Merrimack boys come up short in loss to Alvirne

The Merrimack High School boys basketball team had a firm grasp on rebounds against Alvirne, but the Broncos collected a few of their own to win the game.

Alvirne had to rally in the fourth quarter to capture a 58-52 Division I win over the Tomahawks on Friday night.

After playing catch up all game long, Merrimack (6-6) exploded to an 11-point scoring spree in the third quarter to seize a 38-35 advantage. The streak was orchestrated by a 3-pointer and two field goals by Dylan Richardson and a pair of field goals from Austin Franzen.

The Tomahawks also dominated the rebound battle and disrupted the Broncos’ shooting under the hoop. Merrimack looked to have taken control when it built up a 48-43 lead early in the fourth quarter, but things would change.

The Broncos (9-3) managed to close the gap to 50-49, then Sam Bonney-Liles sunk a 3-pointer to recapture the lead and added a field goal to make it a two possession affair.

“We were trying to calm each other down and settle down,” Bonney-Liles said of the rally.

The Tomahawks hit another field goal and came up with a turnover, but Noah Beygelman’s jump shot glanced off the iron. Andrew Wetmore grabbed the rebound and dished it over to Bonney-Liles who was fouled and sent to the line.

“We always talk rebounding because it’s been our Achilles’ heel,” said Alvirne coach Brian Lynch. “It’s a mental thing. You don’t have to be skilled to be a great rebounder, you just have to want it and have the heart and be willing to be physical.”

Bonney-Liles missed his shot, but Evan Hunt made another crucial rebound that was tossed back to Bonney-Liles who was given a second chance at the foul line.

“I was thinking about the matchups in case I did miss, but I didn’t think I would miss,” Bonney-Liles said.

The second time was a charm for Bonney-Liles who hit both shots to make it a 56-52 score with 15 seconds to spare.

“We fought hard, Merrimack is a tough, physical team and we fought with them,” Lynch said. “We were able to withstand the run that they made and we showed some resiliency and finish strong.”

It was a game of momentum swings in the first half. Each time Alvirne constructed a comfortable lead, the Tomahawks tore it down to a single possession edge.

The Broncos broke out to a 10-point spree in the opening quarter with some open looks and quality shots. The Tomahawks dominated in the rebound department and controlled possession, but struggled to play the glass and get their shots to fall, initially.

Once Merrimack settled down, it struck a 10-2 run in the first and second frames to close the lead to 14-12. The Broncos distanced themselves again with precise jump shots and free throws for a 25-18 lead, but the Tomahawks got into an offensive funk once again to make it 27-24 at the halftime break.

Bonney-Liles piled up 20 points on the night for Alvirne, Connor Hodsdon accounted for 11 and George Notini chipped in 10.

Ian Roberts dropped 14 points for Merrimack, Franzen tossed in 12 and Richardson came up with 10.