NHIAA Div. I Girls' Basketball Tournament: Bedford, BG gain final
MANCHESTER - The team that had never won a playoff game now gets a chance to topple a team not used to losing one.
Bedford High's memorable first season in Division I got a little better Thursday as the second-seeded Bulldogs knocked off No. 6 Winnacunnet of Hampton, 62-34, in the semifinals of the Division I girls' basketball tournament at the Southern New Hampshire University fieldhouse.
Now the Bulldogs (19-2) - who never won a playoff game during their years in Division II - face the ultimate test Saturday when they return here to play top-seeded and defending champion Bishop Guertin at 7:30 p.m.
Bishop Guertin punched its ticket back into the title game with a 46-33 win over No. 4 Londonderry.
The Cardinals (20-1) and Bulldogs split a pair of games this season, with BG winning during the regular season and Bedford taking a decision in the Nashua North Holiday tournament.
"I figured they'd be there at the end," BG coach Scott Hazleton said.
Bedford's emergence signals a changing of the guard.
The other three teams in the Final Four - Londonderry, Bishop Guertin and Winnacunnet - won a combined six titles and have made 10 championship appearances in the last seven years. But the Bulldogs - a team with just two seniors - do not appear intimidated. They reeled off their 14th straight win and they did it their way: with defense.
For the 11th time in their last 13 games, the Bulldogs held an opponent to under 40 points. They've allowed an average of 34.8 points over that impressive stretch.
Bedford 62, Winnacunnet 34: With their guards pressuring the ball and their forwards jumping the passing lanes, Bedford forced Winnacunnet into 26 turnovers. They held the Warriors without a field goal for over 14 minutes, turning a 22-18 deficit late in the first quarter into a 54-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Freshman guard Brianna Purcell was a one-person momentum changer, scoring the final eight points of the first half to give the Bulldogs a 26-22 lead at the intermission.
The Warriors were on an 8-4 run and threatening to take firm control of the game when Purcell stepped into a 3-pointer that cut Winnacunnet's lead to 22-21 with 1:43 left in the second quarter.
She followed up by stealing the ball and going in for a layup that led to a conventional three-point play and a 24-22 lead. The diminutive guard then battled for a rebound in the final seconds, lunging for the ball and throwing it back up at the rim to give the Bulldogs a four-point cushion.
"That was huge," Bedford coach Sue Thomas said. "Bri does that. She comes off the bench and just adds."
First-year Winnacunnet coach Cassie Turcotte said the swing "depressed" her team heading into the locker room at halftime and it carried over into the second half.
The loss denied the Warriors (15-6) a chance to win their sixth title in seven years and it marked the second time this week that Bedford ended the season for a Winnacunnet team. The Bulldogs beat the Warriors in the first round of the Division I boys' basketball tournament on Tuesday.
In a game where both teams struggled to find any rhythm on offense, Rachel Collins provided a boost for the Bulldogs, scoring 10 of her game-high 19 points in the second half. McKenzie Brown added 11 and Purcell finished with 10.
Winnacunnet's Melissa MacLeod scored seven of her team-high 12 points in the second quarter. Turcotte credited Bedford for holding leading scorers MacLeod and forward Carly Gould to a combined 16 points.
Their defense allowed the Bulldogs to overcome their struggles shooting the ball. Bedford was 23-for-58 from the field, 9-for-25 in the first half.
Bishop Guertin 46, Londonderry 33: The Lancers (16-5) never got going offensively and their chances of mounting a comeback took a crippling blow when junior point guard Aliza Simpson fouled out midway through the fourth quarter with the Cardinals ahead 33-28.
Simpson, Londonderry's leading scorer, finished with six points going against BG point guard Jamie Sherburne, who had 13.
"To me, the best players should guard each other," Hazleton said. "I think Jamie did a great job on her."
The Cardinals beat the Lancers by 46 points two months ago in the regular season, but credit Londonderry for a much-improved effort. With each team shooting less than 27 percent from the field, the difference was the inside work of BG senior center Meghan Green, who scored 10 of her game-high 24 points on offensive rebounds.
Six straight points by Londonderry's Casey Evans (12 points) pulled the Lancers to within 29-28 with 6:55 left, but the Cardinals scored the next five points (all at the foul line) to regain control.
BG, which scored four points in the first quarter, led 17-15 at halftime and 29-24 after three quarters. The Cardinals managed to survive without a field goal in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
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Bedford 62, Winnacunnet 34
Winnacunnet: Maelan Castro 2-3-7; Melissa MacLeod 4-3-12; Molly Britton 0-2-2; Carly Gould 2-0-4; Delaney Burns 1-0-2; Katie Valcich 1-0-2; Shauna Morrison 2-1-5. Totals 12-9-34 Three-pointers MacLeod
Bedford: Haley Driscoll 1-0-2; Rachel Collins 7-1-19; Ali Glennon 3-1-7; Caroline Conrad 1-0-3; Mckenzie Brown 3-5-11; Letti Hubbard 0-2-2; Isabel Munoz 1-0-2; Brianna Purcell 4-1-10; Nicole Tucci 3-0-6. Totals 23-10-62 Three-pointers: Collins 4; Conrad; Purcell
Winnacunnet (15-6) 9-13- 5- 7-34
Bedford (19-2) 12-14-17-19-62
Bishop Guertin 46, Londonderry 33
Londonderry: Jamie King 1-1-3; Aliza Simpson 2-1-6; Katherine Dzenis 0-2-2; Jordan Marett 1-0-2; Casey Evans 4-4-12; Jenna Conroy 2-0-5; Brittany Roche 1-0-3. Totals: 11-8-33 Three-pointers: Simpson; Conroy; Roche
Bishop Guertin: Jamie Sherburne 3-7-13; Megan Kerutis 2-0-4; Madison Gibbs 1-0-2; Meghan Green 8-7-24; Nicole Hayner 0-3-3. Totals 14-17-48 Three-pointers: Green
Londonderry (15-6) 6- 9- 9- 9-33
Bishop Guertin (20-1) 4-13-12-17-46