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Grove City’s big fourth quarter puts an end to Bedford’s year

SOMERSET — Bedford coach Leo Brunelli waited at the end of the handshake line and gave each one of his players a hug and told them he loved them. There wasn’t much else you could do after a crushing defeat like they just had.

The District 5-9 sub-regional champion Bisons battled with District 10 runner-up Grove City all night long, and even led after the first and third quarters. In the end, though, the Eagles did what championship-caliber teams do in the fourth quarter, and that’s find a way to win.

The Eagles rallied from down, 42-40, at the start of the final quarter, out-scoring Bedford, 27-10, to survive and advance with a 67-52 win Friday night at Somerset junior-senior high school.

It was a long season for the Bisons, who finished the season at 12-13 after battling against tough competition in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference all season long.

“These kids bought in. We had our backs against the wall playing through the Laurel Highlands which prepares you,” Brunelli said. “BG, Richland, Forest Hills, Johnstown — you could go on down the list.”

“These kids mean the world to me. In year two together, they’ve been through a lot,” Brunelli said. “They haven’t had an opportunity to have success. I just wanted it to continue, but it wasn’t meant to be tonight.”

Bedford was in it for most of the way, even after losing senior Jace Growden when he picked up his fourth foul at 6:25 to play in the third quarter. He was limited in the scoring department and only made one bucket for three points.

Growden, along with fellow classmates Zach Price and Dylan Arnold, played their final game in a Bison uniform.

“These kids have been next man up,” Brunelli said. “Jace had an unbelievable senior year. Close to 600 points his senior year, he’s a 1,000-point scorer. But when you get to this point, teams know that and can key on him. But everyone knows, we’re more than Jace.”

Indeed. In fact, both of Bedford’s plus-20 scorers were Steve Ressler and Drew Hall.

Ressler, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, had 21 points, eight of which came in the third quarter as part of a 13-2 Bison run to pull Bedford within one.

Hall, a 6-foot-2 junior, led Bedford with 22 points, including two 3-pointers and a pair at the foul line that, before Grove City’s Kade Persinger hit a trey just before the third quarter horn, had the Bison up five.

“I’m just so proud of the way they competed,” Brunelli said. “It hurts, this one’s going to hurt for a while because those kids mean the world to me.”

Ressler said he wants to remember what Friday’s game felt like. The Bisons return Ressler, Hall and everyone else minus three departing seniors.

“Next year we should be back, better than ever. We want to go far,” Ressler said. “I like this feeling. Playoff games are fun, so I want to keep going and play in those games.”

“Even though we lost, we played as hard as we ever have,” Ressler added. “I’m upset, but I’m happy that we played as hard as we did and we lost the way we did.”

Grove City coach Chris Kwolek said it was an outstanding atmosphere for high school playoff basketball, and credited Bedford with a gutty performance after the Eagles had to fight to pull away into the fourth quarter. In particular, Bedford’s zone gave the Eagles fits early in the contest.

“We did not see a lot of zone leading up to this game,” Kwolek said. “First-round playoff game we did, but knowing that, we had to make sure that we couldn’t live or die by the 3-pointer. That was not our game plan.”

“Our plan was definitely try to work it inside first, but we did not do a great job of balancing our offense early,” Kwolek added. “But we made a lot of offense out of our defense in the fourth quarter, and I think that’s what won us the basketball game.”

Kwolek said he knew what he was going to be dealing with in the Bisons, and expected a close contest.

“(Bedford) is a district champ for a reason,” Kwolek said. “You can’t assume you’re going to go into a gym and blow a team out by 15 or 20 in the state playoffs. That doesn’t happen.”

Grove City, which went 19-of-23 from the free throw line, was led by senior Marcos Cintron with 21 points. He was 6-of-6 at the line in the final quarter. Caden Mattocks netted 18 for the Eagles, and Kade Persinger chipped in 11.

The Eagles advance to Tuesday night’s second-round game against New Castle, which was a 72-61 winner over Titusville.

GROVE CITY (67): Brooks 1 1-2 3, Callahan 2 0-0 4, Cintron 5 6-6 21, Tinko 0 0-0 0, Persinger 5 5-5 11, Mattocks 5 4-4 18, Lutz 3 2-5 8, Loughry 0 2-2 2. Totals: 19 19-23 67.

BEDFORD (52): Growden 1 0-0 3, Washington 1 0-0 2, Price 1 0-0 2, Ressler 8 2-4 21, D. Arnold 1 0-0 2, Vent 0 0-0 0, Hall 7 5-6 22. Totals: 19 7-10 52.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Grove City 14 12 14 27 — 67

Bedford 15 7 20 10 — 52

3-point goals: Grove City 8 (Cintron 2, Persinger 2, Mattocks 4); Bedford 7 (Growden, Ressler 3, Hall 3)

Records: Grove City (17-9); Bedford (12-13)

Officials: Mike Miller, Anthony Carter, Jacob Miller

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