Merrimack falls to Londonderry

It’s a scenario the Merrimack High School boys basketball team would take any time.

Down one point with seconds to go and the ball in senior Austin Franzen’s hands against undefeated Londonderry is what the Tomahawks got. But Franzen’s off-balance 3-pointer was too strong, and the Lancers held on for a 52-51 victory over Merrimack.

A tough way to lose, but given that the Tomahawks (4-3) turned the ball over 16 times and gave up 34 points in the first half, to have a shot at the end against Londonderry (6-0) was what they asked to have.

“I hate to say it, but if you said we’d play Londonderry and it would be a one-point game and we had the last shot to win, I’d probably take it,” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. “We know where our mistakes were. We turned the ball over a lot of times.

“There were a lot of good things to come out of this. To hold a team like that to 52 points, and turn the ball over as many times as we did, that’s a testament to how our kids played pretty good defense all night long.”

Franzen finished with a team-high 15 points, including two jumpers in the fourth quarter that helped Merrimack get a 47-45 lead. But with Cody Ball guarding him, Franzen also missed a pair of 3s down the stretch, something Londonderry coach Nick Stanton was surprised to see.

“It was shocking,” Stanton said. “We got lucky, to tell you the truth, that he missed like that. He’s a great player, and he’s the No. 1 guy we want to stop. I’m sure when we play them again, I’m sure he won’t be doing that.”

Dylan Richardson added 13 points for the Tomahawks and Ian Roberts chipped in with 10, while Andrew Wojciak and Ian Cummings played great defense on Ball in the second half.

After scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, Ball was scoreless in the second quarter as Merrimack chipped away at a six-point halftime deficit, and turned it into one going into the fourth.

“We were in a triangle-and-two and any time he touched the ball, we were sending guys at (Ball) and made him give up the ball,” Goodridge said. “We pretty much had two guys on him and let someone else beat him. Lucky for us, but we had to do something.”

Jacob Coleman added 15 points for Londonderry and Marc Corey had 13, including a 3-pointer with 1:28 left that gave the Lancers a 52-49 lead.

“I liked the way we came together at the end,” Stanton said. “We have guys who can shoot and they had off nights. When they went to the triangle-and-two (defense), we didn’t prepare for that, and typically, it wouldn’t affect us, but they held us to 52 points. That’s the first time a team has held us to that.”

After Corey’s big 3, the Lancers got the ball back after a Merrimack miss, but turned it over with 26.9 seconds to play. The Tomahawks cut the lead to one on a layup by Roberts with 15 seconds left, but with just two team fouls in the half, Merrimack had to waste six seconds fouling Londonderry.

Benjamin Stoller went to the line for a one-and-one with 8.1 remaining, but his free throw rolled in and out. Richardson grabbed the board and quickly got the ball to Franzen, who raced down the court and put up a shot from the right wing.

The shot was too strong and the buzzer sounded before anyone could grab the rebound.

“We took a step in the right direction,” Goodridge said. “Nobody likes to lose. They’re obviously one of the top teams in the state, and we played them to a one-point game, and we had a chance to win down the stretch.”