Merrimack boys topple Trinity from unbeaten ranks
Merrimack handed previously undefeated Trinity of Manchester a 60-56 loss Tuesday night, leaving just one unbeaten team left in Division I (Manchester Central).
More importantly, the Tomahawks (9-3) served noticed that they are not quite ready to hand over their title so easily.
The defending champions lost the core of last year's team, but they still have smooth junior guard Eric Gendron, a blue collar bunch that has responded to coach Tim Goodridge and an emerging star in sophomore guard Austin Franzen.
All three elements proved to be too much for the Pioneers (10-1) in the fourth quarter when the Tomahawks pulled away.
Franzen had eight of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter and knocked down a pair of wide open 3-pointers during a 15-4 run that put Merrimack up 52-43 with 3:15 left. Gendron (14 points) had four points in the run and Shayne Bourque capped it off with a conventional three-point play.
Trinity's trapping defense broke down in the quarter and the Tomahawks took advantage, going 10-for-12 from the field. Merrimack made its last 10 shots, and most were wide-open looks.
"They were looking to double, so someone had to be open and we were finding them," Gendron said.
Defensively, Merrimack made Trinity center Mabor Gabriel (19 points) and junior forward Carmen Giampetruzzi (12) work for everything they got. Junior guard Patrick Keefe added 16 points for the Pioneers, nine in the fourth quarter.
Goodridge said he likes how his team is coming together, winning seven of its last eight games.
"A lot of these kids didn't have eexexperience at the varsity level," Goodridge said. "They're working hard, especially on defense."
Trinity coach Dave Keefe said his team hurt its cause by missing nine free throws and giving up uncontested looks.
"The little things caught up with us," Keefe said. "We didn't talk on defense and we missed some free throws. And I give that kid (Franzen) credit; he made some big shots.
"Now we go back into the gym and see how we react Friday (at Keene)."
The Pioneers scored seven of the final 11 points of the first quarter to go up 15-11 lead, but they missed a chance to stretch the lead even more by missing their final three free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one.
Another missed free throw in the bonus to open the second quarter was followed by a Merrimack run that put the Tomahawks ahead for the first time in the game. Mitch Denton (10 points) got the run started with a jumper in the corner and Gendron did the rest, hitting a jumper in the lane on Merrimack's fourth shot of the possession before nailing a step back 3-pointer that put the Tomahawks up 18-15 with 5:31 left.
Merrimack did enough to hold onto a 23-22 lead at the half, but neither team shot particularly well. Trinity was 7-for-21 from the field and Merrimack was 10-for-28. That changed quickly for the Tomahawks in the second half as they went 16-for-26 from the field.