Portsmouth won the D-II boys basketball state championship last year, going undefeated. They moved up to D-I this year and are now they best team in the NHIAA, regardless of division. Some people are even saying they don't think anyone will give Portsmouth a game all year.
Well, they got a game tonight. Bedford went in to Portsmouth's gym and gave the Clippers a heck of a battle. Bedford even had a lead in the 2nd half. It's hard to believe the Bulldogs lost their top 6 players off last year's team (5 graduated, 1 transfer).
Bedford put up a valiant effort, but Portsmouth grinded out a hard fought win, 56-42.
"We can beat these guys" Bedford head coach Mark Elmendorf said after the game, with a smile. "We want to see them again on March 18 at 3 o'clock. That's our goal - I'm going to tell my team that right now. This was a really good basketball game - I'm proud of the way we played."
In case you're wondering, March 18 at 3 o'clock is when the Division I championship game is scheduled to tip-off. To some it may seem like Coach Elmendorf is aiming a little high, but the fact is Bedford just gave Portsmouth their toughest game all year. Heck, Bedford just gave Portsmouth their only tough game all year.
Still, Portsmouth was just too good. Too much dominance inside by 6-foot-5 senior forward Joey Glynn, too many 3's by junior guard Mike Sanborn and too much stingy defense and discipline by the Clippers.
What allowed Bedford to hang with Portsmouth as well as they did was that they were fearless, they didn't back down. More importantly, the Bulldogs are a team with good size and they're very physical. Portsmouth didn't face teams who were this physical down in D-II.
"We weren't surprised - we knew they were a good team" said Sanborn, who dropped a game-high 15 points off the bench, on five 3-pointers. "They were physical. That knocked us down a little bit in the 3rd quarter. They punched, so we had to step up and punch back."
"All week coach was telling us they're big so we gotta crash the boards" said Glynn, who tallied 14 points to go with 22 rebounds. "We tried to have everyone boxing out at the same time and get the ball up the floor as quick as possible. We needed to adjust to their physicality."
This game had a good crowd on hand. It was a packed house and definitely had the atmosphere of a tournament game. Right off the opening tip Portsmouth fed the post, getting it to Glynn. He made a good post move, backing down his man (Nolan Anderson), turned, up-faked and hit the leaner. Portsmouth then got a 3-pointer from junior shooting guard Cody Graham (14 points), off some good ball movement.
Bedford matched their intensity early on, as junior guard Maxwell Chartier (team-high 15 points) hit a baseline jumper off a good rive and kick by Anderson. Portsmouth countered, as senior guard Christian Peete made a nice high-low feed to Glynn, who made a good up and under move inside for 2. The Bulldogs were playing right with them - Anderson drove from the wing, got into the lane and hit a floater. PHS led 7-6 with 3:27 left in the 1st quarter.
Bedford went up 8-7 on a pair of FTs, but then Peete took a charge on a drive by Chartier. Sanborn came off the bench and immediately began firing away from downtown. His first shot was off, but his second was good from the top of the key. The Clippers used more good ball movement, getting it to senior point guard Shon Parham (6 points) who connected on a long jumper for 2 (had foot on the line). Parham then finished a layup with his lefty hand in traffic with one second left in the quarter. IT was 17-9 Portsmouth after 1. The Clippers ended the quarter on a 10-1 run.
Early in the 2nd quarter Glynn took a charge. It was the second charge of the game taken by Portsmouth, and the second time a Bedford player left his feet and lunged forward to attempt a pass or shot. Glynn was working hard inside, crashing the boards. He converted a put-back on a 3rd attempt shot. Bedford senior wing Troy Meservey (13 points) drained a 3 from the corner, and moments later it was Meservey again hitting a 3 - this time rishing up and hitting it from the left wing off the dribble.
Then Meservey was getting it done on defense, making a nice block. Unfortunately, making the block left him out of position to defend the put-back attempt, and Portsmouth sophomore wing forward Alex Tavares scored the bucket. The game was now starting to really get physical. The officials also started calling the game too tight.
Glynn kept hustling up and down the floor, this time sprinting to the rim in transition and making a nice tip-in. That's right, yet another offensive rebound for Glynn. He was a beast.
