MANCHESTER - Exeter High came into the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament limping, losing all three of its regular-season games.
A couple of trips along Route 101 appear to be exactly what the Blue Hawks needed.
Exeter moved into the championship game with a 55-49 win Friday night over defending QCIBT champion Merrimack.
"This is a nice win for us," Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. "We mixed our defense and I think our guys competed hard."
Holmes has never lost in the finals of the QCIBT, having won once as a player with Keene in 1982 and as a coach in Exeter's only other trip to the championship game in 2007.
"I like it here," Holmes said. "The competition is good and the atmosphere is good. It's a great situation for us."
A 3-pointer by Tyler Russ (13 points) put the Blue Hawks up 47-42 midway through the fourth quarter. The Tomahawks closed to within one on a jumper by Eric Gendron (19), but could get no closer.
Merrimack crippled itself by going 9-for-25 at the foul line.
Gendron became the 26th player to score at least 100 points in the QCIBT. The junior now has 109 points, moving into 20th place on the all-time list. He trails his brother Tyler, now playing at RPI, by three points.
While Exeter awaits the winner of Friday's late game between city rivals Central and Memorial, Merrimack plays the loser of that game in the third-place contest at 6.
In today's other games, Goffstown faces West in the seventh-place game at 3, while Bedford and Trinity meet in the fifth-place game at 4:30.
Trinity 67, West 61: The Blue Knights made a spirited rally in the fourth quarter, battling back from a double-digit deficit to pull to within 55-54 on a pair of free throws by Carl Jacques (16 points) with 3:05 left.
Two free throws by Mabor Gabriel (16) and a putback by Carmen Giampetruzzi (20) stemmed the tide for Trinity.
Jacques, who made seven free throws in the fourth quarter, and Nolan Flynn (20) spurred the West rally. Zack Theriault added 12 points for the Blue Knights.
Gabriel and Giampetruzzi - who recently committed to Boston College for baseball - had 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
The Crusaders took the lead early, going up by as many as 11 points in the second quarter.
The Blue Knights hung close, getting to within six after a 3-pointer by Jacques, but Trinity's Brad Rhoades hit a big shot at the buzzer, a turn and shoot 3-pointer, to send the Crusaders into the intermission with a 34-25 advantage.
Bedford 63, Goffstown 53: Back-to-back baskets by James Caparell (13 points) midway through the fourth period put the Bulldogs ahead for good in the first game of the afternoon. The teams were tied at halftime and through three quarters.
Caparell put Bedford up for good with a steal and layup and followed up by finishing off a nice penetration and dish off by Taylor Grande to give the Bulldogs a 53-49 cushion.
With leading scorer Jacob Mount saddled with four fouls at the half, Goffstown got a lift from Rob White (19 points), who knocked down five 3-pointers.
Sam Thomas, a 6-foot-8 senior, had 17 points for Bedford, while Mount and Tim Riehl finished with 10 each for Goffstown.