Saturday, January 10, 2015

Merrimack Holds off 3rd Quarter Charge from BG

By: Ross Laorenza
It was a capacity crowd inside the gym at Merrimack High School as the Tomahawks beat the Bishop Guertin Cardinals 47-41. The home crowd was electrifying as they rooted for their team to rebound after a loss at Trinity on Tuesday night. Starting for Merrimack were Andrew Wojciak (#11), Ian Roberts (#5), Zak Kerr (#4), Dylan Richardson (#15) and Austin Franzen (#3). Bishop Guertin countered with Alex Arika (#1), Jack Zimmerman (#11), Chad Olivieri (#13), Kyle Gavin (#31) and Garret Camacho (#32).

Kyle Gavin opened the scoring to give BG an early lead, but it would be their only lead of the game. Merrimack scored 10 straight points to break the game open. Richardson tied the game with a drive to the rim. Roberts gave Merrimack their first lead with a turnaround jumper in the lane. After an offensive rebound by Roberts, Andrew Wojciak found himself open in the corner and drained a three pointer. Austin Franzen added a triple of his own to cap of the 10-0 run after a solid offensive board from Zak Kerr.

Kyle Gavin hit back to back shots to cut the lead to four points 10-6, forcing Merrimack to call a timeout. Freshman Ian Cummings saw significant playing time in tonight’s win victory for the Tomahawks. He was active on the glass and came up huge defensively with a pair of monster blocks in the first half. Out of the timeout, Ian Roberts knocked a shot down off glass and in to start a 7-0 run for Merrimack. After a block on one end from Kerr, Franzen found himself open for three and drilled it home. Kerr made a basket rising up over the defender for a solid two points to finish the run. A final heave at the buzzer wouldn’t fall for the Tomahawks, but after one quarter they led BG 17-6.

“We played pretty good offense in the first quarter, as you saw, but it’s pretty tough to maintain,” said head coach Tim Goodridge. “We were very determined and played, I thought, pretty darned good D and got the shots to fall when they needed to fall.”

The pace was difficult for the Tomahawks to maintain in the second quarter, but BG was not without their struggles on the night. Chad Olivieri opened the scoring in the second to bring BG within 8 points. After a monster block on defense, Ian Cummings found himself at the free throw line at the other end of the floor. He went one for two at the line. Great ball movement gave Merrimack their next basket as Ian Roberts scored his third of the night.

Mike Rinko (#22) was at the line twice for BG in the second quarter. He made 2 of 4 shots from the line which was great considering as a team, BG only made 7 of 20 free throws.

With the score now 21-14 and two minutes left, it was time for a signature block from Cummings. He came from behind Jack Zimmerman to swat the ball away. Franzen quickly found Roberts with an outlet pass and another basket. The student section erupted after that thrilling sequence of events. With time winding down Cummings altered another Cardinals’ shot as it danced around the rim and out. Merrimack went into the half holding a 23-14 edge over visiting Bishop Guertin.

Coach Goodridge had some high praise for Cummings. “Ian Cummings, the freshman, you can’t teach that kind of stuff. He’s got tremendous instincts for a 14 or 15 year old kid. He’s a young boy playing with men out there and I thought he played remarkable tonight.”

The third quarter brought some tense moments for the Merrimack squad. BG opened the scoring for a third straight quarter and this time they didn’t slow up. Chad Olivieri opened the assault for the Cardinals. Merrimack would counter with a block and then basket from Roberts. After a BG turnover Kerr found Roberts on an inbounds pass right under the hoop for another easy score, but then things got really interesting. Down 11 points with 5:15 remaining in the third, BG would go on a 13-4 run. First a free throw from Rinko, Kerr would score for Merrimack, and thenAlex Arika drilled a three pointer for his first points of the contest. The next possession saw Arika get a floater to fall right over top of the Tomahawks defender.

Jackson Houseman (#24) kept his hands in the passing lane forcing a Merrimack turnover and was then fouled in the scrum for the ball. He hit 1 of 2 free throws, and then after a quick steal found himself with the opportunity for another shot. Made it! 29-25.
Merrimack slowed things down the next time down the floor. Dylan Beaulieu (#22) inbounded to Chad Seaver (#2), who gave to back to Beauliei. He passed it on to Franzen at the top of the key; Franzen dribbled around his defender and found Cummings open and Cummings drove to the hoop and capped the possession with a gorgeous finger roll.

BG still wasn’t done though. After grabbing an offensive rebound, Houseman went up strong to the hoop for a lay-up. Jack Zimmerman finished the 13-4 run solid shot that had BG fans hopeful of a comeback. 31-29.

Zak Kerr put a damper on those hopes, as he dribbled the length of the floor and launched a buzzer beating three to end the third quarter. With three quarters in the books, Merrimack was still hanging tough with a 34-29 lead.

The fourth quarter is where missed free throws really cost the Cardinals. Alex Arika was fouled from beyond the arch on BG’s first possession of the quarter. He missed all three free throws, sending the Merrimack student section into a frenzy of heckles. Feeding the beast even more was another three pointer from Zak Kerr. With Kyle Gavin at the stripe the chants got louder. Missing the first free throw didn’t help, but sinking the second gave BG a small reprieve.

Garrett Camacho scored from the Cardinals shortly thereafter cutting the lead back down to 5 point, 37-32. With freshman Cummings seated on the court being swarmed by Cardinals, Coach Goodridge called a timeout to regroup.

Out of the timeout BG forced a turnover that had Alex Arika streaking up the floor for an easy lay-up, but Austin Franzen came from behind swiping the ball and taking a little arm with it. Arika missed both free throws with jeers raining down from both sides of the gym now.

Ian Roberts had another nice drive to the hoop to extend Merrimack’s lead to seven points. At the other end of the court it was Rinko’s turn to miss from the stripe. As stated before the Cardinals were just 7 for 20 from the free throw line in the game, 3 for 12 in the final quarter. In contrast, Merrimack was 10 of 15 for the game, 8 of 10 in the fourth quarter.

The Tomahawk lead to grow to as many as 11 points, twice in the fourth, before BG closed out the game with a 6-1 run. But,it was too little too late for the Cardinals as they were defeated 47-41.

Ian Roberts finished with 16 points leading all scorers. His teammate Zak Kerr totaled 14 points, including 4 of 4 from the free throw line in the fourth. Austin Franzen was acknowledged for his great ball movement and distribution by his head coach after game. Franzen finished with 6 points. The freshmen, Ian Cummings, who was seemingly all over the court finished with 4 points and those two monster blocks.

Kyle Gavin led the Cardinals in scoring with 11 points. Jackson Houseman finished with 9 points, and Alex Arika finished with 7.

From Merrimack High School, Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook

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