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February 01. 2013 11:14PM

NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Central finds a hero in win over Memorial


Troy Pelletier of Central blocks Tong Akot of Memorial during Friday's game. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER - Nick Makris became an unlikely hero Friday night when the Central High boys' basketball team traveled across town to play Memorial in the latest installment of this city rivalry.

The junior forward, a late addition to the starting lineup, scored the go-ahead layup late in the fourth quarter to give the unbeaten Little Green a 47-44 win over the Crusaders in front of an emotionally-charged crowd.

Central coach Doc Wheeler said junior guard Mike Plentzas was a late scratch due to illness. His absence, coupled with the Memorial's superior size, led Wheeler to start Makris, and the junior answered with 14 points, none bigger than the two he scored when he raced downcourt after Memorial had just taken the lead and scored uncontested to put Central ahead 45-44 with 2:24 left.

"That shouldn't have happened," Memorial coach Jack Quirk said. "We just scored to take the lead. We had them on the ropes."

Both teams were forced to change their lineups and Central (11-0) was able to deal with its adjustments better than Memorial (7-3). Each of the team's top players, Memorial's Tong Akot (14 points) and Central's Troy Pelletier (15), were reliable, but each team went deeper into its bench than usual.

The Crusaders lost starting point guard Oumaru Kante to academics and top reserve Zach Eddowes to a code of conduct violation, forcing them to insert freshman Tshief Ngalakulondi into the starting lineup, move older brother Kabongo Ngalakulondi to the point and give freshman Brandon Scott extended minutes in his first varsity game.

The Crusaders didn't let that stop them from sprinting out to a 19-11 lead after one quarter as Akot and Zoubel Iradukunda (8) each had seven points, many in transition. But then it turned into the defensive game Central excels at and the Little Green starting taking over.

Central cut the deficit to 28-27 at halftime and went ahead 42-37 after three stops by holding Memorial to 18 points over the middle quarters. The Crusaders committed nine turnovers and were 7-for-23 from the field in that span.

The Little Green were up 43-37 with just over six minutes left in the game when they started to take time off the clock, but they came up empty on six straight possessions, allowing the Crusaders to eventually take the lead, 44-34, on a follow shot by Kabongo Ngalakulondi (10) with 2:30 left.

That's when Makris sprinted downcourt, taking the inbound pass and going up for a layup.

"That was a huge play," Wheeler said. "He's been our most improved player. He plays with great courage."

Dawson Dickson knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 47-44 and Memorial came up empty on its final two possessions.

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