This is why holiday tournaments are so fun. Where else can you see the favorite in D-I vs. the favorite in D-II? That's what happened on Saturday night in the girls Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT) semi-finals, as Bedford took on Coe-Brown. Bedford beat Londonderry in a battle of preseason D-I favorites last week, and Coe-Brown returns literally everybody from a team that came within one shot of winning the D-II title.
Bedford took much of the drama out of this game though, as they dominated the 1st half and took a commanding 38-13 lead into halftime. Bedford was hitting on all cylinders - they played an amazing 1st half of basketball, especially point guard Brianna Purcell and forward Courtney O'Connell. But you have to give Coe-Brown a lot of credit - they were getting crushed but they kept their heads up. And then in the 2nd half the Bears were a completely different team, closing to within 8 points of the Bulldogs when it was 48-40 with 2:20 left in the 4th quarter. Bedford holds on for the 54-42 win.
"That is the best team we've faced" said Coe-Brown first-year head coach Joe Vachon. "The girls felt a little ambushed in the beginning. We haven't seen that kind of athletic ability before. We just wanted to win the 2nd half. We adjusted into a 1-2-2 defense to make them beat us from the outside. I'm proud of the girls for winning the 2nd half and cutting the lead down to 8. This game will carry us through the rest of the season."
The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead in the 1st quarter.Sophomore wing Maddie Blake finished a strong put-back, and Purcell drove and dished it to O'Connell for an 18-footer. Blake grabbed an offensive rebound and then went hard to the rim, drawing a foul. The Bulldogs' lead grew to 13-3 as O'Connell hit another mid-range jumper off a drive-and-kick, this time it was Nicole Tucci with the assist. Jenoyce Laniyan took it strong to the rim for 2 and it was 15-3 Bedford. Finally Coe-Brown ended their field goal drought, as Sarah Curtin sprinted ahead on the fast break, laying it in for 2. O'Connell hit a nice turnaround jumper out of the post and it was 19-5 Bedford after 1 quarter.
Sophomore guard Rachel Widrig came off the bench and hit a 3 as the Bulldogs' lead increased to 22-7 early in the 2nd quarter. How deep is Bedford? They played 13 girls in this game - 9 of them scored and all of them played tough defense. Not only that, but they had 4 girls come off their bench and hit 3's (Savannah Hayes, Widrig, Alyson Filion and Alexis Meservey). Most teams are lucky if they have 4 kids on the whole team who can hit shots from beyond the arc - Bedford has 3 coming off their bench who can.
Senior forward Jen Schlim was trying to keep Coe-Brown in it, as she made an terrific move on the break. Schlim pushed the ball hard up the floor and had one player to beat - the 6-foot, strong and athletic Laniyan. Schlim took it right at Laniyan, getting her to lean one way, using a spin move into the lane the other way before leaning in towards the rim for the bucket.
Then Purcell took over, and in the blink of an eye the Bedford lead went from 15 to 25. Purcell was playing tough on the ball defense to force turnovers. Then she made a nice skip pass over to Widrig for an 18-footer. Then Purcell finished strong on the fast break to make it 28-9 Bulldogs with 4:24 left in the 1st half, forcing Coach Vachon to call a timeout. Out of the timeout Purcell drove to the rim and made a great dish over to Laniyan for a layup. Then Purcell slashed to the rim for an and-1 finish. She was dominating ever phase of the game and putting on a clinic on how to play the point guard position. Purcell's motor never stops, she's a fun player to watch.
Hayes hit a 3 off the catch to close out the 1st half and it was 38-13 Bedford.
Coe-Brown came out in the 2nd half with more fire, more intensity. They fought hard to get back in the game. The Bears scored 6 quick points to open the 3rd quarter - layups by Curtin and Abigail Ahearn (team-high 14 points) followed by another bucket by Ahearn off a nice pass by Debbie Peabody. Now the Bedford lead was 38-19.
Purcell ended the run by grabbing an offensive rebound and finishing the put-back. Ahearn answered with another layup, this time out of a baseline out of bounds play. Meservey hit a 3 off the catch from the top of the key, and it was 45-25 Bulldogs after 3 quarters.
In the 4th quarter Coe-Brown really started clicking. They were moving the ball on offense very well, as Ashley Reift converted a layup and then Schlim finished a put-back. Filion hit a 3 for Bedford, but Sydney Fisher answered right back with a 3-pointer of her own for the Bears. After another layup by Schlim the Bedford lead was down to just 12, 48-36 with 3:35 left in regulation. The Schlim / Ahearn combination is very tough to stop inside. They were undersized going against Laniyan and O'Connell but still managed to score their share of points in the 2nd half.
"They've got good post moves and feed off each other well" said Coach Vachon about his all-state duo.
Then Coe-Brown point guard Haley Ruth made a great take, going coast-to-coast past the entire Bedford defense for a strong finish. That cut the Bedford lead to 48-40 with 2:20 left in the 4th quarter. But then Purcell made yet another great pass, this one to O'Connell for a layup that made it 50-40 Bulldogs who then held on for the 54-42 win.
Purcell finished with 7 points, 10 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds. O'Connell had a game-high 15 points and 8 rebounds.
Bedford is definitely one of the favorites in D-I. They played a near perfect 1st half, but there's definitely some things from the 2nd half they need to work on. As for Coe-Brown you have to give them credit for fighting back to make it a game in the 2nd half. They are still the team to beat in D-II.
Bedford advances to the CIBT title game on Sunday vs. Manchester Central.