By: Tuesday and Friday
Facing their largest deficit of the game with 7:30 left in the game down 50 to 42, Exeter went on a 19 to 3 run to advance to play Central for the QCIBT Championship. Zach Holler, Joe Scheidler and Matt Vigars combined for 13 points in the Blue Hawk game ending run. Merrimack went cold in the 4th quarter while Exeter relied on a balanced attack in the pivotal 4th quarter and went 8 for 12 from the line.
This was a rematch of the Exeter upset over Merrimack in last season’s # 11 at # 6 game. Exeter opened up an 8 – 1 lead in the first 4 minutes of the game with 2 baskets each by Medley and Dickenson. Gendron with 5 points and a Franzen 3 got Merrimack back in the game. Exeter controlled the glass to lead after one 12 – 11. The teams stayed close in the second quarter as Zack Holler had a couple of nice runners, while Shane Bourque’s 6 points helped Merrimack keep pace with the Blue Hawks. Exeter began turning over the ball at an alarming rate, but Merrimack couldn’t capitalize on the Blue Hawk miscues as they found themselves down 30 to 27 at halftime. Coach Holmes must have felt like a lucky coach at halftime to have a 3 point lead as his team squandered many offensive possessions in the 2nd quarter due to bad passes, lost handle on the ball and overall bad decision making. Mack’s Zach Kerr came off the bench to score 5 points to keep the Tomos within striking distance.
Zack Holler continued his fine play to start the 3rd quarter as he had another nice runner and a great assist on an Exeter bucket to give Exeter a 7 point cushion. Merrimack’s top 2 scoring options then took over the 3rd quarter and combined for 15 points as Merrimack took over the lead and built a 4 point cushion at 46 to 42 at the end of 3. Merrimack ended the period on a 7 point run capped by a Bourque 3. Exeter tried to rest key people at the end of the 3rd, but it backfired on them.
The 4th quarter started ominously for Holler and Exeter. Gendron blocked a Holler shot and gained control of it. Gendron went off on a breakaway and was intentionally fouled by Holler. Gendron knocked down the 2 FTs to give Mack a 48 to 42 lead. Shayne Bourque hit 2 FTs to give Merrimack their biggest lead of the game at 50 – 42. Exeter was floundering and looking for a momentum swing play and it came with a pure hustle play by Holler. With 6 minutes left Holler dove after a loose ball in the Exeter end near mid court. As Holler was about to be tied up or give the ball away he noticed Scheidler free to his right. He swung the ball in the air to Scheidler and sent him off on a breakaway finish to cut the deficit to 50 – 44. This was a huge momentum swing in the game. If Mack had scored on the possession and gone up by 10 then Exeter would’ve been in a tailspin. The hustle play by Holler with the finish by Scheidler seemed to re-energize the Blue Hawks.
From this momentum swing moment on Exeter was quicker on defense and had an extra quick step on offense. 5 seconds later Holler stole the Mack inbound pass and was fouled. He hit 1 FT to make it 50 – 45. 17 seconds later Jordan Dickenson cans a 3 to bring Exeter within 2 at 50 – 48. Scheidler completes an Exeter 8 – 0 run with 2 FTs to knot the game at 50 with 5 minutes to go. A Zach Kerr runner breaks the Exeter run and gives Mack a 52 to 50 lead. Holler hits 2 FTs to tie the game back up at 52 with 4:44 left. Over the next 4 minutes Exeter does everything right and Mack does everything wrong including hitting nothing but iron on their shots. A Medley layup, a Vigars drive finish, an Adler layup and 2 Scheidler FTs gives Exeter an 8 – 0 run at 60 – 52 with just over a minute left.
Zack Holler finished with 15 to lead the Blue Hawks. He had some nice assists and his hustle play for the loose ball when down by 8 was the biggest play of the game. Holler stirred the Blue Hawk basketball cocktail rather nicely this evening. Max Medley had 12 points and a boat load of rebounds to go with a few blocks. Jordan Dickenson had 12 to help Exeter. Eric Gendron and Shayne Bourque each finished with 16 in a losing effort. 6’1 sophomore Zach Kerr had 11 off the bench. He could prove to be one of the better bench players in D1 as the season moves along.
Exeter will play Central for the first time in the Championship game at the QCIBT at 7:30 on Saturday night. Central was very impressive in their victory over Trinity. If Exeter wants to hoist the Championship plaque on Saturday they’ll have to cut down on their turnovers and make better decisions in the open court and on numbers breaks. Giving Central more opportunities to score with an abundance of turnovers could prove costly for the Blue Hawks.
If you see my esteemed colleague Pete Tarrier, please let him know I’m waiting for my Lobster roll. You see we bet a Lobster roll on the Exeter – Merrimack game. It seems that Lobster rolls and me following Exeter has been a good match so far this season. That’s good because not too many people have been talking seriously about the Blue Hawks. They have a nice floor general in Zack Holler, a serviceable Big in Max Medley who can run the floor nicely and have a very versatile Glue Guy in 6’1 senior Matt Vigars who scores, defends and does a lot of nice intangible things. Add in the added bonus of T & F eating or winning Lobster rolls around Exeter victories…….. Well, now hopefully people have something to talk about in the Exeter Blue Hawks.