Thursday, February 17, 2011

Floras, Gendron Too Much for Lancers to Handle

Merrimack and Londonderry. Two teams that started the season off slow, but have since emerged as legit contenders to make it to UNH.

Merrimack only led 13-12 after 1, and it was tied at 29-29 with Londonderry leading at multiple points in the 1st half. But the 2nd half was all Tomahawks. They took advantage of Lancers Mike Colby and Troy Mansfield being in foul trouble. And behind 20 points each from Tyler Gendron and Dimitri Floras Merrimack went on a 2nd half run and defeated Londonderry 69-56 on Thursday night in Merrimack.

With the win, Merrimack avenges their loss in last year's prelims when they were upset by Londonderry on their home floor.

Gendron Takes Over in 2nd Half
6'4" junior Tyler Gendron continues to emerge as a breakout player. He had 14 of his 20 points in the 2nd half, including 9 in the 3rd quarter. Gendron was making plays on both ends of the floor - not only was he scoring the basketball in a variety of ways but he was also effective on the defensive end, blocking 3 shots in addition to grabbing 9 rebounds. It was his blocked shots on back-to-back Londonderry possessions which really got the Merrimack run kicked into high gear. Gendron had some nice strong drives and finishes in the quarter, and Floras ended it with a baseline jumper from 15 feet with 2 seconds left. The Tomahawks led 46-36 after 3.

Merrimack continued their run in the 4th, as Floras made a nice drive and kick over to freshman guard Eric Gendron (Tyler's little brother) who then drilled the outside shot.

Then came the play of the night, as Tyler Gendron brought the house down with a thunderous dunk. He started to run in towards the basket to follow up a shot by a teammate. The shot bounced off the rim and fell to the floor, but Gendron was able to catch it right in stride. He then went up and threw down a one-handed slam. It sent the crowd into a frenzy, and there was still a buzz going around the gym well after the play.

"Tyler's a great kid" said Merrimack head coach Tim Goodridge. "When his outside shot is falling it makes him so much more effective, because then it opens up his game and he can then go by you off the dribble."

The Tomahawks already had the momentum on their side, but after Gendron's dunk their momentum was multiplied by about 10. Merrimack was even more energized, and picked up their defensive intensity even more. Londonderry was really having problems moving the basketball and getting any good looks on offense. Merrimack got a steal around half court, then had a 3-on-2 going the other way. A missed shot inside was immediately followed by a nice tip-in by junior forward Jared Peabody. Gendron then made a nice above-the-rim tip-in of his own, and just like that it was 65-48 Merrimack. To make matters worse for the Lancers, Mike Colby fouled out with just under 5 minutes left.

Foul Trouble Hurts Lancers
Londonderry's best player and leading scorer, 6'3" senior guard Mike Colby sat the entire 2nd quarter and only played about 7 or 8 total minutes in this game due to foul trouble. And big man Troy Mansfield (possibly the team's 2nd best player, it's a tossup between him and Ian McMullen) was also in foul trouble for much of the game, and sat the majority of the 2nd quarter. As a result the Lancers only got a combined 12 points from the 2 players (who combined for 34 points last week vs. West).

"Jared Peabody did a nice job for us guarding Colby" said Coach Goodridge. "He's our defensive stopper. Kyle Richardson also did a really nice job defensively, on the boards and scored 8 points as well."

With Colby and Mansfield in foul trouble, you have to credit the play of senior wing Ian McMullen for stepping up and keeping the team in the game in the 1st half. McMullen ended up with a team-high 19 points, including a number of nice drives and finishes in the lane. Senior forward Nick Martinez also did a nice job of keeping the Lancers in it. He brings toughness, plays hard and is one of the best defenders in the state.

For Merrimack, Floras did most of his damage in the 1st half, as he continues to display a deadly pull-up jumper that he can make either from the mid-range area or from three. Still, Londonderry was able to stay in the game in the 1st half not only due to the strong play of McMullen) but also because of Merrimack's questionable shot selection. For one stretch in the 2nd quarter neither team scored a point for a good 3 minutes. Both teams were played tough, hard nosed defense. But the shot selection for Merrimack was questionable, and Londonderry was missing some easy ones inside.

"1st half we were shooting way too many threes" said Goodridge. "It was just Dimitri throwing three-pointers up, or he'd pass it over to someone else and they'd throw a three-pointer up. I wasn't happy with that. But we are a team of freshmen, sophomores and juniors going against a team with 7 or 8 seniors."

The Bottom Line
While Merrimack is a young team they have the talent to make a serious run to Durham in March (with the win, they have a 9-4 record). When they get out on the break and run, and when they play defense like they did for certain stretches in this game they are a VERY scary team. They have a very talented starting 5 who have all been playing together for a long time. And seniors Tyler Amigo and Ryan Brownell gave them solid minutes off the bench on Thursday night. Floras & Gendron is one of the most lethal 1-2 scoring punches in the state. Here's the scary part - Floras, Gendron along with the other 3 starters Peabody, Richardson and Eric Gendron will all be back next year. That's right, no seniors in the starting 5. BG, Memorial, Trinity, Salem, Dover, Spaulding. None of the other top teams can say that. They all have at least 1 senior starter. But not Merrimack. Watch out for the Tomahawks this year, like I said they have a legit shot at Durham if they can play up to their potential. And next year they'll be even better.

As for Londonderry, don't be deceived by the final score. This would have been a MUCH different game if Colby and Mansfield were on the court more often. Offensively they're just not the same without Colby. McMullen is a very good complimentary player, but not a go-to guy. And Mansfield brings, size, strength, rebounding, defense and a touch of inside scoring when he's in there. The Lancers are not a very deep team. They like to just bring a couple guys off the bench (JR Winn and Andre Simmond) and rotate them in every so often to get the starters some rest. But that's only a 7 man rotation, so when 2 of your top guys are out for the whole 2nd quarter it really hurts you. Londonderry is now 6-7. For the most part, they have beaten the bad teams and lost to the good ones (except for their loss to Winnacunnet, still don't know how the heck that happened). I still think they are a scary team come playoff time. Based on their remaining schedule (games vs. Keene, Exeter, Timberlane, Concord and Dover) I see them finishing 10-8 on the season.

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