BEDFORD – All James Caparell needed was a change of scenery.
The Bedford High School junior made 2 of 6 free throws during the first half of Friday’s game against Souhegan, the visiting crowd at times getting in Caparell’s head. That came on the heels of a 0-for-5 night in Wednesday’s win over Hollis Brookline, plenty for a player to feel like he was shooting at a pinhole.
But Caparell found a way to turn it around, shooting 10 for 12 from the line in the second half on his way to a game-high 24 points to help Bedford stage a big comeback and defeat Souhegan 68-63.
“He’s a great competitor,” Bedford coach John Langlois said. “That’s the most important thing. He’s going to battle back because you can’t break him down.”
The turnaround was as simple as shooting at the other end of the floor.
“At first, I think the crowd kind of got in my head, and finally, I just zoned it all out,” Caparell said. “I just thought about making my free throws instead of the crowd yelling. It’s easier when you’re with your fans being quiet.”
Caparell wasn’t the only one who brought the Bulldogs (12-3 in Division II) back from 17 points down in the first half. Bedford was playing its third straight game without captain Trevor Fahmy, and several other players came to the rescue.
“A lot of other guys stepped up big,” Langlois said. “James had a big second half, Collin (McManus) with his rebounding, Cam (Meservey) hit the big 3, Taylor (Grande) hit a big 3. We took the ball to the rim and started making foul shots.”
McManus scored 10 of his 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the second half, much to the chagrin of Souhegan coach Mike Heaney.
“I told my bigs that I was really disappointed in them,” he said. “I thought they played scared, I thought they played timid. I didn’t see them box out, they didn’t clear space, they fouled because they were out of position.”
The Sabers (13-2) fouled so much – and were not fouled – that they were outscored 23-2 at the foul line.
Souhegan opened the game by making its first two 3-pointers, hit six in the first quarter and finished with 12. But the Sabers missed at least as many, and often settled for the outside shot against the Bedford zone.
“We fell in love with it. Sometimes shooting is contagious,” Heaney said. “He got one, so I’ll get one, and we got that a little bit, but then we’ve got to take a breath and run our stuff. I thought if we kept shooting like that, we’d get them out of the zone.”
Bedford stayed in its zone, despite falling behind 33-16 midway through the second quarter. Instead of panicking, the Bulldogs worked harder on defense and went inside on offense. The result was a 12-3 run to end the first half.
“We had a big finish in that half and I told the guys that we’re OK,” Langlois said. “They hit those 3s and we can hit shots. We’re coming back, we’re fine in this game, and we were.”
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 6-0 run to cut the Souhegan lead to 36-34, but the Sabers regrouped and went back up by eight. The lead wouldn’t last, as Bedford closed the third quarter with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 45.
After the teams traded points, Meservey hit a 3 with 4:42 left in the game to give Bedford its first lead of the game, 52-49. It was a lead the Bulldogs wouldn’t surrender.
“We have heart,” Caparell said. “We knew we could come back, we just had faith in ourselves.”
Brandon Len had 17 points, including three 3s, to lead Souhegan and Zack Simmonds also had three 3s, adding 11 points. Tyler Ford and Ben Peterson each had nine points.
Even with the loss, Souhegan still held the top spot in the division, thanks to Hanover’s loss to St. Thomas. That alone had Heaney looking at the bigger picture.
“It was weird moment because I went from yelling at them for being intimidated and then I said ‘Oh my God, I’m yelling at a 13-2 team that everyone thought was going to be 9-9,’ ” Heaney said. “I was trying to raise their heads, that I was proud of them, but they didn’t want to hear that. They wanted to hear the challenge that they didn’t play like a 13-1 team.”