Merrimack nips Alvirne in overtime

By BEN LEVINE

Correspondent

HUDSON – Despite starting the season with five wins in its first seven games, the Merrimack High Schoolbasketball team was clearly seeking another statement victory.

The Tomahawks got that decision Friday night; it just took an overtime period to do so.

Merrimack erased an early 12-point deficit to earn a dramatic road victory, topping Alvirne 50-47 in OT.

It was all Alvirne in the first quarter, as the Broncos marched to an early 12-0 lead. The Alvirne defense did an admirable job of suffocating the Merrimack offense, limiting the Tomawhawks from getting clean looks.

With Owen Ploss injured, the Broncos focused on containing junior forward Ian Cummings, who didn’t record his first bucket until the end of the first quarter.

"We started off very slow," Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. "It was good coaching by (Alvirne coach) Brian (Lynch). He knew we were missing Ploss, one of our best shooters.

"They had a good defensive strategy and we didn’t adapt to it well. We hung in there, though. We could have gotten down and out, but we kept battling and starting figuring them out."

Merrimack finally got its first bucket from Dan McKillop with less than two minutes remaining in the first, and ended the frame trailing by seven.

Alvirne kept the foot on the pedal in the second quarter as Trevor Bolduc scored 10 of his game-high 20 points during the frame. The Broncos lead was later extended to 11 points in the third quarter before the Tomahawks finally managed to connect on their shots. Joe DeGregorio hit a pair of three-pointers towards the end of the frame, cutting Merrimack’s deficit to only four.

The Tomahawks finally managed to tie the game with five minutes remaining in the fourth, and the two teams proceeded to trade buckets for much of the quarter. Alvirne seemed to be in the driver’s seat in the final minute, as the home team was up by two with the ball. However, Cummings came up with a big steal and a layup, tying the game with only 20 seconds remaining.

Bolduc connected on a desperation three at the buzzer, but the referees determined that the shot was made following the horn, sending the game to overtime.

With less than three minutes remaining in the extra frame, the Tomahawks took their first lead of the game following a pair of free throws by Cummings. Merrimack’s Jared Dyer made a big shot moments later, but subsequent missed free throws by the Tomahawks kept Alvirne in the game. The Broncos had an opportunity to tie the game on their final possession, but Ryan Ruigrok couldn’t connect on his long three.

"We showed a lot of grit," said Goodridge. "We just kept battling. We played pretty good defense, we rebounded better in the second half, and we became a better basketball team mentally."

DeGregorio led the way for Merrimack, scoring 16 points. Cummings chipped in 13 in the victory. Besides Bolduc’s efforts, Alvirne was led offensively by Max Bonney-Liles’ 10 points.

The win was especially important for Merrimack (6-2) following a heartbreaking loss to Exeter last week. The team also handed an important loss to division rival Alvirne, who fall to 5-3.

"Every game is big," said Goodridge. "All of us are in a dogfight to get to the tournament. There’s no easy nights in this league. To go on the road and get a win, it feels good."