DURHAM — Down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the NHIAA Division I girls basketball championship game on Sunday, coach Brad Kreick admitted he wasn’t sure he still believed the words he told his Bishop Guertin players at halftime.
His players did. Perhaps none more than Brooke Paquette.
The senior guard powered the Cardinals’ fourth-quarter comeback effort that led them to their 51-45 triumph over Bedford at Lundholm Gym.
Bishop Guertin finished this season 21-0 en route to its second straight and seventh Division I title over the past eight seasons. The top-seeded Cardinals won both last year’s final against Bedford and their regular-season meeting with the Bulldogs (19-3) in comeback fashion.
BG trailed 23-14 at halftime, but the Cardinals kept chipping away, found ways to get stops and, eventually, put the ball in the basket.
BG outscored the third-seeded Bulldogs, 23-7, in the fourth quarter. Fourteen of the Cardinals’ fourth-quarter points came from Paquette.
“We were fine,” Paquette, a Stonehill College commit, said of BG’s mindset going into the final frame. “I knew that we had it. We’ve been in situations like that before, so there was nothing new to us. We just needed to continue to do us.”
Paquette, who led the Cardinals’ comeback in last year’s final and in their 73-66 regular-season win at Bedford, scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter. BG took the lead — its first lead of the game — for good on Meghan Stack’s contested layup that made it 41-40 Cardinals with 5:09 left.
Kreick credited the Cardinals’ fourth-quarter run to his assistant coaches, Mike Paquette and Michaela Zebrak, switching Brooke Paquette into the post and Stack to the point early in the frame.
“We basically said, ‘We’re going to stick Brooke down on the block five or six possessions in a row and just see if we can get good looks down there with her,’” Kreick said. “That worked.”
Bedford coach Kevin Gibbs said he felt the big factors in the game were turnovers and free throws.
The Cardinals scored 19 points off Bedford’s 23 turnovers while the Bulldogs scored six off BG’s 18 turnovers. BG shot 76% (19 of 25) from the free-throw line. Bedford made seven of its 22 free-throw attempts (31.8%).
The Bulldogs outshot BG from the field, 35.3% to 34%. The Cardinals went 11 of 37 from the field (29.7%) over the first three quarters.
“Every time we play them, we shoot the ball better from the field,” Gibbs said. “We score more buckets, we score more twos, we score more threes, we have a percentage but they beat us at the line — either them making or us missing — and that’s huge. That and taking care of the ball.”
The Bulldogs opened the game on a 10-2 run, led 14-7 after the opening eight minutes, 23-14 at halftime and 38-28 entering the fourth quarter. Bedford expanded its lead to as many as 13 points in the third quarter.
Bedford held Paquette, who finished with a game-high 24 points alongside a team-high 11 rebounds, to two points in both the second and third quarters.
“We knew what we wanted to do,” Gibbs said. “For the most part, we did it defensively. But the key thing is all of a sudden the gasoline stopped going to the engine offensively in the second half. That’s what hurts you.”
Stack, a senior who missed last season due to injury, finished with 10 points and five rebounds for BG.
Bedford junior forward Lana McCarthy recorded a game-high 14 rebounds. She and sophomore Kate Allard both scored a team-high 15 points for the Bulldogs. Allard also grabbed nine rebounds. Bedford senior guard Ava Dubois contributed seven points, eight boards and three assists.
“They’re just the toughest group of kids you ever want to coach,” Kreick said of his players, “and I think they showed that in the fourth quarter tonight.”