Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bedford Beats BG in Title Game Rematch

This was a heck of a game. You can't ask for much more from a December game, second game of the season. It definitely had the intensity and atmosphere of a playoff game. It's still very early, but still I'll be shocked if these aren't the 2 teams in the finals come March.

Both Bedford and Bishop Guertin are deep, talented teams - both played hard. This could have gone either way, but Bedford made more plays down the stretch when it counted most. BG led 45-40 with just 4:37 left in regulation. But Elizabeth Stevenson, Mia Roy, Alyson Fillion and Madeline Blake all scored clutch baskets late for the Bulldogs.

BG went 21-1 last season, beating Bedford in the final. BG returns 4 starters and 7 of their top 8 players. Bedford returns just 2 starters, yet the Bulldogs get revenge on Tuesday night, winning 57-49 in front of a packed crowd at the Collignon Gymnasium in Nashua. That's why they play the games!

"It's really awesome" said Blake, a 5-foot-9 senior wing. "A lot of people thought we'd be a lot different this year since we lost 3 good seniors. But we believe in ourselves, and we wanted to show that we're the best team in the state."

Fillion (10 points) scored what turned out to be the game-winning shot. It was tied 47-47, Bedford basketball. Fillion dribbled inside, pulled up along the baseline, got just enough space to get the shot off and nailed it!49-47 Bulldogs with 1:56 left.

Bedford got the ball back, up by 1 with 1:15 left to play. They don't need to shoot here. BG was playing an extended man-to-man defense, pressuring the basketball hard. Blake drove by her defender (Molly Dee), to the rim for a strong lefty finish in traffic. It's now 51-48 Bedford, with 1:03 remaining. Fillion ices the game from the foul line, and the Bulldogs win 57-49.

"It was a set play for me to come out and take a shot off a screen" Fillion said about her game-winner. "That shot gave us the momentum. The free throws are definitely what won it for us, though."

The other day I tweeted my rankings of the top girls basketball teams in D-I. BG was #1, Bedford was #2. Maybe that tweet gave Bedford some extra motivation in tonight's game. We'll have to reverse those rankings now!

"We changed our offense over the summer" said Bedford head coach Sue Thomas. "We're still figuring it out - it has more energy to it now. At times we didn't run it at all, but as the game went on it got better. I'm hoping by the end of the season it will be more cohesive."

Coach Thomas must be at least failry pleased, considering they were going against a BG team that is VERY good defensively and very aggressive and physical defensively and the Bulldogs still scored 57 points.

Bedford had a balanced scoring attack. They played 11 kids and 10 of them scored. 6-foot-1 senior forward Jenoyce Laniyan led the team with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Fillion joined her in double figures with 10 points.

BG meanwhile had 3 players in double figures - senior guard and D-I preseason Player of the Year Meghan Cramb (game-high 13 points), Molly Dee (10 points) and Caroline Hoffer (10 points).

Both teams have good depth, with at least four kids on each time coming off the bench who would start for pretty much any other team in D-I.

"I thought a turning point for us was when Kendra Barnard got two rebounds for us" said Coach Thomas. "Instead of trying to go back up with it and getting trapped, whe kicked the ball back out - that showed good compsure. Alexa Dyer is a junior who played well for us off the bench, Lizzy Stevenson is very good and Amanda Jonas didn't play as much tonight but she's going to be very good for us."

BG came out with intense pressure defense to start the 1st quarter. Bedford was able to beat that pressure on its opening possession, as Fillion calmly dribbled inside the key and buried a pull-up jumper from the foul line. BG quickly pushed the ball on the other end, getting it ahead to Dee for the layup. Laniyan converted a quick layup on the other end and it was 4-2 Bedford early on.

BG was again pressuring hard out on the perimeter. Bedford's answer was to drive by them, as Blake took it strong to the rim, hitting a tough lefty bank shot in close. That made it 6-2 Bulldogs with 5:00 left in the 1st quarter. Dee connected on a 15-footer, but then Bedford senior guard Alexis Meservey drove and scored a tough and-1 bucket through contact.

BG was missing lots of layups. To Bedford's credit, they were at least challenging all of those layups, and there was contact on some of them. The Bedford bench showed what they could do at the end of the 1st quarter, as Stevenson (a scrappy guard who plays hard and with a ton ofn energy) made a nice dish to Jonas on a 3-on-2 break which was created as a result of a press-break. Jonas made the layup, and on their next possession Stevenson scored inside for 2. It was 12-8 Bedford after 1 quarter.

It was a fairly low scoring 1st quarter, but even lower scoring 2nd quarter with BG scoring 8 and Bedford scoring just 4 in the 2nd. Bedford went scoreless for the first 4:00 of the 2nd quarter, thanks in large part to the continued tough pressure defense of BG. Bedford junior forward Clare Driscoll made a nice block early in the 2nd quarter. After having a few shots rim out in the 1st quarter, Cramb was finally on the board with a fast-break layup.

