnet bus got lost on the way to SNHU. The Winnacunnet bus? The Winnacunnet bus that transported 5 of the last 6 state champions to SNHU? The Winnacunnet bus that has made 11 trips in the last 6 years to SNHU? The Winnacunnet bus should be able to find SNHU blindfolded, but it got lost. The wonder of it all!!
As I was saying there was a shaky offensive start for both teams on the big SNHU court. One would think jitters might be the case. "Not so", said Bedford coach Sue Thomas. "Actually, our players were sky high and in a great mood on the bus ride over." OK, let me get this straight. The Bedford bus makes it's first D1 Final Four trip in history and has no problem finding SNHU, but the Winnacunnet bus....... All right enough bus talk. As Coach Thomas was saying, "I think our team was too jacked for the start of the game. They weren't tight, just overly excited to be here."
Bedford's Brown and Collins combined for 9 of Bedford's 1st quarter points to give them a 12 to 9 lead. Winnacunnet hung tough against the favored Bulldogs in the 2nd quarter by pressing and creating turnovers. These turnover led to extra possessions and points for the Warriors. "Their press definitely bothered us in the 2nd quarter", said Sue Thomas. "I give the Winnacunnet guards a lot of credit. They took care of the ball and forced us into turnovers which kept this a tight game in the first half", said Thomas. 6'0 junior Melissa Macleod had 7 points in this period to keep Winnacunnet within striking distance. 6'0 senior Carly Gould chipped in with 4 points. Her length and aggressiveness kept McKenzie Brown neutralized.
Did some one say Bedford was stuck in neutral? Enter that "Little package of basketball energy", as I like to call her, 5'4 Briannna Purcell. The big court and lime light did not effect this diminutive freshman. She came off the bench to score 8 points. When asked about the Duracell Energizer, Sue Thomas replied, "Brianna was directly responsible for us taking a lead and momentum into halftime. She was outstanding in the 2nd quarter. Purcell hit a 3, an And 1 drive and with time running out and a mad scramble ensuing in Bedford's offensive paint for the ball, Purcell found the rock and slashed finished at the buzzer to give Bedford a 26 to 22 lead at halftime.
Bedford made some halftime adjustments, especially on MacLeod. Thomas said, "Ali Glennon did a great job defensively on MacLeod in the 2nd half. She limited her to 1 point in the 2nd half and that was a big key for us."
Bedford was starting to shoot the ball better while the Bedford D stiffened and locked up the Warrior scoring options. Bedford outscored Winnacunnet 17 to 5 in the pivotal 3rd quarter. 5 players scored for Bedford while Winnacunnet just managed 5 points. Bedford took a 43 to 27 lead into the 4th quarter and never allowed Winnacunnet to make a run in the 4th quarter. They closed out the game early in the final period with Rachel Collins and McKenzie Brown leading the way.
"Even though Rachel started out the game cold I told her to keep shooting. Eventually, I know she'll find her rhythm", Sue Thomas said.
And rhythm is what Collins did find to the tune of the leading scorer in the game at 19 points. It seems when Collins is on then the whole Bedford teams feeds off of it and starts clicking. Collins is 5'8, but plays much bigger than that. Her motor is always running and she finds the right area to be in whether it's to take a shot, grab a rebound or start the Bulldog break. She is an extremely versatile player.
"Her versatility is a coach's dream along with the versatility of a lot of my players", said Thomas. She added, "A lot of times when I substitute the versatility of a lot of my players means I don't have to change too many things on the court. I have a lot of players that can play different positions, so every one just slides into a different position when I sub. This is such an advantage for us", said Thomas.
Melissa MacLeod led the Warriors with 12 points. Senior Maelan Castro added 7. The Big Bedford duo of Rachel Collins and McKenzie Brown combined for 30 points. Little Brianna Purcell came up big again in a playoff game with 10 points. Bedford in their first year of playing in D1 will play for the state title against defending champ BG this Saturday at 7:30 pm. "We are so excited and ready for the Championship game", said Sue Thomas. She added,"8 starters in the Championship game are from Bedford. They are friends with each other and play AAU ball with each other. I assure you all that will be put aside once the ball is tapped off Saturday night. It will be a very competitive game.
These are and were the 2 best teams in D-1 all season long. It is very fitting these 2 teams will decide who's the top team on Saturday. They both have size, speed and girls who can score. They are both well coached. It will be the rubber game between them. This Championship match has sizzle and marquee lights shining from baseline to baseline..All 84 feet. I'm looking forward to the opening tap and what will play out at 7:30 pm at SNHU this Saturday.