Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merrimack Wins 4th QCIBT Title, Beats West in Thriller

Merrimack 57 Manchester West 54

By Tuesday and Friday
Dimitri Floras hit a game winning 3 with 7.1 seconds left in the game in one of the best championship games in the 49 year history of the QCIBT. Merrimack had an inbound play set up initially, but with the 5 second count nearly at hand inbounder Tyler Gendron called a time out. Tim Goodridge quickly got out the clipboard and then diagrammed a championship out of bounds play.

"We changed the inbounds play during the time out", Goodridge said. "We knew with West being under the limit for fouls they would foul us when we got the ball and then it would condense our time to make a play on the next inbound play. By freeing up Dimitri for a 3 it would give him space to get off a shot and not get fouled before the shot. It worked."

Dimitri Floras came off the picks in the paint from far baseline, received a perfect pass in front of the Merrimack bench and turned and drained the winning 3 pointer that every kid dreams about in their driveway. West had one last chance as Jocarl Bureau (Much more on this 6'3 junior later) drove to the hoop for a winning drive, but was called for a charge knocking over the Merrimack Mack truck known as Jeff Giannelli. Tyler Gendron was fouled and calmly sank 2 free throws with .7 seconds left to give Merrimack the final 3 point margin. Jocarl Bureau (I promise more on him later) actually gave a fine effort on a 70 foot last gasp heave tying heave at the rim that was right on line. After Merrimack went nearly 32 minutes sweating this championship game out you didn't think they could relax for .7 seconds, did you?

This game was a classic up and down game played at a brisk pace. Any time either team had numbers they would take advantage of it. Both teams have bigs who can dribble and participate in fast breaks. Tyler Gendron and Aaron Martin are 2 of the best bigs in the state for leading a break and it's one of the things that will make both of these teams tough to beat this season. Tyler Gendron came up big in the 2nd half with 10 points. He's one of the most complete players in Division 1. He makes angular finishes to the rack, can step out and hit an outside shot when needed and rebounds and plays excellent defense. Sounds complete to me.

With 4 minutes left in the game Carl Jacques hit a 3 to give West a 49 - 46 lead. Jocarl Bureau cans 2 free throws to give West some breathing room at 51 - 46. Merrimack stayed mentally tough and didn't fold. Baskets by Floras and Giannelli cut the West lead to 1 and set the table for the thrilling finish. With 1:20 left Giannelli muscled his way to a banker to give Merrimack a 52 - 51 lead. Jocarl Bureau (It's coming fans) hit a jumper with 1 minute left to give West a 53 - 52 lead. Floras missed a 3 point attempt with 35 seconds to go and a supreme battle ensued for possession. Jump ball and arrow points to Blue Knight Blue. Sophomore Nolan Flynn is fouled by Merrimack. Flynn makes the first, but misses the second to make it 54 - 52. The next few seconds comes down to a re-diagramed play on the clipboard and a "Driveway Dream 3 pointer" by POY candidate Dimitri Floras.

West certainly came out of nowhere with their very strong showing in the QCIBT by beating pre season favorites Trinity and Central. Aaron Martin was a known player going into the season, but Jocarl Bureau? The 6'3 junior didn't even have a number in the QCIBT program. During the West victory over Trinity the most often asked question was, "Who is number 5 for West?" Jocarl Bureau is a multi talented 6'3 slasher who can score on the run or can step out and hit a 3. He has a knee breaking crossover, can change on a dime or go behind his back when faced with a defensive stance. He has great court vision and is willing to set up team mates if they are ready for his no look passes. He gives West and added element of athleticism they already had with Martin, Jacques and Pena. Now you know who Jocarl Bureau is.

Merrimack had lost 5 of the last 8 QCIBT championship games. It took a last second shot by Dimitri Floras, but the Tomahawks finally captured the crown after last garnering it in 2002. Merrimack has played well in the QCIBT the last few years, but it hasn't always translated to an end of the season positive conclusion. Will this year be different? Perhaps. They have 2 legit consistent scorers in Floras and Tyler Gendron. Sophomore Eric Gendron will get better as the season goes along and he is very good right now. 6'3 senior Jared Peabody gives Merrimack some scoring depth. 6'7 Jeff Giannelli who puts the MACK in Merrimack could be another key for their title hopes. If he can give them a performance on a nightly basis like he gave them in the championship game, then Merrimack will be very dangerous.

What lies ahead for West? They are another team that has had disappointing endings the last few years. If they can keep this athletic group together January to March they will be a Division 1 headache for opposing teams. You can't take a break against West. They are one of the quickest teams right now in D1. They made a statement the last 3 days in the Memorial gym. They are good. They are hungry. They are well coached.

As Tim Goodridge was leaving the Memorial court he exchanged coaching pleasantries for a battle well done with Coach Danny Bryson of West. Tim said, "Heh Danny, let's meet in the state title game at UNH." Bryson laughed and shook his head in respectful acknowledgement. Job well done by both teams and both coaches.

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