Saturday, March 19, 2016

Central Wins OT Thriller to Become 2016 D-I Champs

By: Ross Laorenza
The Central Little Green are your 2016 NHIAA boys D-I champions after an absolute thriller of a game, 60-58 in overtime against Merrimack. Central got some clutch free throws from senior Jaylen Leroy with 30 seconds left in regulation to force OT, and then up 2 with 6.1 seconds remaining in the OT they survived a near buzzer beating three-pointer by Merrimack's Noah Beygelman. The ball left Beygelman's hands just a fraction of a second too late.

"Believe it or not we know the kid #32 (Beygelman) that they put in at the end of the game is a very good shooter," said Central coach Doc Wheeler. "So when he came in, I'm yelling at one of our kids 'He can shoot. He can shoot.' We were just trying to stay in front of him. We just didn't want to get beat."

"It was a great high school basketball game," said Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge. "With this particular group you enjoy being around them everyday. They're class, class kids and I think you saw that at the end of the game with how they acted. Yes, they were disappointed, but they didn't do anything.... That's a tribute to their character. They rose above some of the things that could have happened there today," he added talking about his Merrimack squad.

Starting the game for Central were seniors Jaylen Leroy, Evan Macdonald, Sethe Shea and Jonathin Makori along with junior David Baraka. Merrimack started five seniors with Zack Kerr, Ian Roberts, Danny McKillop, Andrew Wojciak and Mike Dudash.

The Tomahawks started the scoring when Mike Dudash found a cutting Wojciak for two. At the other end of the floor it was Sethe Shea finding David Baraka for a lay-up to tie it. Zack Kerr put Merrimack back in briefly, before an Evan Macdonald 3-pointer gave Central a 5-4 lead.

A second basket for Andrew Wojciak put Merrimack back up 1, then David Baraka grabbed a rebound and scored for the Little Green. 7-6, Central.

Jaylen Leroy got on stat sheet in a big way, knocking home a 3-pointer from the corner and picking up the foul. He made his free throw to complete the 4-point play and give Central a 5 point lead. Jonathin Makori added to the lead with a nice drive to the basket, making the shot and drawing contact. He missed the and-1.

Ian Cummings saw some late action off the bench for Merrimack, but after picking up two quick fouls he was replaced by Dudash. With under 2:00 to play in the quarter Merrimack made a late charge. Andrew Wojciak scored with a fastbreak lay-up, Makori took an inbounds feed and scored for Central, Mike Dudash went 1-2 at the line and then with time winding down Zack Kerr drilled a three-pointer to finish the 6-2 run. At the end of the 1st, Central: 15, Merrimack: 12.

A big three pointer from Central freshman Osiah Lewis opened the scoring in the 2nd quarter. A jumper by Leroy would follow and the Little Green had their lead back to 8 points. Again, Merrimack would rally. The Tomahawks went on a 9-0 run over the next two and-a-half minutes to retake the lead. Ian Roberts and Ian Cummings combined for all 9 points.

A lay-up from Sethe Shea ended the Merrimack run and put Central in front by a point. Danny McKillop picked up his 2nd personal foul, battling for a rebound with David Baraka. Baraka went 1-2 at the line. A power move by Ian Roberts tied the game at 23. Jaylen Leroy broke the tie catching an inbounds feed and scoring. A mid range jumper from Zack Kerr knotted the game at 25 with 1:12 remaining. Central would hold for the last shot. Jaylen Leroy went to the line shooting 1 and 1 after getting fouled going for a rebound. He made 1/2. A full court heave from Ian Cummings was no good. At the half, Central: 26, Merrimack: 25.

Ian Cummings began the scoring in the 2nd half as he dribbled his way to the rim. Two free throws for Leroy would put Central back on top. Evan Macdonald drained a 3-pointer to increase the Little Green lead to 4 points.

Zack Kerr made two free throws to cut the deficit to 2. After a free throw from Osiah Lewis, Kerr splashed home a three-pointer to tie the game at 32 midway through the 3rd quarter. Ian Cummings put on a dribbling clinic, going behind his back on consecutive possession to create space and score. He put Merrimack up 4 with 2:22 to go in the third.

Evan Macdonald's third three of the game came with 29 seconds to go in the quarter. A quick steal and score by Lewis gave Central a 1 point lead. Zack Kerr rushed the length of the floor for a lay-up just before the buzzer. At the end of the 3rd, Merrimack: 38, Central: 37.

