Apr. 15—Scorer. Facilitator. Motivator. Leader. Isabella King excelled in whichever role the Bedford High girls basketball team needed her to play in the NHIAA Division I postseason last month.
The senior guard and Bucknell University commit averaged 22.3 points per game, shot 64% from 3-point range (16-for-25) and led her team in scoring in each of the Bulldogs' four playoff games en route to the program's second state championship.
King's postseason performance earned her the March Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month award from the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
Bedford, which finished the season with a 14-2 record, had at least one other double-digit scorer alongside King in each playoff game.
"Last year my role was to score as much as possible — I averaged 26 points per game," King said. "This year, I wanted to get others involved instead of just scoring. That helped us improve the whole year."
Bulldogs coach Kevin Gibbs said King found her teammates for scoring chances and served as a decoy that often left another Bedford player wide open for a basket. King said she was usually double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed throughout the season.
"There were teams leaving people open so they made sure they had two people on her," Gibbs said. "She was, like, 'Fine, two people on me means somebody else is going to score.'
"Oftentimes in the second half, teams would go back to their normal defense. Then Isabella would be off to the races."
King, the Division I Player of the Year, opened her playoff campaign with a month-high 25 points in Bedford's 67-44 preliminary-round win over Manchester Memorial on March 5. Ten of those points came in the first quarter, which helped build a 20-7 Bulldogs lead entering the second frame. Teammates Lana McCarthy and Saphia Mumpini also contributed offensively with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
"When I needed to step up, I knew that I could and I didn't force anything," King said of the Memorial game. "My teammates had other opportunities. That was also very helpful so I didn't need to score as much."
King, who is Bedford's all-time leading scorer (1,115 points), and McCarthy teamed up again in Bedford's 66-51 quarterfinal win over Concord and 66-43 semifinal triumph over Portsmouth. King posted 19 points while McCarthy logged 16 against Concord and each tallied a game-high 22 against the Clippers.
In the third quarter of the Bulldogs' 64-46 victory over Bishop Guertin in the Division I final on March 14, King knew her team needed her to be a leader and scorer. King scored 13 straight points, nine of which came on 3-pointers, during a 17-6 Bedford run that created a 52-28 Bulldogs advantage entering the final eight minutes.
King said during the final she thought back to Bedford's 69-64 season-opening setback to Bishop Guertin. Bedford led that game by 20 points at halftime before the Cardinals came back behind a big third-quarter run.
"You could tell she was on a personal mission to make sure that didn't happen in the championship game," Gibbs said. "Every single one of her shots were contested. They had to be quick-release (shots) because of the circumstances. Not only did she take them in confidence but the coaches and the team all knew they were going in. That's the type of player she is."
Gibbs said King's teammates drew strength and energy from her third-quarter performance.
"At one point we were up by 32 points, which I don't think anybody expected in the championship game," Gibbs said. "A lot of that was because players relaxed and because she was relaxed and doing what she does best."
King said it felt good to end her high school career with a state title and doing so against Bishop Guertin, which won five straight Division I crowns from 2016-2019, made it even better.
"It was very special, especially since it's been my goal since freshman year to win a state championship," King said.
Gibbs said King is the most talented player he has ever coached and expects she will have a successful college career at Bucknell. He plans to use King's achievements and the humble manner in which she accepted them as an example to his players.
"She definitely has the we-first mentality with a me-first work ethic and that's very rare," Gibbs said. "What I'm most thankful for is she's achieved success where it makes it very easy for me to point to for future players and say, 'If you want to achieve your dream, there's the road map.'"
Other athletes considered for the March award were Rutgers University men's basketball player Geo Baker, Concord High School boys hockey player Ryan Philbrick, University of Notre Dame men's hockey player Alex Steeves, Bishop Guertin girls hockey player Kathryn Simpson, Southern New Hampshire University men's lacrosse player Gennaro Marra and Iona College women's lacrosse player Madi Kochanek.
Baker, a senior guard from Derry, averaged 10 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds over Rutgers' final six games, including its two Big Ten Conference and NCAA Division I tournament games.
Philbrick, a junior defenseman, registered seven points on three goals and four assists in Concord's 5-1 NHIAA Division I preliminary-round win over Hanover, 9-1 quarterfinal win over Bow and 7-0 triumph over Salem in the championship game.
Steeves, a junior forward and Bedford resident, recorded four points on a goal and three assists over Notre Dame's final three games, all against Penn State, including a 6-3 loss to the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Conference quarterfinals.
Simpson, a senior forward, tallied nine points on five goals and four assists and did not take a penalty over Bishop Guertin's four-game playoff run to the program's first state championship.
Marra, a sophomore faceoff specialist from Hampstead, won 70 of the 119 faceoffs he took (58.8%) and logged a goal and 34 ground balls over SNHU's 2-2 start to the regular season.
Kochanek, a senior midfielder from Manchester, recorded 11 points on nine goals and two assists and scooped up seven ground balls over Iona's 1-4 start to the regular season.
Previous 2021 winners: January, Diana Pivirotto, East Kingston (hockey); February, Royce Williams, Manchester (basketball).
To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at email@example.com and enter "Athlete of the Month" in the subject line.