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Division I girls basketball: Bedford resets, rolls into state final

Mar. 6—EXETER — The Portsmouth High School girls basketball team knocked Bedford off balance with defensive pressure and a big, boisterous student section on Tuesday night at Exeter High School.

Then the buzzer sounded for the second quarter.

The Bulldogs dominated the second quarter by resetting mentally and defensively and never looked back on the way to a 62-35 Division I state semifinal triumph.

Top-seeded and undefeated Bedford (20-0) will play in its fourth consecutive Division I final when it faces second-seeded Pinkerton Academy (19-1) on Sunday at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gym.

The Bulldogs finished runner-up to Bishop Guertin each of the past two seasons. They beat BG for the 2021 title.

"We reestablished what we wanted to do," Bedford coach Kevin Gibbs said of his team's second quarter. "We got back to playing the way we wanted to play on both sides of the floor and that was the difference maker."

Portsmouth led, 16-9, after the opening eight minutes. The Clippers did not score again until 58.3 seconds remained before halftime.

Bedford ripped off an 18-0 run to open the second quarter, taking the lead for good on freshman forward Mel McCarthy's layup about five minutes in.

McCarthy and her older sister, Lana, a senior forward and Purdue University commit, said better communication factored into the Bulldogs' stout second-quarter defense. Lana McCarthy said Bedford also switched some matchups and that her sister made a big defensive impact.

"Mentally, we all just clicked," Mel McCarthy said. "We knew we had to lock in and start talking and that really made a big difference."

Bedford took a 30-20 lead into halftime and held a 49-27 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Lana McCarthy finished with a double-double on 18 points and 10 rebounds alongside a steal and two blocks.

Junior point guard Lyla Stein helped Bedford pull away in the second half, scoring all 12 of her points over the final 16 minutes. She also grabbed three boards, had more than a few steals and played a big role in Bedford's defensive effort.

"We wouldn't be able to be here without her," Lana McCarthy said of Stein. "She really sets the tone offensively and defensively."

Bedford also received 12 points from sophomore guard Sarah Muir. Mel McCarthy had four points.

Senior forward Margaret Montplaisir led Portsmouth with 11 points. Classmate Avery Romps had 10 points.

Romps and classmate Mackenzie Lombardi each scored five points and Montplaisir added four in the first quarter to help build Portsmouth's 16-9 lead.

"We didn't come out playing the way we normally are capable of," Gibbs said. "We were not playing our game offensively and we were tight defensively and that was the reset — and you saw the results of it in the second quarter."

ahall@unionleader.com