Bedford High School opened in 1946, and its various sports programs have been busy ever since, attaching numbers to banners on the gym walls logging the years in which league championships have been won by the Kicking Mules.
Wrestling, the school’s trademark sport, has almost too many to count. Volleyball, the top girls sport, isn’t far behind.
But there is one banner that has been blank in the league-title area for the last 67 years — the banner for boys basketball.
Thanks to senior star Jackson Lamb, fellow senior starter Dennis Guss, junior point guard Brad Boss, and the rest of the Mules, that banner won’t remain empty much longer.
With Lamb contributing 31 points and nine rebounds, Boss adding 18 points, and Guss eight, Bedford defeated visiting Saline 72-60 Saturday night to clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference’s Red Division championship.
“I am so proud of this group of kids,” said second-year Bedford coach Nick Lowe. “They’ve done something that hasn’t been done in 67 years at Bedford High School.
“No matter how much you talk about it or don’t talk about it, that last step sometimes is the eeeeeeeetoughest. I am absolutely humbled to be a very small part of what these gentlemen have accomplished. They set their goals at the beginning of the year, and they didn’t come up short.”
The Mules (15-3, overall, 10-1 Red) can secure an outright division title Tuesday night at Ann Arbor Huron. Huron and Ann Arbor Pioneer are each 9-2 in the Red standings with one division game remaining for all teams.
Bedford had a chance to clinch a share at Pioneer on Tuesday, but lost 64-61.
“I’m just proud of everybody on this team,” Lamb said. “It’s the first one ever, so it’s pretty special.
“When something’s never been done in school history, obviously people are going to be talking about it. It built up [pressure]. You play a little tight. But, we got the job done here tonight.”
It wasn’t easy early for the Mules, who had to survive a 3-pointer barrage from the Hornets before pulling away.
With Saline guard Reece Dils netting seven 3-pointers to lead the long-range attack, the Hornets would finish 10-for-22 from beyond the arc in the game.
But, after leading just 33-29 at halftime, Bedford used an 18-8 third quarter to pull away, then coasted home to its landmark victory, fittingly on senior night.
The Mules were efficient offensively, if not from the free-throw line. They went 27-of-47 (57 percent) from the field in the game, offsetting a woeful 14-for-33 effort at the line.
Leading just 36-32 after Dils hit a 3-pointer with 5:21 left in the third quarter, Bedford used a 15-5 surge to close that period and took a 51-37 advantage to the fourth.
The Mules led by as many as 17 points on two occasions in the fourth quarter. Junior forward Jeremiah Harris added nine rebounds, as Bedford topped Saline 32-31 on the boards.
As for the explosive 6-foot-6 Lamb, who will play baseball as a pitcher/outfielder at the University of Michigan, he pushed his school-record career totals to 1,798 points and 844 rebounds in the win.
With his basketball days nearly over, he ranks the league title at the top of his superb four-year career accomplishments.
“This means everything to us,” Guss said. “We’ve worked these last three years since I’ve been on the varsity, every single day, just to get to this moment.
“Coach said from the first day he got here that he wanted to hang a year on that banner, and that’s what we did. It feels so good. I’ve looked at that banner every day and have seen nothing on it. Now we can put something on it. That’s what means the most.”
“We’ve talked for a couple of weeks about winning the championship,” Lowe said, “and then we stopped doing that this week because we felt it was starting to wear on the kids a little bit mentally. That’s a lot of pressure when it’s never been done in school history. Hopefully now we’ll see a looser team when we go to [Ann Arbor] Huron and try to win it outright.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.