MANCHESTER — Manchester Central proved on Monday night it could win a close game.
“We faced adversity and found a way to win,” said Central head coach Doc Wheeler following a nail-biting 64-61 Division I boys’ basketball overtime decision over Bedford at Simon Gym.
Central improved to 2-0. Bedford dropped to 0-3.
Brett Hanson led Central with 23 points and teammates Jon Martin and Tyler Kelley added 13 apiece. But with Central leading in overtime by a bucket with 4.1 seconds left, the game was decided when Central defender Mike Plentzas took a charge in the paint from Bedford junior forward Ryan Brown. Dawson Dickson of Central was fouled on the inbounds play and made a free throw for the final margin before a 26-foot 3-point attempt by Bedford guard Taylor Grande hit the iron at the buzzer.
Before Monday’s game, Central had racked up double-digit wins in its previous four games, including three in the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament. “We lost to Bedford last year and we knew this game wasn’t going to be easy,” said Wheeler. “We made some good adjustments in the second half, taking the ball to the basket. I thought Jon Martin made some clutch plays and Plentzas, who’s such an unselfish player, read the play well in overtime to take that charge. This was a solid win.”
Under head coach Mike Fitzpatrick, who won Class L championships as a player (twice) and coach (twice) at Central, Bedford played well enough to win. Behind senior Cam Meservey (20 points) and Grande (14), the Bulldogs led 29-24 at halftime and battled Central to a 39-39 after three periods.
Bedford almost won it in regulation when, with Central leading 54-53, Grande stole the ball and was fouled for two shots at the line with seven seconds left. He made the first, then missed the second. Brown gained the offensive rebound for a putback that missed before Hanson led an end-to-end rush that led to two more missed attempts in the final seconds.
In overtime with eight seconds left, Bedford was looking for a potential game-winning three-pointer from Meservey. “Central blew that option up, leaving Brown to drive the lane,” said Fitzpatrick. “Plentzas had good position on the play. I just wish we did a little better job on the offensive boards, but we’ll build off this. We played very well against what I think is one of the best shooting teams I’ve seen in a long time. Central has four knockdown shooters and we played them tough to the final horn.”