Finally the Bulldogs broke their scoring drought, as Fillion made a nice bounce pass to Laniyan for a layup to extend the Bedford lead to 14-11. BG senior forward Abbi Field made a nice block on Laniyan. Then Cramb made a nice dish to freshman guard Erin Carney for a layup. Stevenson made another nice play for Bedford - she was strong with the ball against the pressure 'D', drove baseline and made a nice dish inside to Laniyan for a layup.

BG got another bucket from their bench, as 5-foot-10 freshman Addison Smith took it strong to the rim in transition, finishing through contact for the and-1. That's a finish you're not going to see many players in the NHIAA make this year - especially not many freshmen! Hoffer stepped in, took a charge and it was tied up 16-16 at halftime.

The action, pace of the game and offense all really picked up in the 3rd quarter. Bedford outscored B G 23-20 in the 3rd - it was a heck of a quarter! Lots of high level plays, on both sides. Laniyan showed some good hustle early in the 3rd quarter, diving on the floor for a loose ball. Filion made another nice pass, finding Laniyan inside for a layup. Meservey was strong with the ball vs. pressure 'D', drove it inside, got fouled, hit both FTs and Bedford goes up 22-16, a 6-0 Bulldogs run to start the 2nd half.

"We definitely knew BG was going to be a really good game" said Filion. In the 1st half we had to catch them - they were beating us down the floor for layups. Once we got better at getting back on defense, we were able to focus on our offense after that."

Dyer slashed into the lane, hit a lefty floater and iot was 24-17 Bedford, matching their largest lead of the game. Dee answered back on the other end, with a strong take and and-1 finish.

BG senior guard Rachel Marion made a nice block on 'D'. On the other end Cramb drilled a 3-pointer, and just like that we were tied back up, 24-24 with 4:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Bedford countered, as Blake dished it to Barnard for a layup. Marion made a nice steal in the backcourt, finishing the layup for the Cardinals. Just seconds later the Bulldogs responded, as Roy exploded to the rim off the bounce for a lefty finish.

Fillion then made yet another outstanding pass - she drove, drew a second defender and then just at the right time dished it to her open teammate, Maniyan underneath for the layup. A great pass, and very unselfish play by Fillion to give up a good look for herself for an even better look for a teammate.

That was followed by one of the best plays of the game. Stevenson has the ball, and is being pressured heavily by her defender. Stevenson uses a nifty dribble-drive move to shake her defender, get into the lane, turns and flips it in for 2 - a tough shot, and-1 finish! On the other end Blake makes a nice steal near mid-court, takes it strong to the rim for an and-1 of her own. Bedford extends their lead to 36-29.

Smith hits a big 3 off the catch from the left wing for BG to keep them close. She had 8 points off the bench. Cramb (assumption College commit) makes a strong drive, and-1 finish as the Cardinals continue to grab momentum back. Smith scores again, this time she was cool under pressure as she gathers in a long pass and finishes for 2 in traffic. BG ends the 3rd quarter on a nice run and leads 39-36 after 3.

The Cardinals keep the momentum early in the 4th quarter, as Hoffer scores inside and it's 41-36. It's a 12-0 run for BG. Field picks up her 4th foul - she was in foul trouble all game and finished with 0 points. Bedford ball, down by 3 - they got hit hard on two shots inside on the saem possession, got no foul call on either. They got the offensive rebound and this time they miss an open layup with no contact.

BG extends lead to 45-40, as Carney hits a layup, off a good dish by Smith. It looked like BG was pulling away. They're the defending champs and on their home court. Bedford says not so fast! Stevenson hits a 15-footer, off some good ball movement by Bedford (and another good pass by Fillion). Roy makes another good take, slashing to the rim for a lefty finish to tie it up 45-45.

BG answers back, as Dee cuts to the basket, Hoffer finds her with a nice pass and Dee finishes the layup. That puts the Cardinals back on top 47-45. But then Dee missed the front end of a crucial 1-and-1 at the free throw line with 2:08 left in regulation. Fillion hits the baseline jumper that made it 49-47 Bedford, Blake scores again on a drive, Fillion hits clutch FTs and the Bulldogs win it 57-49.

Bedford ends the game on a 17-4 run.

"We knew we had to run our offense the right way and play smart defense" said Blake. "We also had to work together, instead of one of us trying to take it over."

A great game, and an excellent team win for Bedford. The Bulldogs keep the momentum for their school going after their football team just won the state title a few weeks ago. Bedford and BG will likely see each other again come March.

Additional note - fans won't have to wait until March to see this match-up again, as Bedford and BG go at it again on January 17 in Bedford. You can bet the Cardinals will have revenge on their minds then!

Lastly, the last time a team other than Bedford, BG or Londonderry has won the D-I title was back in 2011. Winnacunnet won their fifth championship in a row that year. The last time a team other than BG, Bedford, Londonderry or Winnacunnet won a D-I title was way back in 2006. Not coincidentally, the Final Four teams in G-I last season were - yes, you guessed it - BG, Bedford, Londonderry and Winnacunnet.

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