By: Ross Laorenza
The Merrimack Tomahawks are now 6-1 after defeating the Londonderry Lancers 45-41, Friday night. Merrimack saw great efforts from Ian Roberts, Dan McKillop, and Zak Kerr as well as a huge offensive boost of the bench from Ian Cummings (14 points). But the win would not come easy; it was a back-and-forth contest from wire to wire.
Standout guard Jake Coleman started the game off for the Lancers with a deep three pointer over his defender. Cole Britting came up with a steal a looked to add to the Lancer lead but the shot wouldn't go. Back-to-back buckets from Zak Kerr and Ian Roberts gave Merrimack their first lead with 6 minutes to go, 4-3.
Those shots were part of a 9-0 run for Merrimack. Kerr grabbed and offensive rebound and scored, then some great passing from Mike Dudash and Kerr got Roberts open underneath for a shot off glass and in. Dudash came up with a steal a minute later, his shot missed, but Ian Cummings was there for the loose ball and got fouled on the way up. Cummings went 1 for 2 at the line capping the 9-0 run.
Two free throws from Matt Corey gave the Lancers their first points since the opening seconds of the game. They now trailed 9-5. Kerr hit a outside jumper for Merrimack to push the lead back to 6, but Jake Coleman cut into that with his second three of the game sending the Lancer fans into a frenzy. Ian Cummings drew contact again on his way to the basket; this time the shot fell and he made the and-1. After a turnaround jumper from Cam McDonald, Cummings hit a three off a screen out high to give Merrimack their largest lead of the night, 17-10. A Matt Corey put-back ended the scoring in the first. After one, Merrimack: 17, Londonderry: 12.
Londonderry started of the 2nd quarter with a 13-1 run to jump into the lead. Cole Britting accounted for 8 of the 13 points in the run. He was all over the floor in the 2nd. Britting went 1-for-2 at the line to start the run, adding a leaping shot for the paint, an outside jumper, and a deep three. Corey added two points for Londonderry as he blew by Kerr on the way to the hoop. Coleman capped the run with his 3rd 3-pointer of the night.
Mike Dudash scored with two minutes to go in the half putting Merrimack within 5 points of the lead, 25-20. Jake Coleman got inside then hanged in the air to score 2 for the Lancers. With 1:07 to play in the half Ian Roberts knocked down two free throws. Nate Gaw picked up an assist feeding Pat Zepf to score Londonderry's last points of the half. Ian Cummings was fouled while taking a three-pointer with just 25.1 second to go. He made all three free throws and we went into the half, Londonderry: 29, Merrimack: 25.
At the start of the third it was Merrimack's turn again to vault into the lead. Great passes from Cummings and McKillop got Ian Roberts open again underneath. Andrew Wojciak hit two free throws to tie the game at 29 all, and then hit a transition jumper for a long-two and the lead. With 4 minutes left in the quarter McKillop ended the 8-0 with a shot inside the paint, 33-29 Merrimack.
Jake Coleman came up big with a steal and score with McKillop trailing him all the way to the hoop. Britting sank a jumper in the paint to tie the game at 33 with 1:37 to go in the 3rd. Ian Roberts broke the tie with less than a minute to play and Merrimack headed to the 4th quarter with a 35-33 lead on the road. Could they hold on?
Mike Dudash went to the line after a foul by Coleman. He made the first, a lane violation erased a miss on his second attempt, and then he sank the re-try. Ian Cummings scored over Corey. He followed that shot with a transition lay-up as Merrimack's lead grew 41-33. Londonderry fought back. Corey score inside off an out-of-bounds play. He was fouled, but missed the free throw. Then Corey came up with a huge block at the other end of the floor, swatting the ball out-of bounds. On the next Tomahwak possession Kerr was fouled but missed the front end of the 1-and-1.
Cole Britting hit from 3-point land to put Londonderry within three; a pass from Coleman to Corey led to a score and Merrimack's lead was down to one, 41-40. With 2:07 remaining in the game Ian Roberts hit a shot through contact giving Merrimack a three point lead. He missed the and-1 opportunity. A reach in foul on Coleman had the refs hearing it from the fans. It was a very tightly officiated game with both sides upset over multiple calls. Wojciak made 1-of-2 pushing the lead to four points. Matt Corey went to the line with 1:03 to play. It was McKillop's fifth personal ending his night. Corey made one of two, but no other Londonderry shots seemed to fall in the fourth. They had some good looks down the stretch but in the end they came up just short of another comeback. A Zak Kerr free throw with 25.1 second left sealed the victory for Merrimack.
Final score Merrimack: 45. Londonderry: 41.
It was a big win for the Tomahawks who are now 6-1 on the year in NHIAA play and tied for the top spot in D-I with Nashua North. Their defense held Jake Coleman to just 2 points in the second half. Ian Cummings led the team in scoring with 14 points. Ian Roberts finished with 12.
Jake Coleman and Cole Britting tied for a Lancer team high with 13 points each. Matt Corey finished with 9. With the loss the Londonderry falls to 3-2 on the season. They will look to rebound Monday night against Nashua South.
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