Harding lets one slip away against Bedford

WARREN – Aaron Beidleman looked left, then right and then left again.

Nope, no one was open. The point guard for Bedford High School was hoping hot-shooting teammate Chris Carter would find a way to break free, but the Warren G. Harding defense wasn’t about to let the Bearcats’ leading scorer beat them.

That’s when Plan B quickly came into play for Beidleman. The 5-foot-9 senior raised up from the top of the key and fired a bank-shot 3-pointer off the glass and into the net to tie the game with 1.9 seconds remaining.

The shot put an exclamation point on an ugly collapse for the Raiders, and while it didn’t officially end the game, the clutch 3-pointer gave Bedford all the momentum it needed to steal a 64-58 double-overtime win over Harding.

The Raiders, who fell to 5-3 and 2-3 in the Lake Erie League, missed a desperation heave in the final two seconds. Fatigue and frustration quickly showed in the overtime sessions as Harding scored just three points, all on free throws. Its defense and a missed free throw by the Bearcats pushed the game into double overtime, but the Raiders failed to score a point, and Bedford (6-3, 3-2) pulled away by making 4 of 6 free throws.

The loss was especially tough for Harding coach Andrew Vlajkovich, whose team led by six with 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter only to turn the ball over twice and watch Beidleman nail the game-tying 3.

“Up six with a minute to go, there’s no excuse for that,” Vlajkovich said. “It was poor fundamentals against pressure. And it wasn’t just one guy. It was all of us.

“And I guess that’s on me. I’ve got to prep our guys better for special situations in practice. That’s my fault.”

The mental lapses in the final 1:11 started with a traveling violation by the Raiders. Carter, who scored a game-high 25, made them pay with a nice spin move on the baseline, weaving his way inside for a lay up that cut the lead to 54-50. Harding was then called for a 5-second violation as it failed to inbounds the ball. Beidleman drove the lane and hit a lay up to cut the lead to two. Bedford fouled on the Raiders’ ensuing possession, but Harding missed the front end of a 1-and-1, which set up Beidleman’s big shot.

“No,” said Beidleman of whether he called the bank shot, “but I felt it (off my hand). I knew I didn’t leave it short, so I had a feeling it was going to hit the glass.”

Anthony Bell provided Harding’s only offense in overtime, making 3 of 4 free throws. That was enough to keep them alive for another quarter, but the Raiders didn’t make a single field goal in either extra session, and Bedford appeared rejuvenated by the fourth-quarter comeback.

“We were extremely lucky we were able to go on that run at the end – (Beidleman) banked in a prayer to at least get us in overtime,” Bedford coach Matthew Miller said. “And then it felt like we kinda had the momentum going, and we kept that run moving into overtime.”

Beidleman again was the catalyst in the second OT, scoring five of their six points. His resurgence was rather sudden as he scored just seven points in the first three quarters, most of which was dominated by the Raiders (Bedford’s first lead didn’t come until the first overtime). Harding led 12-2 at one point in the first quarter and 43-32 late in the third, hitting 9 of 23 from 3-point range, but it continuously allowed the Bearcats back within striking distance, mainly because of Carter. He was 11 of 18 from the floor and responded with a big shot every time Harding started to extend its lead.

“I thought we did a good job on him at times, but every time we didn’t do a good job on him, he made us pay the price,” Vlajkovich said. “He was solid all game for them -just a big strong player.”

Mik’quan Dorsey led Harding with 20 points, including five 3s, and 10 rebounds, and Bell added 19 points and nine rebounds.

The Raiders travel to Lorain tonight.