Other than Lebanon, most of the teams in this year's Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT) were pretty evenly matched. That is definitely the case for Exeter and Manchester Memorial, who went at it in the tourney's 5th place game on Friday night.
Exeter was ice cold offensively in the 1st half. Memorial was ice cold in the 2nd. In the end, the only thing separating these 2 teams was a buzzer beating layup by Exeter senior guard Nick Sowers. The Blue Hawks escaped with a 42-41 win.
Memorial was playing without senior point guard Craig Preston, who has quit the team. Tough loss for the Crusaders, as Preston is as good as any player in the NHIAA.
Memorial senior guard Jake Carrier (team-high 13 points) drained a 3-pointer off the catch from the right wing early on. Sowers countered with a 3 of his own for the Blue Hawks. Exeter senior Kyle Shaw made a tip-in on the break. Carrier drained another 3 ball. Sowers made a good dish to teammate Jake Ross in transition for a layup.
Exeter was playing a half court zone defense. Memorial guard Elvin Barbosa hit a 3 against the zone, and the Crusaders led 14-7 after 1. It was an evenly matched 1st quarter, Memorial was just getting more shots to fall. The Blue Hawks' two returning starters, Cody Morissette and Stephen Natola were both held scoreless in the 1st quarter.
Natola got on the board early in the 2nd quarter, as he grabbed a steal near mid-court and took it in for the easy layup. Zach Lubin came off the bench for Memorial and was active in the paint, making a nice block on 'D'. Memorial junior guard Michael Roumraj also provided energy off the bench. He made a steal, pushed it in transition and made an athletic move to the rim for the layup.
Nick Datillo came off the bench for the Blue Hawks and made a nice drive to the rim and finish. Exeter was running a flex offense, Ross made a cut to the basket on the flex, got the ball inside and converted the and-1. Teammate Cam Clark used his speed to get past the Memorial defense, finishing in traffic on the break. Although Exeter finally started to get some offense going late in the 1st half, they only had 9 points on the board late in the 2nd quarter. Memorial had a commanding 25-16 lead at halftime. Morissette, who is a Boston College commit for baseball, went scoreless for the whole game.
Natola made a quick layup to start the 2nd half, followed by another 3 ball by Carrier and a tip-in by Memorial junior forward Alec Ross. Exeter started pushing the ball more, as Robert Cliché and Sowers both finished quick layups on runouts, with Memorial not getting back on 'D'. Again the Blue Hawks ran the break, this time with Morissette threading the needle to Natola for the layup. Ethan Pollet hit a jumper from the elbow for Exeter, as Memorial's offense disappeared in the 2nd half. Carrier ended the Crusaders' offensive dry spell, making a steal at 3/4 court and racing to the rim for the layup. Still Exeter had stormed back to take a 35-33 lead after 3 quarters.
Memorial's offensive woes continued in the 4th quarter. Blue Hawks junior Sean Murphy made a layup, tying it up 37-37 with 4:15 left in regulation. Natola made a good take and finish in transition, as Exeter went back on top 39-37 with 3:00 remaining.
Finally the Crusaders offense woke back up - Alec Ross hit 2 free throws, Roumraj drove hard to the rim for a tough finish and Memorial re-takes the lead 41-40 with just over 10 seconds left. Exeter raced back with the ball, got it ahead to Sowers who made the game-winning layup. Carrier's baseline jumper on the other end was no good, and the Blue Hawks win it 42-41. Exeter's bench storms the court in celebration!