MANCHESTER — Manchester Memorial boys’ basketball coach Danny Bryson made it clear that he liked what he saw from his team Thursday night. As good as Memorial played, however, Manchester Central played a little bit better.
Central fended off a pesky Memorial team 55-47 to earn a spot in the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament’s championship game. Central will face Exeter, which dominated Lebanon 74-21 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Memorial, which graduated nine seniors from last year’s team, was within one point, 43-42, with 6:10 to play, but was never able to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
“They beat us up on the glass when they got three or four chances at a time,” Bryson said. “That’s what they do. They’re physical, but we’re improving. You can see it from our first game to where we are now. This was a good opportunity for us to learn and grow. A loss stings, but this was a good loss.”
Central (4-0 overall, 2-0 in Division I) received 14 points from senior forward Daniel Infante, 11 from junior forward Dede Niyang and 10 from sophomore guard Sam Kodi.
Central led 12-7 after one quarter and 25-22 at halftime, but looked like it might be in some trouble when Memorial took a brief one-point lead on Jack Fitzgerald’s 3-point shot that made it 33-32 with 3:09 left in the third, but the Little Green responded with a 7-0 spurt. Memorial (1-4, 0-3) hung around after that, but never could seize the momentum.
“We gave ourselves a chance, but near the end we had three consecutive turnovers,” Bryson said. “We showed our youth when it came down to crunch time.”
Fitzgerald led all scorers with 16, which included four 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Christian Sebo added nine for the Crusaders, who were playing on their home court.
Exeter lost to Memorial in last year’s QCIBT championship game. This year the Blue Hawks will try their luck with Central. Tonight’s contest is scheduled to start at 7:30. Memorial will face Lebanon in today’s third game at 6 p.m.
Exeter posted a 72-31 victory over Memorial last week during the Division I regular season.
“Central is pretty long and they get up and down the floor, so I think it’s going to be an up-and-down game with those guys,” Bryson said. “Exeter is tough. They’re pretty deep. They play nine guys, but Sudi (Central coach Sudi Lett) also rotates about nine or 10 guys, so I think it will be a pretty decent matchup.”
Exeter 74, Lebanon 21: Offense seemed to come easy for the Exeter. The same cannot be said for Lebanon.
Exeter limited Lebanon to six points in the first half and led by 29 entering the third quarter en route to a lopsided victory in Thursday’s third QCIBT game at Manchester Memorial.
The Blue Hawks led 6-4 with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter, but outscored Lebanon 29-2 in the rest of the first half. Exeter’s Ryan Grijalva, a junior guard, scored all of his game-high 15 points in the first half.
“They’re very good at all positions,” Lebanon coach Dave Faucher said. “Definitely a level above.”
Lebanon was playing without point guard Logan Falzarano (broken hand) and struggled with Exeter’s 1-3-1 half-court trap. The 21 points Exeter surrendered tied the tournament record for fewest points allowed in a tournament game. Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge and Latin held Keene to 21 points in the 1983 tournament. Former Michigan star Rumeal Robinson was a freshman on that Cambridge team.
“Disappointed in our pressure break,” Faucher said. “Not making any excuses because they would have beaten us with or without him, but we were without our point guard and we don’t really have another one in the system. We have to find a way without him (Falzarano).”
Exeter extended its run to 33-2 before Lebanon’s Wade Rainey to make it a 39-9 game with 6:11 remaining in the third. Exeter outscored Lebanon 29-7 in the third and led 64-13 after three quarters. Because the Blue Hawks had a lead of 35 points or more entering the fourth quarter, running time was used for the final eight minutes.
Rainey led Lebanon (3-2 overall, 2-1 in Division II) with eight points. Sophomore Calvin Bates was next with four.
The Blue Hawks (4-0 overall, 2-0 in Division I) received 11 points from Michael Leonard and 10 from Kevin Henry.
“They’re a quality program,” Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. “I think it just kind of snowballed for them once we got into our half-court trap. It’s no secret we’re doing it. It’s not the easiest thing because you need five guys on the same page. We’re getting better at it and It has been a good defensive weapon for us to get the tempo that we like.”
In Thursday’s other games Salem beat Bedford 69-40, and Trinity defeated Manchester West 68-62.
In today’s other tournament games Bedford will face West at 3 p.m., and Salem will meet Trinity at 4:30.
Salem 69, Bedford 40: Salem’s Zackery Caraballo tossed in 19 points and the Blue Devils held Bedford to 11 points in the second half. Salem received 11 points from Benjamin Laycock and 10 from Michael Ference. Junior forward Justin O’Neill scored nine to lead Bedford, which trailed 37-29 at halftime. Timothy Greene added eight for the Bulldogs.
Trinity 68, West 62: West whittled a 16-point deficit to three with less than a minute to play, but failed to get any closer. Athiel Bol led Trinity with 15 points. Foster Stacey added 14 for the Pioneers. West, which scored the final 10 points of the third quarter to pull within six entering the fourth, received a game-high 19 from Daniel Jenkins-MItchell and 15 from Gob Gob.