Bedford's Kenneth McFadden, front, steals the ball from Ann Arbor Huron's Andre Bond on Tuesday, in Temperance, Michigan.
TEMPERANCE -- Bedford's 60-year wait for a first boys basketball league championship will continue.
The Kicking Mules had a chance to break that drought Tuesday night in a showdown with visiting Ann Arbor Huron. The Southeastern Conference's Red Division title was on the line, and an energetic crowd of 1,400 was on hand hoping to witness potential history.
But the River Rats' pressure defense put Bedford in chase mode from the outset, the Mules never got over the hump, and then faded late in a 62-52 loss.
PHOTO GALLERY: Boys basketball: Bedford vs. Ann Arbor Huron
The win gave Huron (14-5, 10-2) a season sweep of Bedford (14-5, 9-3), and provided the Red title as well.
"As a coach and a competitor you go from an ultimate high of having the chance to win in an environment like this, to the ultimate low," first-year Bedford coach Nick Lowe said. "It's very hard, and it's the kids who I feel for.
"They worked very hard. We didn't deserve to win tonight, but they deserved a better fate overall with how we've been playing."
The River Rats, who forced 23 turnovers, many of which led to easy baskets, had a balanced attack headed up by 6-foot-3 senior forward Mike Lewis, who contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"We reverted back to some habits that we have not been guilty of in the last month," Lowe said. "I don't know if was because their pressure wore on us, or maybe we were a little tired. But they cause you to do some things you don't want to do."
Joining Lewis in double-figure scoring were Andre Bond (13 points), Kendall Thomas (12), and Allen Thomas (10).
Bedford was paced as usual by standout 6-6 junior forward Jackson Lamb, who had 20 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Dennis Guss added 11 points and senior guard Ryan Rightnowar eight.
"We just could break that bubble," Lamb said. "We got it down to two in the third quarter and we had couple turnovers. It's frustrating because we knew what they were going to do and we just had some lapses sometimes, and that really cost us.
"That's basketball. Sometimes when you're faced with that kind of pressure it just happens."
Cashing in on most of Bedford's nine first-quarter turnovers, Huron broke out to a 13-4 lead on Kameron Haywood's bucket off a steal five minutes into the opening quarter, which ended with the Mules trailing 21-11.
Bedford would occasionally chip away at that lead, getting back within one twice before halftime, and within 42-40 late in the third quarter.
Rightnowar's put-back basket with 2:56 left in the third put Bedford's crowd on the brink of erupting, but three scoreless possessions denied the Mules from tying the game or going ahead. Kendall Thomas hit a crucial 3-pointer for a 45-40 lead with 1:22 left in the third, sparking a quarter-ending 7-2 run from which Bedford could not recover.
"Our pressure got to them, but their pressure got to us, too," Huron coach Waleed Samaha said. "Give them a lot of credit. The game could have really gone either way."
The closest the Mules got from there was five points, and two big 3-pointers from Allen Thomas early in the fourth stretched the lead back to nine points.
Huron was 26-of-54 (48 percent) from the field, 6-of-13 from the foul line, and outrebounded the Mules 32-25.
Bedford was 21-of-48 from the field, 6-of-7 at the line, and forced 20 River Rat turnovers. Although the difference in the giveaways was only three, Huron simply cashed in more frequently with easy buckets while Bedford often struggled to find scoring rhythm.
"We worked really hard all season and went hard every day," Lamb said. "But sometimes it just doesn't pay out for you. We all have our bad days and unfortunately we had our bad day on the wrong day."
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.