Bedford cruises past North to reach final

Bedford utilized its height advantage by forcing Nashua North to the perimeter early. It paid huge dividends for the Bulldogs, who surpassed their season averages for points-per-game (61.5) and margin-of-victory (30.65), in a 68-31 Division I girls basketball quarterfinal win over the Titans on Thursday night at Southern New Hampshire University.

Bedford’s 6-foot-1 Mckenzie Brown and 5-foot-11 Haley Driscoll owned the paint from the get-go, scoring nine and six respectively in the first half while also preventing any penetration by North. Brown would finish the night with 13 points and eight rebounds to Driscoll’s 12 and eight.

The Titans managed one shot inside over the first half – on a layup by Abigail Streeter in the final minute of the second quarter. Everything else was mid-range jumpers, free throws and 3-pointers.

A frustrating fact North coach Ricky Oliver couldn’t deny.

“It seemed like it was a physical game,” Oliver said, “and my girls are little. We had trouble getting penetration. We have an inside-outside game. If we can get it going inside – you know, cutting to the basket and doing other things – it changes the whole complexity of the game.

“When you’ve got to rely solely on the perimeter play it’s hard.”

North’s Brittany DesRoche scored the game’s first basket, but it was the only lead the Titans would hold all game. Bedford (21-0) went on an 8-0 run to grab a six-point lead.

North (16-5) got back on track, as Sara Cordova made one of her three 3-pointers, this one from the left wing, and Taylor Choate hit one of two free throws to cut the deficit to two at 8-6 with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter.

It’s as close as the Titans would get over the remaining 27 minutes of play.

It all played out how Bedford coach Sue Thomas game planned.

“Defensively,” she said, “we worked all week on stopping the drive and then closing out on their 3-point shooters.”

Bedford ended the first quarter on a 9-3 run to grab a 17-9 lead after one quarter of play. That quarter-ending run expanded into a 19-3 run through the first five minutes of the second quarter.

North didn’t score it’s first basket of the second frame until the 2:32 mark on a Choate 3-pointer. Cordova would add another trey of her own and Streeter’s layup in the final minute, but those eight points were all North could muster in the quarter as Bedford stretched its lead to 31-17 at halftime.

For Thomas, halftime was about driving home one message.

“We talked at halftime about putting the game away,” she said. “I’ll tell you, they came out passionately in the second half.”

The third quarter was even worse for the Titans, who managed just two points the entire frame. Those didn’t even come until 1:07 remained in the quarter as Choate hit a pair of free throws.

It was a quarter that Driscoll saw coming as the Bulldogs left the locker room.

“One our goals all season was playing tough defense,” she said. “That really got the run started for us. Our intensity was up and we knew that if we wanted it, we could get it put away right there. We played amazing defense and the offense followed.”

Trailing 52-19 heading into the fourth quarter, North put together its best offensive showing. However, the Titans’ 12-point offensive was still too little, much too late.