Bedford girls fall against BG in final

MANCHESTER – Sue Thomas did a good job of trying to put a positive spin on a tough Division I title game loss to Bishop Guertin.

“We were definitely the underdogs coming in,” Thomas said after her Bedford High School girls basketball team fell short, 52-49, to the Cardinals at the SNHU Fieldhouse last Saturday. “Nobody even thought it would be that close. I’ll say we are the best public school team in the state. The girls live in Bedford, they don’t play together during the summer, they all do their thing and they come together. I’m really proud of them this year.”

But it was too much of an uphill climb for the Bulldogs Saturday in a game they never were able to lead, thanks in part to Guertin’s defense.

“If there was ever a real life example of what it takes, you saw it today,” Cards’ coach Brad Kreick said after his Cardinals escaped. “It wasn’t perfect, but we won defensively today. We were better offensively than we were (in the semifinals), but we were a lot better defensively.

“There’s no real secret. The kids, they played with great poise. They played hard, they played together. I’m just so proud of these kids.”

Besides winning with defense, Guertin, in front of 877 at the SNHU Fieldhouse, won with seniors. They had eight on the roster, and one of them chose to play the best game of her career in what is likely the best game of her career as Molly Dee led the way with 18 points, 15 in the first half.

“Molly Dee was lights out,” Kreick said. “She’s a talented kid. A really talented kid. I’m really happy for her. She saved her best for last.”

“It was my last organized basketball game, I think, that I’ll ever play,” Dee said. “I just went out and tried to have fun with it. I just came out with the mentality to have fun in my last high school basketball game, and to win.”

After Dee, junior Caroline Hoffer had 13 (and a tea-high six rebounds) for the Cardinals while senior Meghan Cramb had 12.

Top seed Guertin (19-1) led from start to finish over the No. 3 Bulldogs, who end at 18-3. Guertin jumped out to a 7-2 advantage, and after leading just 12-10 after the first quarter, expanded the lead to 22-12 at the half.

“Their whole game plan is to create havoc, and we knew that,”Thomas said. “They go after the ball at all times. Their press isn’t that hard to break, but they’re so active in it. … They’re a great defensive team. Their offense is keyed from their defense. That’s who they are.”

The proof of that came in one crucial juncture when the Cardinals seemed to look like they had it. With 2:43 left in the third quarter, Cramb raced in for a successful layup. But she then stole the inbounds pass and put in another easy one.

For good measure, Hannah Muchmore stole the next Bulldog inbounds attempt, flipped it to freshman Erin Carney, who put it in to turn a 34-27 game into 40-27 with 2:26 left. Six points in 17 seconds that, despite a superb Bulldog comeback, proved to be crucial.

“It’s frustrating,” Thomas said. “But we called a timeout and we came back. We’ve been down a lot this season, but we always come back.”

“It was a nip-and-tuck game, and all of a sudden we get some steals,” Kreick said. “It’s kind of been our deal all year, we score in spurts like that. Again, that’s a testament to our depth. When we had that run, I think we had three freshman on the floor.”

One of the reasons Bedford did on Saturday was the play of senior inside player Jenoyce Laniyan, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. The ‘Dogs trailed 42-35 after three, and when Bulldog Alexis Meservey (seven points) hit a 3-pointer, Bedford closed to within 44-42 with 6:05 left, capping a 12-2 run.

Then, as Kreick said, he went with mainly a senior lineup, “and they closed beautifully. I think it’s a testament to experience, character, and they just wanted it.”

The key was for the Cards to keep their composure.

“I think we got a little nervous,” Cramb said, “but Brad called a timeout like he did last year (in the finals) and it definitely calmed us down. I think we all ignored everything else and got in our head that ‘OK, we need to get a steal, need to focus on finishing the game strong, like we know we can do’.”

To prove Kreick’s and Cramb’s point, Dee and Cramb hit back to back runners to expand the lead to 48-42. Later, an open layup by Carney made it 50-44 with 2:22 to play. The Cards struggled at the line down the stretch, with just single free throws by Cramb and Carney, but it mattered little. Interestingly, Guertin went 9 for 16 from the stripe while Bedford got only one free throw in the game, 1 for 5.

“We came in, we knew we had to pressure them, we had to pressure the ball,” Cramb said. “We knew it was going to start on defense, and that’s how we were going to win the game. … I think we came out and were ready to go.”

And now the Bulldogs will get ready for next year. Guertin loses eight seniors, and Bedford loses just four -Laniyan, Alexis Meservey, Rachel Widrig and Mollie Redman. Back are key guards Mia Roy and Alyson Fillion.

“We have 15 kids on the team so I think we’ll be pretty good next year,” Thomas said. “We’ll be back.”