By: Tuesday and Friday
With 31 seconds left in the game Coach Keefe came on the court at the start of a 2 shot FT by Merrimack. He congratulated 4 of the 5 Merrimack players, including probable POY Eric Gendron. It was an interesting sight given Coach Keefe has been known as a coaching box wanderer. Given the circumstance, with the ending of the title defense by Trinity, I don’t think anyone, including the referees took umbrage with Coach Keefe being fully on the court to congratulate the victorious Tomahawks.
There was a lot of off court distractions for the Pioneers as they headed into the semifinal game. The suspension of Ryan Otis and the discussion of whether or not he would play in the championship game was a hot topic over the weekend in many basketball circles. Merrimack did their talking on the court by holding Trinity to 46 points. Carmen Giampetruzzi was held to 2 points. That’s right, I said 2 POINTS!!. The Merrimack defense kept the All State senior down from start to finish. This was basically the difference in this game. Merrimack had more people who could score and they seemed quicker and more ready to play in this semifinal game.
Merrimack built a 31 to 23 lead at halftime. Gendron with 13 and Dylan Richardson with 8 paced the Tomos. Wenyin Gabriel was Trinity’s leader at halftime in points with 12 and rebounds with 9. Trinity seemed lost on offense as open looks were scarce. Anytime Trinity made a move to the basket the weak side help by Merrimack was outstanding. They contested every Trinity shot and made Trinity work hard for anything they produced on offense.
Gendron seemed to have an overdrive gear tonight. He made a few beautiful slashing drives to the rack where he blew by Trinity defenders with his speed and strength. His back was the one his mates would climb on to get to the Final.
Merrimack was in control heading into the 4th quarter when a Rhodes 3 with 6:45 left cut the Merrimack lead to 38 to 37. A couple of Bourque layups gave Merrimack a 42 to 37 lead. With 5:30 remaining Gendron picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls within seconds. The Merrimack sidelines and fans were uneasy. On Gendron’s 4th foul Gabriel stepped to the line and knocked down 2 FTs to make it 42 to 39 Merrimack. Austin Franzen had a huge steal and a layup to give Merrimack a 44 to 39 lead with 5:05 left in the game. Testa hit a 15 footer and Gabriel hit 2 FTs to cut the Pioneer deficit to 1 at 44 to 43 with 3:35 left.
Merrimack went on a 10 to 0 run over the next 2:45 to close out this game. Gendron, Franzen and Bourque were prominent in this run. Trinity was in quicksand and sinking and never came out of it. The Pioneers defending of their title was over.
Eric Gendron led Merrimack with 24 points. Shayne Bourque chipped in with 13 points. Dylan Richardson had 10 key points.
Wenyin Gabriel had a monster game with 20 points and 19 rebounds. Brad Rhodes finished with 11 points in his final game as a Pioneer.
The Trinity depth was certainly weakened with the suspension of Otis. Trinity had enough to get by against Bedford, but with the Merrimack defense and the mercurial Gendron leading the way, this was too much for the Pioneers to overcome. Merrimack is a very tough team on the mental and physical side. They have played a lot of tough games with Gendron in foul trouble. They learned to win with him and without him. This factor has made Merrimack a tough team mentally. On Saturday at Noon they will face a mirror image of their mental toughness in the Little Green of Central High.