If you're wondering why it took me so long to post my thought's on tonight's BG/Merrimack game If you're wondering why it's because I had to take some time when I got home and cool down and gather myself so I could make sense of it. That's how intense this game was. And that's how electric the atmosphere was tonight at BG where Merrimack proved once again why they're the top ranked team in NH by defeating the Cardinals 58-55.
When I first walked into the gym tonight the place was PACKED. Not a seat in the house. Both BG's and Merrimack's student sections were crammed. There was a buzz in the air and a ton of energy filling the place up. All of this, and there was still 8 minutes till tip-off...of the JV GAME!!
As for the game itself, it initially looked as though it wouldn't live up to the hype and that Merrimack would run away with it. With 4:29 left in the second quarter is was 30-12 Merrimack and it was all Tomahawks. Merrimack was playing great basketball. And BG was only 2/13 shooting free throws in the first half which really hurt them. And in the first half they were really missing Connor Green, who was out once again with a sprained ankle.
Tomahawk freshman guard Dimitri Floras was brilliant in the first half. He had 14 14 of his team-high 20 in the first two quarters. In the second quarter, he stole a pass and took it himself on the break. He went up and dunked it with one hand. The kid's only a freshman, he's only 6'0" and he dunked it. And I know that the roster lists him at 6'2". But it's wrong. He's 6'0", MAYBE 6'1". You can't always go by the listed heights for players. A lot of rosters that I've seen this year are way off on some heights.
But BG started to chip away at the lead. After being down by as much as 18, they cut the lead to 11 at halftime. In the third quarter Guertin made an 11-0 run to cut the lead to just one, 42-41 with 1:14 left in the quarter. At this point the place was just going nuts. This run was aided by an Eric Watson technical foul.
You have to give BG credit for battling back like that. And the run was all about their defense. They really got after it on d, getting right in the faces of the Merrimack players. Guertin kept throwing in new players seemingly at every whistle, keeping fresh legs on the floor at all times. This allowed them to keep up that level of intensity, when Merrimack was starting to tire from playing their starters most of the game.
You also have to give the Tomahawks credit for withstanding that run. They answered Guertin's 11-0 run with a 7-0 run of their own, to push the lead right back up to 8. It was 49-41 with 5:25 left in the fourth.
BG kept fighting back though, getting the deficit smaller. The lead was around four to 6 for the next couple minutes. They started shooting better from the line which helped. They went 7/13 from the charity stripe in the second half, much better than the first half when they went 2/13. Guertin junior Sean McClung kept them in the game. He had a game-high 25 points, including 16 in the second half. He also nailed a huge three in the last minute of play.
With 7.9 Seconds left, it was Merrimack 56 BG 54. McClung was on the line for two with a chance to tie it up. What's more is that the player who sent McClung to the line was Watson, and it was his fifth foul. So if McClung makes both free throws here it goes to overtime Merrimack would have to play without arguably their most valuable player. Fortunately for Tomahawk fans however, McClung only made one of two.
Merrimack senior guard Matt Hardwick went to the line, hit both free throws. It was 58-55 Merrimack with just 2 seconds left. A last second desperation heave at the basket by BG was no good and it was over. The Merrimack student section stormed the court in celebration.
While Merrimack is obviously happy to get out there with a win, they only won by 3. If Connor Green was healthy and if Migneault was there, Guertin probably would have won. But you can always play the what if game. Fact is Merrimack went into a hostile environment and got a BIG win. They remain the only unbeaten team left in Class L.
Even after this game, these are STILL the two top teams in New Hampshire. The atmsosphere was incredible tonight, and it's not even the middle of the season yet. Imagine what it will be like if these two teams meet in Durham come March!
-Connor Green will miss another 2 1/2 weeks with his ankle injury.
-BG Head Coach Jim Migneault was suspended for this game due to the incident that occurred at the end of the Salem game. His top assistant, Marty Edwards, coached the team tonight in his absence. Migneault will return to the bench for the Cardinals next game on Tuesday.
