NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Memorial bounces BG in OT
NASHUA - Fatigue wasn't the problem. It was the nerves and the crowd that rattled the Memorial High boys' basketball team Friday night.
At least that's how the Crusaders saw it.
Playing their starting five almost the entire game, the Crusaders let a double-digit lead slip away in the final moments of regulation. They missed seven of eight free throws in the fourth quarter, including the front end of two bonus situations, allowing host Bishop Guertin to force overtime - even have the final shot of winning the game in regulation - and a chance to preserve its unbeaten record.
Fatigue? That wasn't the problem.
"I was way into the game," Tong Akot said. "That was the last thing on my mind."
Akot and his teammates proved they still had enough left in the tank as they pulled out a 64-61 win in a game between two elite teams in Division I.
Akot, who had a game-high 26 points, scored the first four points of overtime - even making a pair from the foul line - as the Crusaders (5-1) handed the Cardinals (5-1) their first loss of the regular season.
Memorial coach Jack Quirk wanted to see his team show more composure after last week's meltdown in a 74-62 loss at Dover and said he would bench anyone who gets a technical foul. So, freshman forward Tshief Ngalakulondi, who got a technical in Tuesday's win against Concord, sat against BG and that shortened Memorial's bench considerably.
Quirk thought enough of BG's advantage inside to call on a rarely used zone defense and the strategy paid off handsomely as the Crusaders held the Cardinals to 26 points in the first half. He said the slow pace led him to keep his starters in for the entire 37 minutes, save for a two-minute breather for Akot in the second quarter.
The Crusaders looked tired as they were outscored, 13-3, in the fourth quarter, but they said it was the hostile environment created by one of the more spirited students sections in the state. BG center Jeff Lunn also had something to do with it.
The 6-foot-6 senior, who had a game-high 16 rebounds, scored six of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals scored nine of the final 10 points of the quarter, including a pair of free throws by Steven Toscano that tied the game with 1:15 left.
"We didn't know what to do against their zone," said Kabongo Ngalakulondi, who finished with 12 points, including the final two points in overtime.
"We make our free throws, it's not that close," Quirk said.
Bishop Guertin knocked down its first shot to open the game - a 3-pointer by Kyle Gavin - and struggled to find the range the rest of the half, falling behind 19-11 after one quarter and 38-26 at the half.
The Cardinals couldn't shoot the Crusaders out of their zone, going 1-for-9 from 3-point range, and failed to get Lunn going. Sprinkle in 11 turnovers and the half was a wholly forgettable one for the host team.
The low point for the Cardinals came at the end of the half when Joel Mayola scored on an outlet pass from Zoubel Iradukunda and Bishop Guertin turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass leading to an Oumaru Kante layup.