BEDFORD, Iowa — All 13 grades at Bedford Community Schools are attached within the same stretch of buildings.
This is a good thing if you're an elementary student and a girls basketball fan. When lunchtime nears, the grade-schoolers get to rub shoulders with the town's rock stars, the top-rated Bulldogs.
“It's pretty neat,” Bedford coach Kenny Weed said. “When they're walking the hallways and those elementary kids are going down to the lunchroom, they'll give them a high-five or a hug.”
Bedford made history a year ago, advancing to the Class 1-A championship game before falling 40-31 to North Mahaska. Returning four senior starters, Weed's club again has lofty aspirations. The Bulldogs hit a bump in the road last Friday, dropping a 57-49 decision to Central Decatur. But they rebounded with wins over Griswold (36-24) and East Union (55-18) and will take an 18-1 record into Friday's Pride of Iowa Conference game at Wayne.
Bedford is familiar with late regular-season losses. Last year, it dropped the finale to Nodaway Valley before embarking on a magical ride that ended in the finals.
“Last year, when Nodaway Valley beat us, it was like a whole new start for us,” senior Savanna Thornton said. “That's how we all feel now.”
Weed said the Bulldogs were all business Monday in the first practice since the loss. He said a loss isn't the worst thing if you respond in the proper way.
“I feel like a lesson was definitely learned,” senior Kayla Lindenmeyer said. “I feel like it took some pressure off us.”
Thornton, Lindenmeyer and senior Kendyl Gruttemeyer all are four-year starters. Senior Peyton Russell is a two-year starter, but she was a major contributor off the bench her first two years.
The 5-foot-9 Thornton is Bedford's top scorer at 13.5 points per game, and her 44 3-pointers are tied for fifth in Class 1-A. The 5-8 Lindenmeyer is next at 12.6, and she's a defensive dynamo. She's fourth among all classes in steals with 127, or 6.7 per game.
The 5-7 Russell averages 11.3 points and 3.7 assists as the team's steady point guard. She's committed just 26 turnovers in the 19 games. And the 5-9 Gruttemeyer pitches in 7.8 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds.
The newcomer to the lineup is 5-9 junior Madison Walston, who averages 4.7 points to go with 4.7 rebounds, second on the team. She replaced graduated all-Western Iowa selection Caila Raymond, last year's leading scorer.
Weed said Walston does the little things the team needs.
The Bulldogs were tied going to the fourth quarter of last year's title game. Eight minutes from the ultimate prize.
“We just kept telling ourselves that we made it this far,” said Gruttemeyer, who transferred to Bedford from Gretna before her freshman year. “That this is a huge accomplishment, and that we did something that no one else has done from Bedford.”
Intent on making the most of their final year together, the Bulldogs went to a team camp in the Branson, Mo., area for a second straight summer. In addition to the games, they spent time together at the lake and the park. Weed said it again was a great bonding experience.
They hope it pays off in regional play, when several top Corner Conference teams will be trying to deny them their third straight trip to state.
For the town's rock stars, they'll do anything to extend their time together on the court. For three of them, that time started in third grade, when they were the ones looking up at the high school stars in the hallway.
“I just dread the end, basically,” Gruttemeyer said. “I don't want it to end. I just want to keep playing with these girls.”
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