Boys' Basketball: Memorial wins elusive QCIBT title in styleBy JIM FENNELL
New Hampshire Union Leader
December 29. 2012 10:56PM
MANCHESTER - The drought is over.
Memorial High erased 35 years of frustration Saturday night by beating Exeter High, 68-48, in the championship game of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament.
Memorial has hosted this tournament since 1984 and watched a parade of teams come in and raise the championship trophy. The Crusaders reached the championship game four times during that fruitless run, the last in 2009, only to come up empty.
Not this time.
A dominating defensive effort in the third quarter carried the Crusaders to their fourth QCIBT title. They held the Blue Hawks to 3-for-14 shooting in the third quarter and helped force seven turnovers as they surged ahead 49-39 going into the fourth quarter.
"It kind of been our downfall, shooting percentage," Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. "Against a team like that, you can't afford a bad five minutes."
Tong Akot scored nine of his 21 points in the third quarter. And, while the burly senior proved to be too much inside for the Blue Hawks at times, he also converted a three-point play after getting out front on the break.
The Crusaders were tied at 32 at the half with the Blue Hawks and Memorial coach Jack Quirk said his team was still feeling the effects of Friday night's overtime win against city rival Central.
"They played emotionless and flat," said Quirk, the junior varsity coach when Memorial won its last title in 1977. "Our intensity picked up at both ends of the floor in the second half. That was the difference."
Memorial senior forward Zoubel Iradukunda, the tournament Most Valuable Player, said he and his teammates knew they had to be more aggressive in the second half.
"It would have been pointless to get this far and not win it," Iradukunda said.
The teams were tied at 32 at halftime after a second quarter that saw the lead change hands 15 times.
Iradukunda had seven of his 19 points in the quarter, while Max Medley had five of his 15 for Exeter.
The Crusaders started the game by jumping ahead 13-6, but Medley helped the Blue Hawks cut the lead to 13-12 with a pair of baskets, one on a inside move and another off an outlet pass. Memorial's Tshief Ngalakulondi answered with a 3-pointer to put the Crusaders up 16-12 after one quarter.
Exeter's Tyler Russ scored the first five points of the second quarter on a 3-pointer and a baseline cut to give the Blue Hawks their first lead since a Chris Stowell basket to open the game.
Iradukunda said his team wasn't concerned with winning the tournament as much as it was focused on playing well and carrying that through to the end of the season.
"We came to play and we won the tournament," Iradukunda said. "We're looking for more than this."