Merrimack avoids another upset, beats Manchester West

Merrimack High School rolled over Manchester West in an opening-round Division I tournament game Tuesday, 64-37.

The Tomahawks, who have not lost on their home floor this season, were led by senior Eric Gendron who scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half.

Despite the lop-sided final score, Merrimack struggled in the first quarter with finding consistency.

“Because it was a playoff game, there was a lot of energy being spent by both teams,” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. “We weren’t finishing early on but we settled down a bit and got into a better flow.”

While the opening frame wasn’t considered a good start for the Tomahawks, Manchester West started out strong enough to be down just two points leading into the second quarter. On back-to-back turnovers from Merrimack, the Blue Knights capitalized with a steal at center court by Monytoug Maker, who cruised in for a two-handed, breakaway jam. Maker was the only Manchester West player to finish in double figures.

However, at the outset, Manchester West showed interior poise. The Blue Knights relied heavily on their perimeter game but only knocked down three 3-pointers all night.

The tough shot selection led to Manchester West scoring in single digits for the remaining three quarters of play. Players and coaches appeared to experience a bit of frustration with the game slipping away, which landed the Blue Knights with two technical fouls during the game.

Merrimack capitalized on fast break opportunities and spread the offense with patience. Thus, with the blink of an eye, and strong consecutive possessions from Eric Gendron, the Tomahawks coasted into the mid-way point with a 34-16 lead.

As it has been throughout the season, Merrimack’s wide-spread offense has been led by Gendron, however, Austin Franzen scored in double-figures by hitting half of his 14 points from the free-throw line. Forward Ian Roberts finished with eight points off the bench as well.

“We’re a deep team and I think that’s how you have to win,” Goodridge said. “We need to get the regular five or six and an additional two or three guys going to be successful in the end.”

Manchester West ends its season 6-13, while Merrimack remains undefeated at home this season and improves to 17-2.

“We haven’t lost a game in here all year long, we have a great student section and didn’t have to get on a bus to travel an hour or two,” Goodridge said. “We like it at home.”

The Tomahawks have the earned opportunity on Friday night to continue state tournament at home against Winnacunnet High School, a team Merrimack struggled with on the road earlier in the season.

“We struggled with Winnacunnet last time when we went up there,” Goodridge said. “They’re a really good team. They rebound really well, they can shoot, defend and changing things up. We’re going to have our hands full here on Friday night, it should be a heck of a ball game.”