Sports

Merrimack falls to North

Friday, February 24, 2012

By GARY FITZ

Staff Writer

NASHUA – If tournament atmosphere is exactly what you want before the real tournament starts, then the Nashua North boys basketball team couldn’t have designed a better late-season schedule.

Last week, it was a tough road game at Bishop Guertin. Tuesday night, it was a huge home game against Merrimack before a big, loud crowd at home.

And, it doesn’t hurt to be playing your best basketball of the year when it matters the most.

North improved to 12-3 on the season with its eighth victory in nine games, 74-68. The victory puts the Titans in sole possession of second place in a division where the home court in the first two rounds of the tournament could be a huge advantage.

And it doesn’t get any easier for the Titans, who travel to Manchester Central on Friday night and close the regular season with games next week against Alvirne and Manchester West.

“It’s almost a good thing,” North coach Steve Lane said of the challenging schedule. “If we were playing some of the weaker teams we might lose focus. Now, I have some ammunition to motivate them at practice.”

The motivation hasn’t changed much all season for senior guard Ryan Gauthier, who has been playing as good as any player in the state since coming back from a four-game disciplinary suspension in January.

Tuesday night, he torched the Tomahawks for 31 points while controlling the game from his point guard position and grabbing six rebounds. When North needed a big basket he got it. When he needed to hit free throws down the stretch to keep the Tomahawks at bay, he hit them.

“He’s unbelievable,” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. “I would have loved to see the (Jackson) King on him tonight. It would have been a classic matchup. I’m not sure King could have controlled him or not.”

Senior guard Jackson King, who didn’t come out for basketball last year, was coming up big for Merrimack until breaking his wrist a week ago at Dover.

King is done for the season, but the Tomahawks will have junior guard Dimitri Floras, who broke his wrist a month ago, back on the floor for contact practice next Monday. Floras led Division I in scoring last year as a sophomore. He may not see action until the opening round of the tournament.

Gauthier continues to be motivated by “people who didn’t believe in us” when the season started.

But, there aren’t many left to convert, including fellow North students who are showing up in bigger and bigger numbers.

“The support is great,” Gauthier said. “It’s good to see them at the game. I hope they come to Central on Friday night.”

Javon Williams added 19 points and seven rebounds for the winners, while Anthony Farmer scored 15 points and did a solid defensive job on Merrimack senior Tyler Gendron, who led the Tomahawks with 14.

“He’s been our unsung hero all season,” Lane said. “He always defends the best offensive player on the other team.”

Eric Gendron added 13 and Jeff Giannelli and Brad Jarry had 10 each for Merrimack, which slipped to 11-4.

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