Jaylen Leroy put Central back on top a minute and-a-half into the 4th quarter. Both teams increased their defensive intensity down the stretch. Kerr put Merrimack on top with a three-pointer. He had an excellent afternoon shooting. If one player had a better game it was Jaylen Leroy. Down 2 with 6 minutes to play he grabbed a rebound inside, got the put back and contact. He made his free throw. 42-41, Central.

Ian Roberts put Merrimack back in front a few seconds later. Now, with 4:40 to play Jonathin Makori took the inbound feed out high and drilled a three-pointer. 45-43 Central. After a miss by Roberts at the other end, Central had a long possession extended with an offensive rebound from Leroy. Makori would make his way to the line after getting fouled by Danny McKillop. The foul was McKillop's fifth and we would watch the rest of the game from the bench. Makori made both free throws.

With 2:39 to go David Baraka fouled out making contact with Andrew Wojciak. Wojciak made both of his shots to cut the lead down to two points. Timeout Central.

Zack Kerr tied the game with just under two minutes to play, grabbing a rebound and scoring. After two Leroy misses at the other end, Ian Cummings launched a three pointer. He missed, but the rebound came to Ian Roerts who was fouled. With 50.5 to go Roberts made both free throws, 49-47 Merrimack. With 31.5 to go Jaylen Leroy stood at the line, shooting 1 and 1. He made both free throws to tie the game at 49 all. Merrimack tried to hold for the last shot. Zack Kerr held the ball until he saw an opening in the defense. His lay up bounced off glass an out with Central grabbing the rebound and calling timeout with 1.2 second to go.

A long inbound pass was tipped and stolen by Ian Cummings at half court. He threw up a desperation three that hit back iron and wouldn't go. At the end of the 4th, Merrimack: 49, Central: 49.

OVERTIME

Central started off the OT with a 4-0 run. All four points were scored by Jaylen Leroy. With 2:46 to go in the OT, Ian Cummings knocked down a jumper. A steal by Mike Dudash gave the ball right back to Cummings who tied the game with a lay-up. Timeout Central.

A foul by Leroy sent Cummings to the line with 1:58 to play, but Cummings missed the front end of the 1-and 1. With 1:23 to play Jonathin Makori put Central ahead, 55-53. Fatigue may have had a part to play in the OT. Merrimack's stronger shooters started going cold. With 1:03 to play Cummings and Kerr missed back-to-back opportunities. Leroy went 1-2 at the line with 1:01 to play.

With 35.3 to lay in the overtime it was Ian Cummings attempting two three pointer, but neither would fall. Andrew Wojciak grabbed the rebound of the second attempt and was fouled, but he missed both free throws. A straight away three from Cummings...no good.

Less than 30 to play Jaylen Leroy went 1-2 at the line. With 19 second to go, Zack Kerr made two free throws to draw Merrimack within two points. Jonathin Makori hit two crucial free throws with 16.4 to play. Merrimack charged back down the floor and the ball found its way to Wojciak in the corner. His three point attempt took one tremendous bounce off the rim before falling in. 59-58 Central. Leroy was fouled immediately upon catching the inbounds pass. With 6.1 to go he made 1 of 2 free throws.

6.1 seconds...Central up 60-58. Cummings takes the inbound pass from Kerr then gives it right back as they rush up the court.Kerr is pressured by Leroy but still gets the ball to Noah Beygelman who had just been inserted to the game. Beygelman dribbles twice and then knocks home a go-ahead three-pointer, but the refs waive it off. Time expired just before the shot left Beygelman's hands. What an incredible ending. Final score; Central: 60, Merrimack: 58.

This was truly a remarkable game. Both teams gave everything they had in pursuit of the title, but in the end it was Central who came out victorious in OT. Jaylen Leroy led all scorers with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Jonathin Makori finished with 13 points. Evan Macdonald went 3 for 8 from beyond the arch for all of his 9 points.

Jaylen Leroy talking about what this win means to him after the game, "It means a lot, especially after last year. We lost in the first round and that really put into that captains me, Evan, Jonathin... it really put some frustration and anger into this season to finish it the right way."

Zack Kerr led the Tomahawks with 21 points in defeat. Ian Cummings scored 14 points in 24 minutes of the bench. Andrew Wojciak and Ian Roberts finished with 11 points each. Roberts also added 10 rebounds.

Congratulations to both teams on two great seasons. It was an honor to watch you all play the game.

From UNH; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook

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