SOMERSET — Friday night’s outcome wasn’t what Bedford was looking for, but Leo Brunelli believes it’s a path to what the future holds for the Bison program.
In its first state playoff game in many years, Bedford hung right with Grove City before falling 67-52 in a final score that wasn’t indicative of the competitiveness of the contest at Somerset Area High School.
The Bisons had the lead as late as with 4:56 left in the fourth quarter, and they had to play the majority of the second half without star forward Jace Growden, who was relegated to the sidelines in foul trouble.
“These kids have been next man up all season,” said Brunelli. “Jace had an unbelievable year, but when you get to this point in the season, teams know that and will key on your best guys. We have so many other kids that compete hard, and I’m so proud of the way they fought.”
Grove City’s Kade Persinger made two shots from the free throw line to put the District 10 runner-up ahead for good, 47-46 just under that five-minute mark.
And from there, the Eagles outscored the Bisons 20-6 to close it out. Caden Mattocks and Marcos Cintron keyed that final run with six and five points, respectively.
Making matters worse in the final two minutes and down by nine, Bedford was called twice for intentional fouls when it was in an obvious fouling situation to try and lengthen the game.
Much of the first half was back and forth. Grove City opened up an early 10-2 advantage, but consecutive three-pointers by Growden and Steven Ressler, and a two by Bison teammate Drew Hall tied it up. Ressler converted another three just before the first quarter ended and it was 15-14 in favor of the locals.
Growden picked up his third foul in the second period, and the Eagles took advantage of it to gain a 26-22 lead at halftime.
Ressler began to heat up offensively in the third, as he scored eight unanswered points that kept his side close after the Eagles had started the half well.
Cintron broke that run with a bucket, but at the other end, Bedford’s Miles Washington drove inside for a high kiss off the glass lay-up, and a two by Ressler and a pair of free throws from Hall had the Bisons back in front, 36-35.
Brady Callahan converted a jumper for Grove City before Hall drained two straight three-pointers that put a large Bison crowd on their feet.
In the final seconds though, Persinger spotted up from the top of the arc and his shot bounced twice off the rim and in for a three that cut Bedford’s lead to 42-40 entering the final frame.
Hall led Bedford with 22 points and Ressler had 21. Mattocks was Grove City’s high scorer with 20. The Bisons finish with a 12-13 record.
“Let’s take our hats off to Grove City,” said Brunelli. “They’re a solid, well-coached ball club. They were the better team tonight and I wish them well.
“This one hurts, but I’m proud of our team. They’ve accomplished a lot. This season has been a big moment for Bedford basketball. And we’ve got a good group coming back too. In time, I’ll be able to look back and reflect, and see what I can do better and our coaching staff can do better to get past a game like this.”
PIAA Class AAAA First Round (10-2) GROVE CITY 67, (5-1) BEDFORD 52
Grove City 14 12 14 27 — 67
Bedford 15 7 20 10 — 52
Grove City (67) — Michael Brooks 1 1-2 3; Brady Callahan 2 0-0 4; Marcos Cintron (2) 3 6-6 18; Kade Persinger (2) 1 4-4 12; Luke Hostetler 0 0-0 0; Sam Norris 0 0-0 0; Caden Mattocks (4) 1 6-6 20; Logan Lutz 3 3-5 9; Matt Howard 0 0-0 0; Troy Loughry 0 1-2 1. Totals: (8) 11 21-25 67.
Bedford (52) — Jace Growden (1) 0 0-0 3; Miles Washington 1 0-0 2; Zach Price 1 0-0 2; Steven Ressler (3) 5 2-3 21; Dylan Arnold 1 0-0 2; Zach Vent 0 0-0 0; Joey Koontz 0 0-0 0; Spencer Ebersole 0 0-0 0; Drew Hall (3) 4 5-6 22; Mercury Swaim 0 0-0 0; Brett Wilson 0 0-0 0. Totals: (7) 12 7-9 52.