By: Ross Laorenza
The Bedford Bulldogs are moving on in the D-I boys basketball playoffs after a 59-36 win over the Salem Blue Devils. It was only the second time all year Bedford came out in a zone defense and it worked beautifully. Salem's outside shooters could not get in rhythm and senior big man Matt Vartanian was held to just 8 points, after getting in early foul trouble.
"Defensively I thought we played really, really good," said Bedford head coach Mark Elmendorf. "Our perimeter guys on the defense rotated really well. I thought we made it very difficult for them to shoot. Colby (Gendron) did a nice job on Vartanian. I'm very, very pleased."
The teams battled for the lead in the early going. Matt Vartanian started the scoring for the Blue Devils. Justin Hayes would put Bedford in front with a deep three pointer from the top of the key. A nice backdoor cut by Salem's Connor Greenfield gave the Blue Devil's a 4-3. With just over five minutes to play in the quarter Hayes was fouled inside by Vartanian. He made both his free throws to give Bedford a 5-4 lead. A transition basket by Josh Bauer increased the lead to 3 points. Vartanian got position inside on Colby Gendron to cut the lead down to 1, but it would Gendron's physical play that got the better of the Salem senior minutes later.
With Bedford now leading 9-6, Gendron moved inside turned to the rim with Vartanian guarding. Gendron made the basket and gave Vartanian his second personal in the process. With Vartanian out of the game Bedford increase their lead to 19-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The momentum stayed in Bedford's favor for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs made the most of every possession, always attempting to make the extra pass. "I'm happy if we take 30-40 seconds on each possession," said coach Elmendorf. With open shots from Bauer, Ryan Hughes and Brayden Moreno Bedford increase their lead at the half to 34-15.
The second half saw similar results for both teams. A thunderous dunk by Colby Gendron brought roars from the Bedford student second. After two fast break lay-ups by Hayes and Bauer the Bulldogs lead sat at 40-19. The zone continued to be effective and the Bulldogs were able to hold the Blue Devils to just 6 points in the third quarter.
By the start of the fourth it was purely academic. Salem trailed by 23 points (44-21). They fought hard but with 2:19 remaining coach McLaughlin pulled his starters so they could get a final ovation from the fans. "They've consistently stepped up to challenges as years," said coach McLaughlin of his team. "I wish it could have ended different for them, cause I don't think this was our best performance."
Final score, Bedford: 59, Salem: 36.
Ryan Hughes led all scorers with 15 points for Bedford. Justin Hayes finished with 12 points and Josh Bauer totaled 10 points in the win.
Griffin Curtis led Salem in scoring with 10 points. Matt Vartanian finished with 8 points in his final game for Salem.
From Bedford High School; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire