Tomahawks boys hoop falls at Spaulding

ROCHESTER – Come playoff time, the formula for the underdog road upset win in Division I boys basketball grows pretty standard:

Play loose, defend with all you have, play with grit, be smart and make shots.

Tuesday night before a super crowd at the Rochester Community Center, 14th-seeded Merrimack High went four for five and fell just short, dropping a 45-37 decision to No. 3 Spaulding.

“That’s been our story all season. Overall we played pretty good defense. All night we were pretty solid,” said coach Tim Goodridge, whose Tomahawks finish up at 6-13. “It’s the same story, it’s just our inability to score the basketball.”

The heart, the defense, the effort et al, somehow despite some woeful offensive stretches, had Merrimack in position to tie late, twice in the final two minutes to be exact.

Trailing 40-37, Jack Tarleton lofted a dead-on three from the baseline that rattled two-thirds of the way down and finally caromed out.

“We were pulling any strings we had,” said Goodridge. “The freshman (Tarleton) came in. Last game he hit a couple against them.”

The second Merrimack look wasn’t as good and with Spaulding in the double-bonus (of course!), the host Red Raiders pulled away to survive.

“Most any playoff game is a battle. We’ve been on the other end of it to, the 2-3-4 seed playing a team with nothing to lose,” said Goodridge. “They give you everything they’ve got. There was a lot of pressure on them. They’re expected to win.

“There’s not a lot of pressure on us. We were expected to lose. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. A couple shots here or there puts more pressure on the them, and you just never know what happens with kids.”

Merrimack trailed 15-12 after a quarter and then saw Spaulding assume control behind Arie Breakfield (14 points) with a 32-20

advantage.

Red Raider coach Tim Cronin chose to try and put the game to sleep in the third with a deliberate, stall-ball style. That, along with some stifling Merrimack defense, nearly put Spaulding asleep. The Tomahawks won the third, 6-4, and were

energized.

“There was a little more urgency,” said Goodridge.

“We got the ball inside like we wanted to, then kicked it out and made a couple shots.”

After the break, Jared Dyer scored nine of his 11 points, and Pat Yudkin had six of his game-high 13.

But the deficit was a tad much to overcome, under less than favorable conditions whistle-wise.

Spaulding was hit with a total of seven fouls on the night, sending Merrimack to the line for a total of four attempts. Meanwhile, the visitors were hit with 20 personals, plus a technical, leading to 20 Spaulding free-throw tries.

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