By: Ross Laorenza
Tuesday night brought a signature win for the Merrimack Tomahawks as they advanced past Manchester Memorial 49-41 to reach the NHIAA D-I Final. The high powered Memorial offense was held only 13 second half points, while Merrimack scored 22 to come from behind. The Tomahawks out-rebounded the Crusaders 38 to 29 in the game.
"I think our kids did a remarkable job not turning it over against that athletic team," said Merrimack Head Coach Tim Goodridge, "I thought we made some good decisions; even though at times we made some very poor decisions, but they're kids...and they're resilient." Coach Goodridge also emphatically noted his teams dominance on the defense glass.
Ian Cummings has an exceptional night for Merrimack racking up 12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Cummings acknowledged the overall team defense in the win. He said, "We can control the game with our defense. We held BG to 9 points in the second half when we played them..."
Memorial started the game strong jumping out to an lead. Malo Roumraj scored the games first two baskets; one on a putback inside and a second on a feed from Nick Philibert. Roumraj picked up an assist feeding Jake Carrier with an extra pass to add to the lead. Ian Roberts interrupted the run with a basket of his own for Merrimack, but 4 straight points for Nick Philibert and a free throw from Brandon Scott gave the Crusaders the early edge. 11-2.
Down 9 the Tomahawks would begin to chip away. Roberts scored on a transition lay-up. After a Philibert scored for Memorial, Dan McKillop used his size inside to get a shot off under pressure from Scott. Andrew Wojciak got on the board with his first rebound and points of the night narrowing the lead to 13-8. Ian Cummings handled the ball at the start of most Merrimack possessions, and he ended their final one of the 1st quarter splashing home a 3-pointer. At the end of the first, Memorial: 13, Merrimack: 11.
Malo Roumraj opened the scoring in the 2nd quarter to increase the Memorial lead to 4 points. Dan McKillop decrease that by one after out jumping Brandon Scott on a long inbound pass attempt. Scott followed McKillop sending him to the line. After a Zach Kerr basket, McKillop gave Merrimack their first lead of the night 16-15.
The lead was short lived as Memorial went on a 9-0 run push themselves back in front. Jake Carrier scored the first 2 points just seconds as McKillop's shot. Paul Rodolf drained a three from the wing, then forced a turnover and scored. Brandon Scott connected with a nice runner of glass to cap the run, 24-19 Memorial.
A pivotal play in the first occurred with 3:02 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Ian Cummings drove to the hoop and drew a blocking foul on Scott. It was Scott 3rd personal and we would sit the remainder of the half. With Scott out of the line-up defensively, Merrimack was able to go on a 10-4 run to close out the half. Two baskets from Jake Giannelli, including a buzzer beating putback, capped the run for the Tomahawks. At the half, Memorial: 28, Merrimack: 27.
The 3rd quarter was a battle. Dan McKillop tied the game at 28, going 1 of 2 at the line after the 2nd personal by Jake Carrier. After a missed lay-up by Cummings, Zack Kerr hit a jumper to put the Tomahawks in the lead (30-28, Merrimack). Nick Philibert drilled a three-pointer as the lead continued to change hands (31-30, Memorial). Ian Roberts hit a turn around baseline jumper (32-31 Merrimack), Paul Rodolf came away with a lay-up after a steal (33-32, Memorial), then Andrew Wojciak scored underneath (34-33, Merrimack).
The Tomahawks would gain some traction after Wojciak's shot with two additional baskets from Kerr and Roberts. Now trailing by 5 points, it was Memorial's turn to rally. Jake Carrier went 1 for 2 at the line after Ian Cummings committed his 3rd personal. Then with time about to expire in the quarter, Paul Rodolf deflected a Merrimack inbounds attempt, missed his first shot, but grabbed the rebound and scored at the buzzer. At the end of the third, Merrimack: 38, Memorial: 36.
Rodolf tied the less than 30 seconds into the 4th, but point were very hard to come by for Memorial the rest of the game. As the Tomahawk defense tightened, Memorial was only able to 3 more points. Two baskets by Ian Roberts gave Merrimack at 42-38 lead, midway through the 4th. They would hit 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch to go onto to win by a final of 49-41. By slowing down the game offensively and dominating the defense glass, Merrimack moves onto the D-I final against Manchester Central. Again, final score, Merrimack: 49, Manchester Memorial: 41.
Ian Roberts scored a team high 13 points in the win for Merrimack. Ian Cummings scored 12 and grabbed 12 boards for the Tomahawks. Danny McKillop saw some big minutes off the bench and ended with 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Paul Rodolf scored a game high 14 points in the loss for Memorial. Nick Philibert was the only other Crusader in double figures with 10 points. After shooting nearly 58% from the field in the first half (11-28) Memorial's shooters only connected on 17.9% in the final two quarters (5-28).
Congratulations to both teams on a their seasons.
From UNH; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook