MANCHESTER — Two weeks ago, Bedford coach Mike Fitzpatrick said Manchester Central was one of the best shooting teams he’d seen in years. He certainly won’t get an argument from Trinity coach Dave Keefe.
“Most definitely,” said Keefe after Jon Martin lit up the sold-out McHugh Gym for 34 points to lead the Little Green to a 77-60 Division I boys’ basketball victory Sunday. Central’s win left the Little Green (6-0) and Merrimack (5-0) as the only unbeaten teams in Division I. Trinity fell to 5-1.
The Little Green took the starch out of Sunday’s affair in the second half, outscoring the hosts 43-25. Central, on the strength of 10 3-point shots (Trinity hit two 3-pointers), turned a 35-34 deficit into a 55-46 lead after three frames. The lead stretched to 18 in the last stanza, sending the crowd home early to watch the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
“When we played Bedford (a 64-61 Central win), they went with a zone defense, which was pretty effective,” said Central coach Dave Wheeler. “We studied the film and over the last two weeks we’ve worked hard on playing against the zone. Today Trinity used it and we were ready for it.”
In the semifinals of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Christmas at Memorial, Central beat Trinity 66-55 thanks to 38 points from Brett Hanson. Last Friday, Joey Martin (Jon’s brother) tallied 28 against Keene. On Sunday, when Trinity did a good job containing Hanson (nine points), Jon Martin ended up holding the hot hand.
“It’s (Dawson) Dickson one night, Hanson another and then bang, bang, here comes Martin and Martin,” said Keefe. “Central is tough to beat because just when you handle one or two guys, they have three other players who can step up. They took it to us pretty well today.”
Joey Martin netted 12 points and Dickson added eight. Pat Keefe led Trinity with 12 points, followed by Carmen Giampetruzzi with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The game, postponed last month because of condensation on the floor, resumed with the score 13-13 and 2:13 remaining in the first period. Trinity managed a 20-point second frame built around seven free throws and some clutch shots from sophomore Connor Walsh, who finished with 11 points.
“I told the team at halftime we needed to stop fouling and putting them on the line,” said Wheeler. “Once we did that in the second half, we were able to run more, which is what we like to do. There’s no question we have many good shooters on our team. But what I like the most about our team is that we’re unselfish. Everyone on the court wants to share the ball. Jon Martin scored 34 today, but the best part of his game is passing.”
Central’s passing game turned a close game at halftime into a runaway in the third period. Dickson’s three-pointer with six minutes left gave Central a 41-40 lead and started a 17-6 run. Martin, who had four three-point shots, drilled one late to build Central’s lead to nine with eight minutes left.
On his team’s 5-0 start, Wheeler said “we’ve still got of lot of basketball, a lot of games left. I told my players after the game that how much we mature going forward depends on how we handle success.”