By Dan Brosgol
(with contributions from Tom Mulligan, Rick Proulx, Virendar Kaushik, Bill MacLellan, and Dave Brickman)
The recent success of the Bedford High School basketball program is no secret- just look at back-to-back post-season runs by the boys’ varsity team in 2016 and 2017 and the four consecutive league titles for the girls from 2013-2016.
But basketball’s popularity in Bedford goes much deeper than fielding competitive varsity teams. The town’s basketball programs are built on a strong foundation of youth basketball in Bedford that features offerings for children in grades 1-12 in partnership with Bedford Recreation and Bedford Travel Basketball.
Brian Forman, president of Bedford Travel Basketball, has noticed the growing participation in youth basketball here in town. “Successful high school programs bring excitement and energy to the community, generating interest in the sport—this year’s participation in both travel and rec is the highest it’s been since I’ve been involved.” Forman’s assessment matches the eye test; if you took a walk through any of the school buildings on weekday evenings or on weekends you’d have seen basketball practices and games taking place at all hours.
Forman gives credit to the cadre of volunteer coaches who make the travel program run smoothly, noting that “the success of the travel program is a direct result of the volunteer coaches who have the passion and energy for basketball and stress the importance of skill development…and we are also seeing stronger high school teams as a result of doing things the right way at the youth levels.”
This winter, Bedford Travel Basketball fielded 15 teams in the Metrowest basketball league and the program saw an unprecedented amount of success as three Bedford teams won their division championships.
8th GRADE BLUE: DIVISION CHAMPIONS
The 8th-grade boys “Blue” team finished their final season of travel basketball in style. After a 3-3 start to the season, the team rattled off six consecutive league wins against tough opponents, notched some signature wins, and ran off an epic winning streak en route to the Division 4 North title. The December schedule was highlighted by a thrilling 51-44 overtime win in Belmont in which Drew Simmons hit a last-second three-pointer to tie the game in regulation, and Jasper Paez hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime to carry the Bucs to the victory. The boys rode that momentum into the December Holiday Jamfest in Foxboro, where they went undefeated, carrying a winning streak into 2017. In the new year, the team played a pulse-pounding double-overtime game against Lexington, eking out a 57-55 victory after Tristan Proulx hit a series of clutch three-pointers late in the game. Consistent play from big men Seamus Hayes and Sean Curtis not only controlled the rebounding game throughout the season but also led to countless easy layups as the team got rolling, while forwards Joe Werrick and Douglas Dussault displayed soft shooting touches from all over the court as the team kept winning.
February arrived along with another winning streak, and the boys did not lose again after January 21, rattling off 10 straight wins. The Bucs saw impressive performances from shooting guard Adam Legere and point guard Declan Garrity as the Bucs’ play continued to improve. Legere’s jump shots found the net with regularity, while Garrity’s tenacious defense gave opposing guards fits—all while fellow guard Matt Mulligan took the team on his shoulders game after game with his dribble penetration, shooting, and passing. Drew Simmons made huge shots throughout the season, and James Brosgol’s versatile play as both guard and forward earned him the moniker “Trey B” following a rash of 3-pointers and a 16-point outburst in a win over Burlington.
The boys rode their hot streak into the second round of the playoffs after polishing off Watertown in opening round action. The Bucs played Ashland, a tough Division 3 foe in the 2nd round, and played the game of their lives in their final game. The game was a pitched, up-tempo battle up and down the court, and Bedford entered the 4th quarter down by just a point thanks to incredible team defense, almost no turnovers, and inspired offensive play from Mulligan and Simmons. The Bucs seized a 44-39 lead with four minutes to go following a basket by Legere and a three-pointer from Brosgol before Ashland clamped down and scored the final 10 points of the game to win a hard-fought 49-44 ballgame. A 20-8 record in their final season of travel basketball will be one they will always cherish. Good luck in high school!
6th GRADE BLUE: DIVISION CHAMPIONS
The 6th-grade boys “Blue” travel team coached by Bill McLellan went 15-4, wrapping up a very exciting and successful season this past weekend. After losing their first game of the year against Belmont, last year’s Division 2 (D2) champion, the boys reeled off a 10-game league winning streak, winning the D2 North Division of the Metrowest League with a 10-1 league record. Given their regular season success, Bedford was pulled up into the D1 playoffs, where they faced a talented and undefeated Randolph team in the first game, and in a game for the ages, Bedford came home with a 41-40 upset victory. With Bedford down 2, Ryan MacLellan sank two free throws with 8 seconds left to win it. In the next playoff game, Bedford drew the best team in D1, #1 seeded Newton. Bedford jumped out to A 6-point lead after the first quarter and led by 1 at the half, 24-23. Newton took a 4-point lead at the end of the third quarter, as Bedford hung tough. Newton pulled away for a 57-49 victory, ending Bedford’s terrific season. The boys played in some great games throughout the season, including a shocking come-from–behind win against last year’s state champion Wachusett, 42-40, in a non-league contest. In that game, the Bucs came back from an 18-point first-half deficit to secure the upset.
