NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Merrimack survives scare
MERRIMACK — Merrimack High School rolled behind senior standout Eric Gendron early and held on when he fouled out late to knock off visiting Winnacunnet, 61-55, on Friday night in a Division I quarterfinal game.
The No. 3-seeded Tomahawks improved to 17-2 and advanced to a Monday night semifinal at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham against No. 2 Trinity, a team that handed them one of their losses this season, 62-57 on Feb. 14.
“Our goal from the beginning was to have a successful season and coach said to do that we had to get to Durham,” said senior forward Shayne Bourque. “Now we’re going there.”
Gendron had 13 of his 24 and Bourque 11 of his 16 points in the first half and the Tomahawks played good defense while taking advantage of Winnacunnet’s poor shooting to open up a 32-17 advantage at the break.
It was far from over.
“I knew they weren’t going away,” said Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge. “It was halftime and we were up by 15 and some of the kids thought it was time to go home and have a pizza party. That wasn’t happening.”
The Warriors, led by senior Sam Knollmeyer (21 points), roared back.
After Gendron tipped in his own rebound to give Merrimack a 42-27 lead with four minutes left in the third period, Knollmeyer scored seven straight points to make things interesting at 42-34.
Knollmeyer had 13 Winnacunnet points in a row at one point and the Warriors kept coming, cutting the lead to 46-39 with a period to go.
Anthony Primavera cut it to 50-46 with a basket in the lane with 5:40 remaining in the fourth, before a Gendron 12-foot baseline jumper and Bourque free throw got it back to 53-46.
Gendron fouled Alec Boucher on a 3-point attempt with 50.5 seconds left. It was the fifth foul for Gendron and he was done for the night.
Boucher made the first two of his three foul shots for 56-53.
Austin Franzen then made two free throws at the other end to push it to 58-53, and the Tomahawks closed it out with their foul shooting.
Franzen was 6-for-6 from the line in the final minutes.
“They do that,” said Winnacunnet coach Jay McKenna. “Historically, Merrimack teams are very strong from the free throw line.”
The Tomahawks made 21 of their 28 foul shots in the game.
The Warriors struggled early.
They led 4-0 on a steal and layup by Knollmeyer and a strong inside move and basket by Alec Boucher in the first minute. It was 5-5 with 5:22 left in the period.
But it was more than a quarter before Winnacunnet scored again.
Merrimack ran off 15 straight in the meantime, the last nine by Gendron, before Eric Dunn ended the long Winnacunnet drought with a 3-pointer with 4:30 left in the half.
Dunn cut it to 20-9 with a couple of foul shots.
Merrimack responded with a 9-3 run to stretch the lead back to 29-12 with 2:10 left in the half.
Knollmeyer hit from in close, and Matthew MacLeod banked a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, and it was 29-17 with just 15 seconds to go.
Bourque answered with a long trey from straight on just before the buzzer.
Winnacunnet, the No. 6 seed, closed out at 13-7.