Tonight's other big games
Central 57 Trinity 52
Boy, this must have been another good one. Trinity was clearly the favorite going in. But with a rivalry like this you can throw the records out the window. Not surprised that Doc Wheeler's team pulled it out. Gabe LaCount proved why is is one of the top 5 ranked sophomores in the state.
North 51 South 49
Again, another game where you can throw the records out the window. You would think North should be the favorite on paper. Not surprised this one went down to the wire. The Purple Panthers senior guard Jake Nelson is expected to return from his foot injury in the next couple games. I hear South Freshman Kaleb Joseph was excellent once again tonight. I saw him and Nelson in the same backcourt a little in the Rivier Fall League. They were fun to watch. Joseph has improved a lot since then though. I expect the two of them to really light it up once Nelson is healthy. Throw in Nilsson Basora and the Muccioli brothers and South is a team that will really shoot up the standings over the next few weeks. Just watch.
West 46 Memorial 45
I know it's not really fair to say that a team is reeling after they get beat on the road by one point against a very good team. But Memorial really needed this game. They needed a win here worse than West did, especially coming off their loss on Tuesday to Goffstown. Don't count out the Crusaders, though. They have some good pieces, and they have a very good coach who will be able to figure out how to right the ship.
Exeter 64 Pinkerton 61
Exeter is not a top 10 team. But they're also not as bad as the 2-5 record they went into tonight with. They were due for a win over someone besides Keene or Concord. More importantly, we continue to see how much parity there is in Class L. Pinkerton beat a VERY good West team on Tuesday, then lose to a struggling Exeter team tonight. Anything can happen baby!
Spaulding 51 Alvirne 50
You have to really give Spaulding credit. They lack experience, they lack depth and they don't have as much talent as the majority of the other teams in Class L. But they beat Timberlane by 20. Yeah, I know it's just Timberlane. But they still beat them by 20 which is a good for them. Then they hang right with Dover, giving the Green Wave all they could handle, On Tuesday they pushed Merrimack to the brink, almost handing the Tomahawks their first loss of the season. And tonight they pull off the biggest upset of the night by beating Alvirne. And this was a Broncos team that was 5-2 coming in, and was fresh off a big win over Dover on Monday night. Brad Mondoux and Brian Cronin give the Red Raiders two of the best shooters in the state. With those two, and the gritty, hard nosed play of forward Glenn Roderick, you can never count Spaulding out of a game.
How about some love for Class I?
Coe-Brown 74 John Stark 63
Even though Coe-Brown was at home, this DEFINITELY qualifies as an upset. Going into this game, Stark was #9, and Coe-Brown was #16 in my Class I Power Rankings. I saw Coe-Brown play a few times during fall league action. And I did NOT see a team capable of putting up 74 points in a game. It appears as though Comanches sophomore forward Skyler Mitchel got the better of his match-up down low with Generals 6'6" senior Ethan O'Neill. After seeing both of these teams play, Stark has a definite advantage over Coe-Brown in the backcourt. They have three guards in Greg LeBlond, Steve Johnstone and Tim Plunkett who are all better than any guards Coe-Brown has. So yeah, this score surprises me. Coe-Brown Head Coach Dave Smith has been doing this for over 30 years, though. He's a hall of fame coach. He has a smart basketball mind and his players really like playing for him. So for that reason, I'm not as surprised in the result of this game.
Bedford 61 Portsmouth 53
Other than their win over Souhegan, Bedford had played a VERY weak schedule going into tonight's game with Portsmouth. The Clippers meanwhile, came into this game fresh off of wins over Pembroke, Milford, Oyster River and Pelham. So even though this game was at Bedford, Portsmouth was definitely the favorite. But really when you look at these two teams on paper, it's not hard to fathom the Bulldogs pulling this one out. Down low, Joey Maher is just too big and too quick for Portsmouth's bigs. Tyler Weber has long enough arms to contest Mike Barton's jump shot. And Mike Marinelli has much more size and experience at the point guard position than Portsmouth's Billy Lane. Just like with Class L, this game shows that we have parity in Class I. When the #7 ranked team beats the #1 ranked team, that sure sounds like parity to me!