BG hands Merrimack its first loss of season

NASHUA – Bishop Guertin coach Jim Migneault presumably wasn’t pleased with what he had seen from his team through the first few weeks of the season. Sure, the Cardinals earned an opening night victory over Concord, but they had allowed more than 75 points in their two losses since. With a matchup looming against undefeated Merrimack on Friday evening, the squad could have easily rolled over and looked forward to next week’s games. Instead, they gave Migneault the kind of performance he had been seeking.

The Cardinals used an 18-3 run in the second quarter to take a commanding lead and the squad never looked back, topping Merrimack 66-49.

Bishop Guertin’s strategy was clear from the opening minute. The Cardinals (2-2) relied on a full- and half-court press to take the Tomahawks (3-1) out of their offensive groove, and the contest quickly turned into the running game that Guertin thrives on.

"We pressed them full and we got them out of their comfort zone," Migneault said. "We didn’t want them to be able to walk the ball up and down the court, so we were coming up and forcing them to run so they couldn’t get into their offense. I think it threw them off a little bit. They were missing some shots they normally make and I think that helped us a lot."

While the Cardinals effort on defense certainly helped them win the game, it was their performance on the boards that kept the contest close in the first quarter. Five Bishop Guertin offensive rebounds led to scores, including a pair from Casey Fisher, and the Cardinals ended the first frame with a three-point lead.

Merrimack started the second quarter strong, taking the lead following buckets from Zak Kerr and Ian Roberts. The Cardinals, led by senior guard Emile Hobeika, quickly responded with a barrage of threes. Hobeika’s three consecutive shots from beyond the mark ended up being the difference maker, with Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge declaring them "the three biggest shots of the game."

"He’s a deadeye shooter," Migneault said. "He’s a scorer. If he hits three in a row, he stays out there. If he misses three in a row, he comes out. Tonight he hit them."

It was more of the same in the second half from the Cardinals. After holding a 14-point advantage heading into halftime, Bishop Guertin extended that lead to 19 in the third quarter. A late Merrimack run cut their deficit to 10, but the Cardinals sank their corresponding free throws to secure the victory.

"We played really hard today," Migneault said. "They’re a very good team. We were moving the ball well, we played great defense. This is the first game where we actually dug in on the defensive end. I’m just real proud of these kids."

Despite his team’s underwhelming performance, Goodridge found a silver lining from the loss.

"We wanted to win, and maybe we were getting a little too big for our britches," he said. "Maybe this was a good test for us to tell our kids to come out every night and play."

Pat Donovan and Chad Olivieri led the Cardinals on the offensive end, scoring 13 points apiece. Mike Rinko also chipped in 12. Cummings scored 16 for the Tomahawks, while Kerr finished with 10.