Down, but not out

Eric Gendron was under blanket coverage Monday night and couldn’t find a rhythm as Merrimack High School fell 62-59 in the battle of Division I unbeatens at Manchester Central High School.

With the Little Green on the verge of pulling away late, the Tomahawks, minus Gendron, rallied for a nail-biting finish.

Trailing Central 53-44 with 4:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, Gendron fouled out of the game to give Little Green head coach Doc Wheeler what he assumed was the final advantage his squad needed to pull away for good.

Instead, the longtime coach watched point guard Austin Franzen and Shayne Bourque rally the Tomahawks from nine down with four minutes left to one down with 42 seconds left.

“When Gendron fouled out I thought we had a good chance to put it away right there,” said Wheeler of his 9-0 Little Green. “Merrimack played aggressive without their leader in there. Those Merrimack kids hit their shots. You have to give Merrimack credit for fighting.”

Franzen scored nine of his team-high 17 points in that fourth quarter, scoring on a couple coast-to-coast finishes and draining the 3-pointer that got them within one with 42 seconds left.

Bourque scored four of his 12 in Gendron’s absence for Merrimack (7-1), while Mickey Gasper and Dylan Richardson also hit clutch shots to get Merrimack back within striking distance.

The Little Green started slow, trailing 15-7 after the first quarter, but made up ground and pulled away during the second and third quarters. Led by Joey Martin and Brett Hanson, who finished even with a game-high 21. Jon Martin also found his way to the hoop often, finishing with 13 in the win, including the final layup at the buzzer.

Merrimack 59, Concord 30

Nashua South boys basketball head coach Nate Mazerolle knows what he’s talking about. After suffering a six-point loss to Merrimack High School last Tuesday night, the Panthers’ mentor tried to teach the rest of the state what he now knew: the undefeated Tomahawks are more than just senior Eric Gendron.

Concord learned that lesson Friday night courtesy of 6-foot-5 senior Shayne Bourque, who recorded a double-double in Merrimack’s 59-30 Division I boys basketball win.

“That’s just how our team operates,” said Bourque after scoring a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers, and pulling down 10 rebounds. “We have guys up and down our roster that can score.

“There will be some nights that Eric isn’t on, not that he was even off tonight, but there are times when a couple other guys have to step up. And we know that we have the guys that can do that. Tonight I was just on fire.”

Bourque was off and gunning in the first quarter, scoring two of his 3-pointers on his way to an opening frame of 10. He never looked back, adding his third trey and seven more points before the half.

Merrimack head coach Tim Goodridge was happy with a 34-16 lead at the break, and what Bourque was doing to help build such a comfortable lead for his Tomahawks (7-0).

“Shayne really worked hard,” Goodridge said. “He’s a really good shooter and he’s one of those seniors that just leads by example.

“I can’t say enough about what he brings to the table when he’s shooting like he was out there and playing defense, especially rebounding the way he was.”

Bourque led the Tomahawks’ charge, but Gendron was no slouch in the blowout win. The 2012-2013 New Hampshire Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year scored 14 of his own versus the Crimson Tide. Like Bourque, he scored the majority of his points in the first half – with six in the first quarter and four in the second.

Merrimack also received strong showings from sophomore Ian Roberts (eight points) and senior Mike Conlin (six).

Concord (3-4), who was missing starting point guard Marc Gaudet, was led by the 10-point effort of Walter Szulc. He was the only Tide player to reach double figures, which is something these Tomahawks strive for.

“We pride ourselves on D,” Bourque said. “Just like on offense we want to get everyone involved on the defensive end. We want to get stops. We challenge ourselves to get stops.”

Even when the score is as lopsided as it was Friday night?

“It doesn’t matter what the score is,” Bourque said. “In Division I NHIAA basketball you can’t let up. Every team has the capability to come back from a large deficit. Anything can happen in a span of two minutes on that floor. We don’t care if we’re up by five, 10 or 20. We will never let up.”