NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Bedford has a Grande night
Bedford's Taylor Grande drives to the hoop against Merrimack during Thursday's game. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MERRIMACK - Bedford blasted Merrimack for its first victory in Division I, and the defending champions learned they have lots of work ahead.
Junior guard Taylor Grande torched the Tomahawks with 25 points as Bedford cruised to a 62-42 win at the H. Dana Taylor Gym on Thursday night.
Yes, Bedford (1-1) is the real deal. Not that there were many doubts. A finalist in Division II last season, the Bulldogs returned three starters and have strong leadership with senior captains James Caparell and Samuel Thomas (eight points). Junior guard Cameron Meservey didn't have his best night, eventually fouling out with three points, but Grande turned in the best game of his career.
Bedford opened the season with an 89-74 loss against Bishop Guertin of Nashua last week, a game that provided serious motivation entering Thursday.
"I don't want people thinking we're going to get run over here in Division I. We came here against the defending champions and wanted to prove a point," Grande said. "We brought a lot of energy. We played some of our best defense."
Eric Gendron had 18 points to lead Merrimack (2-1), which got off to a hot start before fizzling. The junior forward netted his first downtown 3-pointer and led Merrimack to a 14-9 lead after one quarter. Gendron had 10 points in the first eight minutes while showing an array of weapons. The Tomahawks, however, looked a bit one dimensional in the second quarter and were outplayed by Bedford, which erupted for 27 points in the frame.
Jacob Capistran hit a pair of buckets, including a 3-pointer, as the visitors took a 34-21 lead. Grande (11 points in the quarter) carved through the defense for a layup before the halftime buzzer, and the Bulldogs took a 36-22 lead into the locker room.
And they never cooled off. Grande opened the third quarter with a triple, and Ryan Brown sank a deep three during a 17-3 run for Bedford.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," said Grande, asked about his approach on offense. "When Cam got in foul trouble, I felt like I needed to step up and play a big role and do whatever it takes to win. We talked before the game about how everyone needs to play a big role at times. It happened to be me tonight."
Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge watched as his team allowed uncontested jumpers and dribble penetration for the final three quarters.
"If we can't defend, we can't play with anybody," said Goodridge, playing with one returning starter (Gendron) from last season. "Our inexperience showed tonight, and Bedford pretty much did what they wanted."
Bedford was looking to improve on team defense - and take better care of the basketball - against the Tomahawks. First-year Bulldog coach Mike Fitzpatrick was pleased to say the Bulldogs showed significant improvement in both areas.
"After the first quarter, we were smarter and tougher, defensively," Fitzpatrick said.
When asked about moving up to Division I, he said, "We have good basketball players. We're stepping up a level, division-wise, and I think in our first game (against BG), we had some jitters, and we were getting used to a different speed of the game."
Members of the Merrimack 2011-12 championship team were honored on the court before the game, including team MVP Tyler Gendron. This season, the 6-foot-5 forward has started all eight games as a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Instititute.