Meservey buried another 3 ball, his 3rd of the 2nd quarter. He must get it from his older brother Cam. Then came the biggest shot of the game so far. Portsmouth freshman Jamel Shaheed, who just entered the game for the first time, banks in a 3-pointer off the dribble at the buzzer. The Clippers go into the locker room at halftime with an 8 point lead instead of 5. A huge difference. It's 26-18 Portsmouth at the half, as the Clippers head to the locker room celebrating and congratulating Shaheed.
Glynn continued to do work in the 3rd quarter. He made a strong take and finish through contact, extending the Portsmouth lead to 28-18. Peete took another charge, as Meservey lowered his head while driving to the basket.
That's when Bedford made their run. Anderson (10 points) connected on a baseline jumper. The Bulldogs missed a shot inside, Portsmouth grabbed the defensive rebound, but Chartier made a nice play to make the steal in the backcourt and score the basket and-1. Bedford junior forward Nick Mokas made a good dish to Anderson for a layup, cutting the Portsmouth lead to 28-25 with 5:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Clippers head coach Jim Mulvey (considered by many to be the best basketball coach in the NHIAA) called a timeout to regroup his team.
The Bedford run continued, as Mokas made another nice pass. This time he dished it to Chartier cutting to the basket. Chartier hit the leaner, and on the enxt trip down Chartier scored yet again, this time finishing inside over 2 defenders. That capped an 11-0 run for Bedford. They were playing some great basketball. The Bulldogs were also stepping it up on defense and doing a better job of keeping Glynn of the offensive boards and limiting Portsmouth to one shot.
Finally the Clippers put an end to the Bulldogs run, as Glynn scored 2 more inside. Sanborn followed that up with another 3-pointer. He was wide open! Portsmouth is back on top 33-29. With so much of the defensive focus on Glynn and Graham, Sanborn and Parham are able to get open looks.
"One of the reasons why we're so good is the versatility of our depth" explained Sanborn. "If 1 or 2 guys are covered it leaves the shooters open, like A.J. (McManus) and myself. I had issues with my confidence last year, but I worked non-stop since then to get better."
Parham drove and made a nifty finish, flipping it in with his left hand in traffic with a defender all over him. That made it 35-29 Portsmouth, and a 7-0 run for the Clippers. Portsmouth looked to push the ball, Glynn led the 3-on-1 break, dished it to Graham for the easy layup. Tough break there for Bedford, as the PHS fast-break occurred due to a turnover by Bedford where Liam Greene turned it over but there was a lot of contact on Greene while he was trying to bring the ball up the floor - a foul on PHS could have easily been called - instead, it's an easy transition bucket for the Clippers.
Bedford keeps battling, as Meservey finishes an and-1 put-back. Tavares rebounds an airballed 3-point attempt and finishes the put-back at the buzzer. Portsmouth leads 39-32 after 3.
The Bulldogs keep fighting, but Portsmouth pulls away in the 4th quarter. Anderson played good post defense and made a good block on Glynn. Sanborn hit a catch-and-shoot 3. He has good form and a quick release. The Clippers lead 42-32. Bedford trying to hang around, Chartier hits a turnaround jumper from 15-feet. Then it's Sanborn again hitting a 3, this time from the left wing. You've got to close out on him!
Glynn converted an and-1 put-back on the break, and a kid who does not show much emotion on the court - after that bucket Glynn pumped his fist and yelled out "yeah!" all pumped up. The Clippers are pulling away now, up 47-34.
Bedford still wouldn't go away. Anderson scored 2 more inside and Greene hit a foul line jumper. Then came the dagger, yet another 3 ball by Sanborn, his fith of the game. This one from the corner, again wide open. His shot makes it 52-38 Clippers with just 1:10 left in regulation and ices the win.
Portsmouth moves the ball well, Sanborn knows how to move without the ball to find those gaps in the defense and Bedford could have done a better job of closing out on the PHS shooters. But it's pick your poison when defending the Clippers. Focus on closing out on shooters and Glynn has more room to operate in the paint. Or do you pack it in on 'D' to focus on stopping Glynn and as a result leave the shooters open? This is why Portsmouth isn unlikely to lose a game this season.