Merrimack romps past Pinkerton

MERRIMACK – Back in October, the Merrimack football team hung 68 points on Pinkerton. The Tomahawks couldn’t quite match that point total in its boys basketball season opener, but the result was just as good.

Danny McKillop and Ian Cummings scored 16 points apiece as the Tomahawks started the campaign with a 63-51 victory over the Astros in a Division I clash on Tuesday night at H. Dana Taylor Gymnasium.

Merrimack led nearly wire to wire, but the Astros trimmed a seven-point halftime deficit to 43-42 heading into the fourth quarter. However, the Tomahawks outscored the Astros 20-9 down the stretch to secure the victory.

"I thought we did well, but there’s definitely a lot we can improve on," said McKillop, a senior who tallied a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

"Coach told us to control the game and to control the ball. We knew if we didn’t turn the ball over and just finished and executed, we’d be OK."

Cummings filled the stat sheet with seven assists, five steals and four rebounds to go with his 16 points.

McKillop and Cummings are the only varsity mainstays from last year’s squad, which navigated its way to the title game before a heart-wrenching loss to Manchester Central in the final.

Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge knows there’s a long way to go before his Tomahawks can begin to replicate the success.

"A win is a win, especially in (Division I)," Goodridge said. "I think both teams have a lot to work on.

"We have kids playing their first varsity game. The emotions were high," he added. "They were physically playing, but they weren’t mentally playing. They have to understand it’s not just a physical game. If we can overcome that and they can play like basketball players instead of football players, I think we can be pretty tough."

Pinkerton’s lone lead came at 15-14 in the first quarter following back-to-back 3-pointers from Cason Giordano, but Merrimack never let the Astros seize control.

"We’re young and we have a lot to learn. We knew that coming in. It’s just a matter of development," Pinkerton coach Peter Rosinski said. "I thought we started to execute a little better (in the third quarter). We made some poor decisions in a time we were making a run and starting to come back. Those decisions caught up to us and changed the momentum we started to have."

Cummings scored the opening points of the final frame and a putback from Owen Ploss gave the Tomahawks a 47-42 advantage. A steal and layup from Cummings boosted the cushion to 53-45 midway through the frame, and after a Ploss drive and basket put the Tomahawks up 10, the Astros never threatened again.

Ploss finished with eight points and three rebounds, while Danny Vanecek added six points and three assists and Alex Thornton chipped in three points and seven boards for Merrimack.

Jay Reynolds led Pinkerton with 10 points, and the Astros received nine points each from Joseph Merrill (six rebounds), Nicholas Bortone (four steals) and Giordano.

"They were really lights-out shooters," McKillop said, "so we knew if we just tried to shut down their shots and make them drive inside and we rebound, we would be OK."

Merrimack hosts Spaulding on Friday at 6:30 p.m.