By: Ross Laorenza
The Bedford Bulldogs have advanced to the D-I semi finals after a 47-41 win over Merrimack. Junior guard, Max Chartier led the way offensively for the Bulldogs, scoring 24 of the team 47 points. Bedford opted for a zone defense which worked so well in the regular season match-up between the two squads. The Tomahawks struggled to crack the zone early one only managing 6 first quarter points.
The Bulldgos got off to quick start after shutting down Merrimack's first possession. Captain Liam Greene hit a jumper over his defender to start the scoring. A steal and score by Chartier opened up a 4-0 lead. The Tomahawks worked the perimeter of the zone passing between Zach LaChance, Iam Cummings, Joe DeGregorio and Owen Ploss. Dan McKillop stuck to the middle in a battle with Nolan Anderson. McKillop would get Merrimack on the board and after a turnover, LaChance would tie it up taking a pass from Cummings.
The momentum quickly swung back in Bedford's favor. Troy Merservey drilled a three pointer that started a 9-2 run for Bedford. After the 1st quarter Bedford: 13, Merrimack: 6.
The lead would continue to grow and reach as high as 13 points. Shots from Chartier and Anderson put Bedford way in front, but Merrimack would claw back. Two huge three pointers from Owen Ploss gave Merrimack some life. They closed the half on an 8-0 run. Nolan Anderson picked up his 2nd foul as he and Dan McKillop battled for position under the hoop. The Tomahawk defense held Bedford scoreless for the final 5:04. At halftime, Bedford: 19, Merrimack: 16.
THe Bulldogs started the third quarter strong on both ends of the floor. Chartier went to line after getting fouled inside and made both free throws. A few possession later he drove the baseline and blew by his defender on his way to an easy 2 points. A big three from Nicholas Mokas swelled the lead back to 11 points.
Ian Cummings sank a three of his own and Merrimack started to turn the tide. Chartier attacked the paint and drew another foul. Again, he made both free throws. Time out Merrimack.
Ploss came through a third time from three-point land inching the Tomahawks closer. He hit another nice turn-around cutting the deficit to 5 points. A jumper from Chartier pushed the lead back to seven, but DeGregorio hit a 3 as Merrimack continued to shoot over the zone when given the chance. Ian Cummings fed Dan McKillop for some fast break points and suddenly the lead was only two points. A basket from Mokas in the final seconds gave Bedford a 4 point lead to work with going into the 4th quarter.
With nearly a minute gone by Ian Cummings went to the line shooting two. He made 1 of 2. Merriack would make a steal on the following inbounds attempt, but quickly turned the ball back over. It could have been a huge swing in momentum. Instead a basket from Chartier and Anderson pushed the Bulldog's lead to 7 points with 5:16 remaining.
A free throw from Liam Greene made it 37-29 when Merrimack rallied again. Two free throws from DeGregorio started wild 8-2 run. Ian Cummings picked up his third with some aggressive defense on Mokas. Cummings upped his game on offense as well, looking to drive through the solid Bulldog zone. He made two free throws after being fouled going to the hoop. Later he found McKillop inside with a bounce pass. Basket and a fould for the senior, but McKillop missed the and one. Next possession down it was Cummings grabbing a rebound and scoring on the put-back.
Bedford was forced to call a timeout with 2:08 remaining, only leading 39-37. With all that said, the Bulldogs composed themselves and were able to close out the game at the stripe and on the defensive end. They went 8 for 12 as a team from the line in the final two minutes. Merrimack was forced into taking a few bad shots and couldn't get enough to fall. Final score; Bedford: 47, Merrimack: 41.
Chartier led all scorers with 24 points in the victory. Nolan Anderson and Troy Merservey both finished with 7 points. Owen Ploss led the the Tomahawks in points with 11 points, closely followed by Ian Cummings with 10. Bedford now looks ahead to a Monday match-up with 2nd seeded Spaulding.
From Bedford, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook