By: Tuesday and Friday
Haley Driscoll scored the winning layup with 6 seconds left in the game to give the upstart Lady Bulldogs a state title in their 1st year of competing in Division 1. Jamie Sherburne had the ball in her hands and raced towards the hoop with time running out in the game. Sherburne put up a jumper just inside the FT line which was blocked by Haley Driscoll just before the buzzer sounded.
When asked what her reaction was when Sherburne had the ball with the game on the line, Driscoll said "I knew we had to play defense on her. I went up and blocked the shot and then I hoped to God the referees didn't call a foul on me." Driscoll pondered when she was asked about contact on the play "When I blocked the shot there was a little bit of contact, but to me it was a clean block." A block that gave Bedford the State Title as the buzzer sounded.
This was a highly anticipated matchup. The gym was packed. Both teams were familiar with each other. Defense won out in the first quarter. A lot of shots were missed, including a few from 15 feet away where you don't have a defender on you and you have the ball and 10 seconds to get a shot off. Ahh yes the charity stripe. a place where players can feel the pressure of the whole SNHU Field house as they try to shoot those free shots within a 10 second time frame. Both teams left a lot of points 15 feet from the hoop. BG was 8 - 16 for the game while Bedford was 9 - 22. This was a combined 17 - 38 for both teams which is 44%.
Fans for either team could argue until next season if this was a foul or that was a foul. They could argue if this team had a player in foul trouble or if this team had that player foul out. What no fan of either team can argue with is that both teams left a lot of points sitting at the FT line - 21 points to be exact. In a 1 point game that is a lot of points to not take as charity, no matter what level you play at, especially in a state title game.
Nicole Hayner buried a 3 to give BG an 11 - 5 lead 1 minute into the 2nd quarter. The BG faithful breathed a sigh of relief as the senior sharp shooter had been on a shooting drought as of late. Both teams continued their cold shooting as the quarter went by. The big matchup of Brown vs. Green was a stale mate. They both had 2 points at halftime, but Green had zero fouls at halftime, while Brown picked up her 3rd foul with 1:07 left in the half. Big advantage for BG. "It was tough for Brown to be in foul trouble" said Sue Thomas, "but it is what it is and other kids had to step up."
Thomas elected to keep Brown on the bench to start the 2nd half. This turned out to be a good move for a few minutes as Nikki Tucci and Gabby Hunter tried to make up for their center being out. Green started to have her way with a couple of buckets and BG got some breathing room of 6 points at 24-18 mid way through the quarter. Brown came back in to shore up the paint for the Bulldogs. This lasted a couple of minutes, but then Brown picked up her 4th foul with 1;40 left in the 3rd. BG then started missing from that area where you get 10 seconds to put up a free shot. BG could've had a bigger lead heading into the 4th, but settled for a 31 to 24 advantage.
Bedford was looking square at a double barreled disadvantage of Brown with 4 fouls and their largest deficit of the game so far at 7 points going into the last 8 minutes. You sensed if BG could get the lead double digits it would be really difficult for Bedford to make a comeback. A Green runner gave BG their biggest lead of the game at 33 to 24 with 6:30 left. Haley Driscoll came up big with a couple of baskets to keep Bedford within striking distance. Her strength and length was big at this point.
With 5:21 left Ali Glennon was dribbling just under half court when Nicole Hayner crossed feet with her from behind. Hayner received her 5th foul. BG is now without their sharpshooter for the rest of the game. Glennon hits 1 of the 2 free throws to draw Bedford even tighter at 35 to 31. On the way back down to playing defense Glennon is in pain near the top of the defensive key. The play is blown dead and she collapses to the court holding her knee. Glennon was done for the game with the knee injury. The break in the action for the injury seemed to give the crowd and the players the extra rest which would set up an exhilarating and frenetic last few minutes of the game.
With 2:50 left Driscoll makes a nice steal and goes coast to cut the BG lead to 35 to 33. A Brown mid range jumper ties the game at 35 with just under 2 minutes. A Sherburne hoop with 1:46 left gives BG a 37 to 35 lead. A Nicole Tucci runner ties the game at 37 with 1:30 remaining. We are now at that holistically spiritual part of the game where you go from exciting and tense to a point where you know the least little thing will make a difference between winning a championship or not. Unfortunately, the next minute of possessions weren't controlled by either team as a number of travel violations were made by both teams.
With 25 seconds left BG had an inbounds play off a time out to go to Green. She drove to the hoop with the toughness of a future Terrier, but was met with equal toughness by Bedford's Brown as she swatted the Green shot out of bounds on the baseline. Sherburne darted to the inbounds pass and was fouled on a layup attempt. Sherburne missed the first, but made the 2nd. 38 to 37 with 24 seconds left. Time out Bedford. "We did not go with a diagrammed play" said Coach Thomas. "I wanted them to spread the floor and pass and cut until some one had a good shot. Unfortunately, we got caught with the ball in 3 point land as BG pressured us. McKenzie made a nice pass to Haley and she finished the shot. McKenzie and Haley have been doing plays like that all year and in the biggest moment of our season those 2 came through."
Sherburne then had the ball with 6 seconds and the length of the court to go, which is no problem for the speedy junior and then Driscoll made the block that will be talked about in Bedford basketball for years to come. BG was very noble in defeat. They defended their title exceptionally this season. The seniors on this team had a great 2 year run. Coach Hazelton had these Cardinals playing a great up-tempo basketball with constant defensive pressure and a gritty aggressive style. This team should not hang their heads. They represented NH girls high school basketball very well.
The first comment I had for Sue Thomas amongst the sea of black and red Bulldog euphoria was "Heh coach you know what my story line would've been if you lost this game..... they missed free throws." The glowing state champion coach replied "Yaa think!!! I was dying with each one of those misses." I asked her one final question. "Who's going to be pre season #1 next season, Coach?" Thomas replied "We will and we're looking forward to try and win back to back titles."
As I tried to soak in the last comments, tears of disappointment and joy along with happiness and sadness of a 1 point heart pounding state final, I left the gym with the spiritually holistic basketball air surrounding me. I caught Coach Thomas at the souvenir table as she was picking up some clothing mementos to mark the championship night. I said "Coach, do you realize your team led that game for 6 seconds?" Thomas looked magically spellbound and said "That is something isn't it?"
Yes it is. In 6 seconds Haley Driscoll made a shot and a block that will be in the mystical Bedford Basketball Land of Forever.