Brent Jones was the equivalent of a bicycle in front of a runaway truck.
The senior point guard was all alone as Dajuan Coleman, Jamesville-DeWitt’s 6-foot-9, 270-pound mountain of a sophomore, came rumbling down court. Jones, though, stood his ground, drawing a gutsy charge. The defensive play was symbolic of Bedford Academy’s performance.
“They didn’t show any fear,” first-year coach Robert Phelps said.
It, however, wasn’t enough for a victory. In the East New York school’s Glens Falls debut, the Panthers fell to Jamesville DeWitt, 67-54, in a New York State Federation Class A semifinal.
Coleman, a center receiving interest from a boatload of Division I schools including Ohio State, Syracuse and Kentucky, had 23 points, 31 rebounds – one less than Bedford as a team and a tournament record – and two blocked shots, for the Red Rams (25-0). Lamar Kearse also had 23 for the Syracuse-area team while Brent Jones led Bedford with 20 points and Anthony Mason Jr. had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“We didn’t play as well as we normally do,” Mason said. “At least we played hard. We never stopped; we just never got into a rhythm.”
The Panthers (24-6) got off to a slow start and never fully recovered. Failing to play their trademark defense, they trailed 19-8 after one quarter. Bedford got within five on several occasions, but failed to climb the mountain. It was either bedeviled by a missed shot, turnover or Jamesville-DeWitt asserting itself inside. Bedford was outrebounded 59-32, including 18-6 on the offensive glass, took just 15 free throws compared to the 33 attempts by Jamesville-DeWitt, and shot only 28 percent from the field.
“First quarter we didn’t play Bedford defense and they came out and stuck it to us,” Phelps said. “We just faced a bigger, stronger, better team.”
Even in defeat, Bedford had plenty to be proud of. The Panthers won their second straight Brooklyn A East regular-season crown and claimed the school’s first city championship in any sport. For the better part of three quarters, Phelps’ kids gave an undefeated team featuring one of the top big men in the country, all it could want by getting to loose balls, hitting from the perimeter and speeding up the contest’s pace.
“They are dangerous. They shoot it. They created matchup issues for us a little bit,” Jamesville-DeWitt coach Bob McKenney said. “Obviously they are quick and got in the gaps”
Phelps left disappointed. The former Nazareth High School and Providence College star did win a pair of state titles in his hey-day 20 years ago and had every intention of leaving a state champion. But he was also proud of how far his team came.
“They left it all out on the court – that’s all I can ask for,” he said.
Years later, the Panthers will be able to return to Bedford and see a banner representing their accomplishments. The hard-fought loss to Jamesville-DeWitt didn’t change that.
“Even though we lost states, we still have the city,” Mason said.