Central holds off Merrimack
Friday, January 25, 2013
MERRIMACK – If one game can sum up the kind of season it’s going to be in Division I boys basketball, the one played Friday night between Merrimack and Manchester Central high schools is as good as any.
It was a rematch of last year’s final, but minus most of the main guns who made a championship possible for the Tomahawks. Central, with just one senior in its rotation, is nevertheless one of the teams to beat.
But it took some hard work on the offensive glass and a strong defensive effort in the second half for the Little Green to remain unbeaten at 8-0 and escape with a 52-47 decision.
“Our kids played about as hard as you can ask a group of kids to play,” said Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge, whose team fell to 4-3. “I thought we defended extremely well.
“They came out strong in the third quarter and got some fairly decent looks, but it’s Central; you’re not going to shut them down all night.”
It looked like an upset in the making, at least during the first half, for the Tomahawks, who were playing without 6-foot-6 starting center Brad Jarry, who injured his ankle at practice on Tuesday.
“He probably could have played tonight,” Goodridge said. “But it’s a long season, it’s mid-January, and I didn’t want to risk losing him for a longer period of time.”’
Merrimack led 26-19 at halftime thanks to some energetic half-court defense, especially in the second quarter, when it held Central to just seven points.
Junior guard Eric Gendron had 13 first-half points, including the last four of the half when he was fouled while making a 3-pointer.
But Central would come out firing in the third quarter and attacked the offensive glass when its shots didn’t fall.
“We’re obviously not a physically imposing team,” Central coach Dave Wheeler said. “But the kids work hard.
“During a timeout, I went up to Tyler Kelly and said, ‘You’re our warrior.’ He’s 6-1, fighting for rebounds with 6-4 and 6-5 kids.”
Central took its first lead of the second half on a 3-pointer by sophomore Brett Hanson late in the third quarter, then took the lead for good on a Troy Pelletier basket with less than three minutes left.
Central led 49-45 and had the ball with two minutes remaining when Merrimack was forced to foul. It worked, as Central’s Brett Hanson missed the free throws and Gendron hit a runner in the lane to make it 49-47.
A five-second violation gave Merrimack possession with 1:12 left, still down by two. But a turnover gave possession back to the Little Green, and Pelletier hit the first of two free throws to make it 50-47.
Another Merrimack turnover, one of three in the final two minutes, let Central’s Dawson Dickson ice it with a pair of free throws.
Gendron led all scorers with 19 points, but the player who kept the Tomahawks alive in the second half was sophomore point guard Austin Franzen, who hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
Pelletier had 14 points, Mike Plentzas had 13 and Hanson had 10 to lead the Little Green.