MANCHESTER — Make that 39 straight wins for the Bulldogs.
Rachel Collins scored 17 points and McKenzie Brown netted 13 to lead top-ranked defending state champion Bedford to a 68-31 victory over fourth-ranked Nashua North in a Division I semifinal girls' basketball tournament game Thursday at Southern New Hampshire University.
The 21-0 Bulldogs advanced to Sunday's 6 p.m. championship game at SNHU against second-ranked Londonderry.
Bedford took control with a 19-0 run to start the second half, enlarging its halftime lead of 31-17 to 52-19 by the start of the fourth quarter. Bedford head coach Sue Thomas started playing her subs with 5:41 to play when Bedford held a 62-23 advantage.
McKenzie had eight boards as Bedford outrebounded Nashua North 44-25 and held the Titans to 21 percent shooting from the field (10-for-47).
Haley Driscoll finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Nashua North (16-5) received 10 points apiece from Taylor Choate and Abigail Streeter.
Before the game, Nashua North head coach Ricky Oliver was confident his club could knock off the defending state champs. "We were the last team to beat them, we know how to play them," said Oliver. North defeated Bedford in January of 2013, but the Titans were facing a Bulldogs team that won all of their regular season games by an average of 30.4 points per game this season.
Nashua North enjoyed its only lead when Brittany DesRoche started the game with a baseline jumper, but it was clear from the start the Titans were going to encounter problems defending senior forward Brown.
What makes it tough to defend the six-foot forward is she starts at the perimeter, handling the ball. If she's open, she'll take the shot. If not, she dishes off and has the speed to scamper under the basket in position for a high percentage shot.
She had eight first-quarter points, pushing Bedford out to a 17-9 lead at the first intermission.
"McKenzie is a great presence in the post," said Bedford coach Sue Thomas. "I knew Nashua matched up well with our guards, but we had the advantage with McKenzie and went to her. At one point in the game during a timeout, she told us in the huddle she was open and wanted the ball. So we gave it to her."
Nashua North, which shot 25 percent from the floor in the first half, couldn't get on track on offense in the second quarter.
Bedford opened the frame on a 10-0 run for a 27-9 lead. Oliver called a quick timeout after Ali Glennon of Bedford sank a three-point shot to start the run just a minute into the period. Finally, with 2:30 left in the first half, the Titans scored their first points of the second quarter on a three-pointer by Choate.
North gained a little momentum by halftime, cutting their largest deficit (29-12) to 31-17 by intermission.
Brown had nine points and Nicole Tucci (eight rebounds) had seven at the break for the champs.
Bedford kept its foot on the pedal, starting the second half with an 19-0 explosion for a commanding 49-17 advantage. Brown opened the second half with a running layup, Glennon got free along the baseline for another hoop and, Collins nailed a three-pointer to account for the first seven points of that run. Driscoll accounted for the next five points before Collins got back into the act with another basket.
Down by 32 points, Oliver called timeout with 2:11 left in the third quarter, but his team was clearly deflated at that point. North finally stopped Bedford's 19-0 run on two free throws by Choate with 1:07 left in the third period. Bedford ended up taking a 52-19 lead into the fourth quarter, already looking ahead to Sunday's championship game.