Eric Gendron isn’t fazed by pressure.
So when it came time for him to put the Merrimack High School boys basketball team on his back, he relaxed and delivered.
With the game tied at 60 and the second overtime winding down, Gendron came off a screen at the top of the key and knocked down a wide open 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds to go to send the home crowd into a frenzy and lead the Tomahawks to a wild, 63-60 win over Alvirne on Tuesday night.
Gendron led all scorers with 37 points, but none were bigger than those final three at the end.
“That’s what I expect,” Gendron said of being relied on to win games. “Being a senior, being a leader out there, that’s just what it comes with.”
Gendron scored all five Merrimack points in overtime, but the Tomahawks may not have gotten to that point if it weren’t for his heroics at the end of regulation.
With his team trailing 52-46 with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter, Gendron drew a foul on a 3-point attempt and calmly made all three free throws to cut the deficit to 52-49.
After Alvirne’s Danny Brown missed a pair of free throws to potentially seal the game, Gendron was fouled on a 3-point shot once again. And once again, he sunk all three attempts to send the game into overtime tied at 52-52.
“Who else would you want on the line besides Eric Gendron?” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. “That’s just what he is. He was the player of the year last year, he’s got a lot of pressure on him this year and I keep telling him, ‘You don’t have any pressure on you. You’re a great player.’
“I think you saw him will us to victory in a lot of ways (Tuesday).”
If Gendron felt any nerves as he stepped to the line on both occasions, he didn’t show it, nor would he let it be known.
“I don’t mind pressure,” he said. “Those six free throws at the end, I don’t mind. Free throws are easy.”
The Tomahawks quickly fell behind in overtime when Alex Wetmore opened the extra session with a 3-pointer to put the Broncos ahead 55-52, but a made free throw from Mike Conlin and a fast-break layup off a steal by Gendron tied the game at 55-55 with less than a minute to play.
Merrimack went ahead 57-55 on a pair of free throws from Gendron with 4.4 seconds left, but this time the Broncos answered when Tyler Brown hit a shot from in close to beat the buzzer and send the game into a second overtime.
That’s went exhaustion started to kick in, as the first basket of the frame didn’t come until there was 2:17 left on the clock, and it was Danny Brown’s 3-pointer to put Alvirne ahead 60-57.
Gendron answered 10 seconds later with a 3-pointer to tie the game once again.
Sam Bonney-Liles went to the free-throw line with a chance to put the Broncos ahead with 1:29 to play, but missed both attempts, setting Gendron up for the game-winner.
Alvirne had one last chance to tie the game, but Danny Brown’s long heave was well off target and the Tomahawks earned their most dramatic win of the young season.
“It was a great high school adventure here,” Goodridge said. “You had two quality teams in my opinion knocking heads all night, going at it and the student section was great. That’s what high school basketball is all about right there, and that’s why you want to participate in events like this.”