|Bedford freshman Malachi Hazelton (20) played with poise beyond his years on Friday night, scoring 17 points and pulling down 18 rebounds to lead Bedford past DCL rival Weston in the MIAA D3 North quarterfinals.|
WESTON, Mass. - In the previous two meetings between Dual County League rivals Weston and Bedford, the visiting team headed home with a victory.
In front of a raucous, overflow crowd on Friday night in Weston, the Bedford Buccaneers (16-6) continued that trend by taking down the Weston Wildcats (18-4) by a score of 60-49 in the MIAA Division 3 North quarterfinals.
In the first quarter, it was the Weston fans who had a reason to cheer. A three-pointer from the corner and a pullup jumper by senior Jared Groff gave Weston an early 7-1 lead.
Groff finished with 10 points, enough to give him 1,000 points for his career in what turned out to be his final game as a member of the Weston Wildcats.
After a pair of three-pointers by Bedford senior Tim Cowen (9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) and sophomore Kapanides Panayiotis tied the game at 7, Weston closed the first quarter on a 13-6 run. Senior Cam Peddie (15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) had 7 points over that span.
Bedford freshman Malachi Hazelton scored the final basket of the first quarter, cutting Weston’s lead to 20-13 at the end of the opening period.
Hazelton finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds, and looked very poised despite the sellout crowd that was right on top of the court.
Bedford head coach Vin McGrath was very impressed with Hazelton’s performance.
“(Hazelton) played a great game,” McGrath said following the victory. McGrath added that the star freshman “played like a senior.”
Coach McGrath said that he expected Weston to come out and get going early on offense.
“(The Wildcats) are comfortable playing (in Weston’s crowded gym) because they play in (there) all the time,” McGrath said after the game. “We knew they’d come out and be gunning a little bit.”
The two teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter. Weston opened up a 25-19 lead after a three-pointer by sophomore Kyle Murphy, who scored a team-high 16 points, to go along with 10 rebounds and 4 steals.
The Buccaneers clamped down on defense for the remainder of the second quarter, closing the period on an 8-0 run. All of Bedford’s points over that span were free throws. Senior Cameron Shelmire, who finished with 17 points and 4 boards, made four shots from the charity stripe over that span.
McGrath said that it was important for his team to stay tough and “weather the storm” until the Buccaneers “started to execute” on offense.
Bedford survived Weston’s initial outburst of offense and energy, and the visiting Buccaneers took a 27-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Just like in the first half, the Wildcats started off fast in the second half. Peddie hit a deep three-pointer and then made a layup following an offensive rebound, giving Weston a 30-27 lead.
A three-pointer by Bedford junior Jack Cowan (9 points, 4 rebounds) tied the game at 30, and the two teams continued trading buckets through the third quarter as the tension built in the gym.
With the game tied a 37, a three-pointer at the top of the key by Hazelton with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter sparked an 8-1 run for the Buccaneers.
Cowen punctuated the run with a three-pointer of his own from the top of the key, which was preceded by a pump fake that created an open shot.
The Buccaneers took a 45-38 lead into the fourth quarter.
Bedford opened the final period with a three-pointer by Cowan, giving Bedford their largest lead of the game at 48-38.
After a three-pointer by Peddie cut the Wildcats’ deficit to 41-48, a driving layup by Shelmire extended Bedford’s advantage to 50-41 with 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Weston played aggressively over the final six minutes of the game, driving hard to the basket and earning trips to the foul line. However, both Will Dubin and Murphy could only make one free throw each, allowing Bedford to maintain a 50-43 lead with 4:10 left in the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer by Groff diminished Weston’s disadvantage to 50-46 with 2:57 remaining.
After Hazelton, Peddie, and Cowen made one free throw apiece, Murphy made two free throws, cutting Weston’s disadvantage to 52-49.
A cool, calm, and collected Hazelton hit two key free throws with 1:28 remaining, opening up a 54-49 lead for the Buccaneers.
Bedford played tough defense over the final two minutes of the game and knocked down six more free throws over the final 90 seconds of the game, allowing the Buccaneers to win while pulling away.
Bedford will move on to play either Newburyport or Triton in the D3 North semifinals.
The Buccaneers won the Division 3 North Sectional tournament last year as the #5 seed. They will not allow the #6 next to their name in the bracket to slow them down, and they proved that they could beat a quality opponent on the road in front of a sold-out crowd.
Bedford also showed the ability to close out games against Weston. Bedford did not allow the host Wildcats to tie the game or take the lead after they made it a one-possession game with two minutes remaining.
Coach McGrath said that there is a lot of luck involved in the MIAA basketball tournaments. However, Bedford looks like a team that has the balance and experience to make another run at a state title.