Offensively, the team was led by Ryan MacLellan, Jamie Buchannan, and Ryan Cohen. Ryan led the team in scoring while running the point. He exploded for 27 points against Milton in a regular season game, and carried the scoring through the playoffs, netting 22 against Randolph and 16 versus Newton.
Jamie, the team’s most improved player, was a matchup nightmare for most teams. He was the team’s leading rebounder, controlling the boards on both ends of the floor. His highlights included a 19-point, 20-rebound game against Arlington, and a 22-point performance against Weston. Ryan Cohen was the third leading scorer on the team and poured in 22 points against Natick, knocking down four 3-point baskets. Chris Puglielli came on strong at the end of the year, just missing a double-double (9 points, 10 rebounds) against Arlington.
The team’s hallmark this season was a suffocating defense, as they gave opponents fits with their full court press. Tomas Ou and Devan Kaushik played great head-on-the ball defense, demonstrating great footwork. Nick Tatarczuk and Rich Fedele were also fierce defenders, who started many fast breaks with their tough rebounding. Owen Brazee and Andrew Tram contributed to the effectiveness of the press, causing multiple turnovers and creating quick scoring opportunities for the Bucs. Bill MacLellan and Virendar Kaushik coached the team and commend the boys for the effort and dedication put into the successful season.
5th GRADE BLUE: DIVISION CHAMPIONS
The 5th-grade boys “Blue” travel team coached by Dave Brickman went 16-3, winning their division after a 2015-16 campaign in which the team finished under .500—a huge improvement. Following last season, Brickman decided to play in the same division this year, hoping to have better results. Brickman had the boys practicing all spring and summer, taking time off only in July and August, to work on improving their skills, and it was evident by watching them in the Waltham Fall League that they were improving more and more and were determined to be ready for this season. This year the team was led by point guard Christian Brickman and forwards Camdyn Shoesmith and Jack Sarno. With Christian’s ability to penetrate the defense, Cam’s post play and Jack’s no-look passing it was hard for most defenses to keep up. Playing the role of defensive stoppers were Jireh Joseph and Ricky Laboy; while Jireh locked down the opposition’s best offensive player, Ricky spent most of his time on the ground diving for every loose ball. The team got great rebounding and defense from Justice Buchannan and Jackson Arthaud, the other two forwards, while guards Josh Canner and Eshon Pandey were also big contributors on both sides of the ball.
The biggest shot of the year came from newcomer guard Kyler Henry, who took over the second half of the game against Arlington in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs. With just 2 seconds on the clock, Kyle hit a game-winning 3-pointer to put Bedford up and put the team into the second round. It was a great season and the team looks forward to not only moving up to Division 2 next year, but also making a deep playoff run in March 2018.
BEDFORD RECREATION BASKETBALL
In addition to travel basketball, this winter 400 kids of all ages participated in Bedford Recreation basketball programs. “We are proud to offer quality basketball programming through our clinics, Bauman Basketball League, and the Police/Recreation League,” said Nikki Taylor, Youth Program Coordinator at Bedford Recreation. “These leagues and programs are successful due to the many committed volunteers who give their time and dedication to the programs. It was a great winter of basketball, and we would like to thank all of the players, coaches, volunteers, referees, and parents for their participation.”
This year, in girls’ middle school Bauman League play, the season champions were crowned on Saturday, March 11 at Davis School. The Knicks, coached by Julia Palazzo and Joelle Delia, bested the Bulls, coached by Julia Medwar and Jen Kudenchak, 39-31, in a friendly and competitive game. Both teams posed for the traditional finals photograph, seen here.
The final basketball evening in Bedford until fall will take place on Thursday, March 23, at Bedford High School, with both the final of the boys Police/Rec high school league at 6:30 and the final of the boys middle school Bauman league final taking place at 7:30 following the early game. The Bauman final will feature the #1-seeded Bobcats, coached by Tim Cowen, Kevin Engel, and Jake Rubenskas, taking on the #6-seeded Pelicans, coached by Brendan Goodhue, Casey Millar, and Daniel Doherty, who have made a spirited run into the championship game.
After four months of basketball, one would be remiss to not point out that all the basketball programs in town rely on not just parent and community volunteers, and high school and adult referees, but perhaps most importantly on the efforts of the Recreation Department and school custodial staff who ensure that buildings are open, clean, and prepared seven days a week during basketball season. As Forman commented, nothing would happen “without the continued support from Rec Department and town custodians, ensuring we have the gym space available and ready to use as we need.”
Indeed. Thanks to everyone who made this basketball season one for the ages, and see you on March 23 at the boys’ rec finals.