Despite a Brutal Half-Minute, Coach Reflects on a Sparkling Basketball Season 

March 13, 2024
Tuesday was the end of a successful 2023-2024 basketball season as the BHS boys’ varsity team ended in the Final Four round of the MIAA Division 2 playoffs. The team’s 19-4 record ties for the second-best in program history, and the team was the first to go undefeated at home. Photos by Finn Harte

Head Coach Anthony Halls wants to make sure that his Bedford High School Buccaneers are celebrated for their entire body of work, not just the final 31 seconds of Tuesday’s MIAA Division 2 semifinals.

“I told them at the beginning of the season that they could do special things if they worked hard,” said Halls, who has completed his third season at the helm. The 19-4 record ties for the second best in program history, and the team was the first to go undefeated at home. 

“Their legacy is solidified at the school,” the coach said.

The 2023-24 season ended in flames on Tuesday night at the University of Massachusetts, Boston’s Clark Athletic Center, as Sharon High School scored six unanswered points in the last half-minute to steal a 64-63 win.

Amidst the pain of the post-game locker room, Halls said, “I told them they feel that way because they care, they all support one another, on and off the court. That’s the reason we were able to make the run that we did.”

The Bucs, ranked 14th in Division 2, won three games in the state tournament and with a five-point lead and the ball with 31 seconds remaining were poised to play in the finals.

Everything had to go right for the Eagles to win at the end – and it did. They fouled Jamie Baer and he missed two foul shots, Sharon’s Nate Katznelson bagged a three-point field goal to pull the team to within two. The Eagles then fouled Jireh Joseph, who missed both shots, and the Eagles went for the kill. Sharon’s Jackson Rava, a junior who had only a single shot attempt to that point, had an open look from the right corner and hit the game-winning three-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining. 

No Bedford team has won a state semifinal match since 1973-74 when there were only two rounds to the finals because of a higher qualifying threshold.

From the start in Tuesday’s contest, Bedford sent the Eagles a message that they would be tested in these semifinals. Camdyn Shoesmith (25 points) scored four times from the low block in the first quarter to help the Bucs grab an early lead, then Justice Buchannan took over the game in the second, scoring 13 points as Bedford went into the locker room leading 31-23.

“Cam is unguardable. He was dominant in the tournament,” Halls said. He also noted that Buchannan’s 18 points lifted his career total to more than 900.

Sharon turned the tables in the third quarter, outscoring the Bucs, 20-11. Shoesmith was three-for-three; the rest of the team had two baskets. But the one-point Eagle advantage at the end of three was Sharon’s largest lead of the game.

Bedford grabbed a quick four-point lead in the fourth quarter with a Shoesmith basket from close in and a Trevor Forman three-pointer on a feed from Buchannan. Bedford led throughout the period, by as many as seven points, until the final shot. Forman, finding the range that has eluded him in recent weeks, drained two more trifectas and scored 12 points in the game.

Jacob McLoughlin, the Eagles’ outstanding senior point guard, single-handedly kept his team in the game, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points and connecting on five of six shots. The rest of the Eagles combined for one basket – until the final 30 seconds.

The Bucs led 59-53 as the clock ticked under three minutes. Sharon power forward Jaden Segal, who had the game of his life with 15 points on seven-for-eight close-range shooting, took a feed underneath for an uncontested layup. Sharon took a time out, and when play resumed, McLoughlin converted off a Bedford turnover with a conventional three-point play. Suddenly the lead was 59-58.

On their next possession, the Eagles were poised to take the lead, but McLoughlin misfired on a three-point attempt – his first miss after seven straight baskets. At the other end, Buchannan missed twice from underneath, but Shoesmith put the offensive rebound home, then stole a Sharon pass with less than a minute to play.

The Eagles, with only one team foul and less than a minute to play, realized they needed to be in a position to put the Bucs on the line. After three quick fouls, Segal fouled Shoesmith – the Bucs best free-throw shooter. He made both, but Sharon had precious seconds remaining.

The strategy appeared to backfire when McLoughlin, driving the baseline, slipped and lost control of the ball. Justin Liberman scooped it before it rolled out of bounds, and the Bucs had possession with a 58-53 lead and less than 35 seconds to go.

“I can’t say enough about how hard they played,” Halls said about his team. Besides Baer, Buchannan, Joseph, Liberman, and Shoesmith, the other seniors on the 2023-24 squad are Darian Aviles, Xavier Ruiz, and Stephen Goldsmith.

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