Merrimack falls in QCIT finale
The Merrimack High School boys basketball team played a great first half of basketball Sunday in the finale of the Queen City Invitational Tournament.
The Tomahawks led Manchester Central by double digits for most of the half, taking an 11-point lead into the break. But by no means did Merrimack feel comfortable with that lead in the second half; the Little Green had a lot to do with that.
Central ramped up its pressure in the second half, opening the third with 15-4 before taking its first lead of the game just 1:38 into the fourth quarter. The Little Green were able to hold on the rest of the way, winning the tournament championship for the 25th time with a 60-52 win over Merrimack at Manchester Memorial.
Joey Martin scored a game-high 24 points, 18 of which came in the second half, and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Merrimack’s Austin Franzen had a team-high 12 points and received the sportsmanship award, while teammates Andrew Wojciak and Dylan Richardson added 10 points apiece.
“I thought we played outstanding in the first half,” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to play much better defense, or shoot the ball better. Those kids gave everything they had.
“If they would have been able to withstand Central’s pressure, we probably would have won, but that was youth and inexperience. I said in the locker room, if we continue to improve every day, we can withstand that pressure and take advantage of it, do all the things we need to do to get better, we’ll be OK.”
Central scored just four points in the first quarter, and trailed 26-10 with 3:45 left in the first half before a 9-4 run made it a 30-19 lead for Merrimack at halftime. A big part of that was the Tomahawks’ ability to slow down Martin, specifically with the defense of Wojciak.
“The difference is Joey Martin,” Goodridge said. “The kid made some incredible shots and he’s an outstanding player. I thought we did a really good job on him in the first half. Andrew Wojciak did a really good job on (Martin). We knew it was coming and he did, so what are you going to do? It’s a tribute to (Martin).”
Central coach Doc Wheeler was a little disappointed it took until after halftime for his team to get going.
“I would have liked to have seen a whole heck of a lot more vocal leadership in the first half,” he said. “It seems like when stuff doesn’t go our way, we don’t have that kid with the fire to pump up his teammates and talk about the stuff we need to correct on the court. It seems like we’ve got to wait until timeouts or halftime to really clean things up. That can’t go on for much longer.”
Both coaches were pleased with the steps they felt their teams took during the three-game tournament, which started on Friday.
“We really improved through this,” Goodridge said. “This was good test for our team. We beat Bedford and Exeter, who are formidable foes, and we had a chance to beat Central. There’s a bright future for us if we continue to work hard and improve every day.”
Bedford 44 OT
It’s been a while since Tim Goodridge saw a fourth quarter like he did Saturday at the Queen City Invitational Tournament.
Merrimack managed to advance to the championship game with a 48-44 overtime win over Bedford, but it was a win that left Goodridge anything but pleased.
“(It’s) about as mad as I’ve been in five years right now,” Goodridge said. “It was more difficult for us than it had to be. We had the lead and we’re playing selfish and taking shots. It’s a learning experience and hopefully we’ll get over it and become a better basketball team.”
Dylan Richardson made two free throws with 3:02 left to put Merrimack up 40-32, but would go the next four-plus minutes without a point, as Bedford came back to force overtime on a layup by Tommy O’Rourke with three seconds left in regulation.
The Bulldogs took a 41-40 lead on a free throw by Ryan Brown – Bedford’s first lead since it was 4-2 with 3:04 left in the first quarter – but the Tomahawks answered on a 3-pointer by Ian Cummings. The field goal, Merrimack’s first in over six minutes, gave the Tomahawks the lead for good.
Cummings, Austin Franzen and Andrew Wojciak each had 11 points for the Tomahawks, who will face the winner of Saturday’s late game between Manchester Central and Manchester West in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
O’Rourke finished with 12 points for Bedford while Brown was also in double figures with 11. For the second time this week, Wojciak held Colby Gendron in check, as the Bedford sophomore had just six points, giving him a combined 16 in two games against Merrimack.
“I’m proud we’re in the finals,” Goodridge said. “To say you’re going to go to the final of this really good tournament, it’s something to be proud of. We’re a raw basketball team that needs to be good defensively and smart.
“In fairness to them, I only have one senior out there and we’re playing young. It’s my job and I put a little bit of fear in them. That’s a learning experience so that when we get down the road, we will be able to make the right decisions.”
Neither team appeared to make many in the first quarter, as the game was scoreless for the first 3:15. Bedford led 4-2 for 2:19 until Merrimack scored twice in the quarter’s final 45 seconds to lead 6-4 at the end of one.
The second quarter was almost as offensively challenged, and the Tomahawks took a 17-10 lead into halftime.
“It’s just kids,’ Goodridge said. “They’re out of their routine. They’ve been out of school and we haven’t practiced in three or four days. We played (Friday).
“I thought (Bedford) played good defense, too. There were a lot of shots there, it’s just that nothing was falling. We held them to 10 points, that’s the good news. I don’t think you’ll do that every night against that team.”