Bulldogs compete in their first game as Division I members
In their first regular game since moving up to Division I, the Bedford Bulldogs began their quest to prove they belong among the state’s top competition with a 55-41 win over Manchester Central on Friday, Dec. 7.
“We struggled in the beginning, the girls were very nervous and very tight and weren’t playing our tempo, but we talked about it at halftime and the second half was much better,” Bedford head coach Sue Thomas said. “They started talking more, they were moving more. Our shots weren’t falling the way they can, but I know that they will.”
And they did it with one of their top scorers on the bench for the majority of the game. Junior guard Rachel Collins was ill, but tried to play through the sickness.
“Our best shooter was sick today,” Thomas said. “She saw limited time and just couldn’t go anymore, and I think that took a little out of it.”
Collins played a few minutes in the first half, but her absence in the second half allowed Bedford’s underclassmen to get extended floor time. All three freshmen – Courtney O’Connell, Nicole Tucci and Brianna Purcell – made their way onto the hardwood.
“Our freshmen came in and they did a great job,” said Thomas. “For their first game, it didn’t seem to matter to them. All three of them did a really good job out there, so I was very pleased with how our freshmen played.”
The Little Green took the court with inexperienced players of their own. Central returns just two girls who played last year, head coach Michael Wenners said. The roster is made up of three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.
“We wanted to come in and accomplish a few things today, besides just getting a win, and I think we were able to do that,” Wenners said. “The girls played really hard today, and if they keep playing hard like that, we’ll get better as the season goes.”
Central was able to get a solid game from one senior leader, Megan Cleary, while another returning contributor, Katherine Johnson, was sidelined with a knee injury.
“She played a great game,” Wenners said of Cleary. “I only expect her to get better and better. She’s a great leader, a great kid.”
With the return of Collins, Thomas said the team’s shooting should improve and they will be able to play at a quicker pace.
She wants to take advantage of the team’s deep bench by pressing and getting down the court faster.
“We were struggling in the first half because, offensively, we couldn’t get into [a fast pace],” Thomas said. “We would press, but we couldn’t fast break. I have a very deep bench, so when you have a lot of people you can sub in, our idea is to press and run as much as possible. We never really got into that flow like we did in the scrimmages.”
Both Central and Bedford have difficult schedules before winter break.
Bedford makes a brief home stand against annual-contenders Bishop Guertin and Merrimack. Central takes its home floor again on Dec. 14 against Alvrine before heading to Dover.
“Right before Christmas, we go to Dover, who is also going to be a top-five team, and they’re always tough to play on the road,” Wenners said. “We have our work cut out for us, but we work hard at it every day and we’ll get better.”