(Des Moines) In its third state tournament appearance, Bedford has a chance to win its first championship.
The third-ranked Bulldogs got outstanding balance on offense, played solid defense and beat No. 9 Le Mars Gehlen Catholic 45-36 to reach the Class 1A title game.
Bedford held Gehlen Catholic to one field goal during a 14-minute stretch while building a nine-point lead, then held off the Jays' comeback attempts down the stretch.
Savanna Thornton led Bedford with 11 points, while Caila Raymond scored 10 and grabbed 12 rebounds. Kayla Lindenmeyer added nine points for the Bulldogs, Peyton Russell scored eight and Kendyl Gruttemeyer scored seven to go with 10 rebounds.
Katelin Langel scored 21 points for Gehlen Catholic. Amber Timmins added six points, nine rebounds four assists and four steals.
Gehlen Catholic jumped to a 7-0 lead and was up 11-4 after one quarter. But Bedford shut down the Jays for a long stretch after that and moved into the lead, going up 25-16 early in the second half on Thornton's 3-pointer.
Bedford maintained a lead of five to nine points until Gehlen Catholic made a late charge, drawing to 37-36 when Steph Rohe's two free throws capped a 6-0 run. But the Bulldogs stopped the threat there.
Russell drove for a layup to put the Bulldogs up three and they secured their big victory at the free throw line, Gruttemeyer sinking three, Thornton making two and Russell hitting one.
Bedford will take a 26-1 record into the championship game at 6 p.m. Friday. In its two previous state tourney trips, in 2007 and last year, Bedford lost in the first round.
Gehlen Catholic, in the tournament for the first time, finished 21-5.