Bedford gives Central a battle

With seven seconds to spare in regulation, and his team facing a one-point deficit, Taylor Grande stepped to the free throw line with one thought: sink the first shot. That is precisely what he did to send the Bedford boys basketball team to overtime on Monday night.

The Bulldogs came up short in the extra frame to Manchester Central, 64-61, in a topsy turvy Division I thriller.

Both teams nearly pulled it off in the seven second scramble ensuing Grande’s failed second free throw. After Ryan Brown’s failed rebound shot, Central’s Brett Hanson scaled the court for a layup that glanced off the glass for Joey Martin to snatch up, but his effort bounced off the iron as the buzzer sounded.

“Both teams missed some shots that they’re going to make,” said Bedford head coach Mike Fitzpatrick. “Central did a little bit better with its offensive rebounding than we did, there were some key offensive boards that they got down the stretch.”

Overtime saw both teams having success on nearly each possession. With Central (2-0) holding a 63-61 advantage, the trend was broken with 4.1 seconds to spare when Ryan Brown made a potential game-tying drive to the basket, but was called for charging, sending Dawson Dickson to the line. After Dickson went 1 for 2, Grande snatched the rebound and raced down court to make a last gasp from several feet beyond the arc that glanced off the rim.

“They figured out a way to break down our zone,” Grande said. “They were doing this two-man cut up the middle, but they would stop on the backside block where we couldn’t see them. They would dish it down and they would put it up for the layup.”

In the opening minutes of the game, the Bulldogs (0-3) struggled to penetrate the Little Green’s paint and soon found themselves down 7-0. After convening for a timeout called by Fitzpatrick, Bedford flicked the switch to mount a 16-3 run on Central and take a 29-24 lead at the half.

“(Coach) told us that we need to get our stuff together and we just went out and busted our butts,” said Grande.

The second half saw five lead changes. Jon Martin’s three pointer gave the Little Green a 54-51 lead with 50 seconds remaining in regulation, but Bedford countered with a bucket by Thomas O’Rourke closing the deficit to one.

Central took possession, set to drain the clock, but Grande swooped in to steal a pass from Martin, where he was fouled and sent to the line to force the game into the extra period.

“I was mostly thinking of just hitting the first one and maybe the second one will come,” Grande said.

Cameron Meservey led the Bulldogs with 20 points and Grande chipped in for 14.

Hanson accounted for 23 for Central with Martin and Tyler Kelley adding 13 each.

“I thought we just played better and with more confidence in the second half,” said Central head coach Doc Wheeler who was not accustomed to seeing his team deal with much adversity.

A third straight loss is not what the doctor ordered for the Bulldogs, but going toe to toe with a highly regarded division opponent gives reason to believe a win is around the corner.

“We played better tonight,” Fitzpatrick said. “We cut down on our turnovers, dribble penetration, defensive rebounding still isn’t where we need it to be, but it was a little bit better.”

Bedford’s next opportunity for its season’s first win will come at Nashua North on Friday.