NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Pelletier lifts now 8-0 Central
MERRIMACK - Don't expect the scoreboard to light up, the 3-pointers to fly or the highlight reel to roll if Manchester Central and Merrimack meet again in the Division I boys' basketball tournament.
It's just not who they are.
That was clear Friday night after the two teams met for the second time this season, the first time in the regular season, with the Little Green coming back to pull out a 52-47 win and remain unbeaten.
Central (8-0) also beat Merrimack (4-3) in the Queen City Invitational last month, 40-33, and the games followed a similar pattern: low scoring, gritty affairs the Little Green were forced to rally to win.
The difference this time was Central's ability to get to the glass. The Little Green scored 14 points off offensive rebounds, 10 in the second half when they wiped out a seven-point halftime deficit.
"That was the difference in the game. We have to rebound better," said Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge, whose team was playing without hard-working forward Brad Jarry (ankle), who had 14 points the last time the two teams played.
Tyler Kelly, Jarry's counterpart on Central, showed the value of a grinder inside, finishing with eight points and sparking the Little Green's board dominance with 10 rebounds.
"He was inspirational," Central coach Doc Wheeler said. "We worked hard on the boards and that was probably the difference in the game."
Having Troy Pelletier (14 points) doesn't hurt, either.
Goodridge reminded his team at halftime not to let the Central forward beat them and, for the most part, the Tomahawks did a good job keeping Central's only senior in check. But when the game was on the line, Pelletier stepped forward to make big plays on both ends of the floor.
He put Central ahead for good, 46-45, with 4:51 left when he took an inbounds lob and scored with an athletic play in the paint. He bumped the lead to four with his only 3-pointer of the game and, when Merrimack had the chance to tie the game, he twice jumped the passing lanes to come up with a steal.
Goodridge said Pelletier, an all-state football player, is starting to round into basketball form.
"If he's not the best, he's one of the best players in the state," Goodridge said, "He's starting to get rid of some of that football stuff. I love the way he plays."
The good news for the Tomahawks is sophomore guard Austin Franzen's continued emergence as a second scoring option on the perimeter to junior Eric Gendron.
While Gendron (19 points) can always be counted on, Franzen (11) just recently moved into the starting lineup and is blossoming, knocking down three treys against the Little Green.