(Hampton NH) If the win/loss records had been reversed, this one would have made sense……but there was 5-10 Winnacunnet beating the daylights out of 11-4 Merrimack, 62-31, on a rainy Friday night.
Granted the Tomahawks were missing two very good injured players (Dimitri Floras and Jackson King), but those two might not have been enough on this night.
The Warriors (6-10) had it going on both ends early. They held the visitors scoreless for nearly five minutes while putting up eight points of their own to take the lead from the get-to for good, as it turned out.
Winnacunnet had layups from Rich Ruffin (6 points) and Ryan Gigliotti (11 points) plus a jump shot and a converted rebound by high scorer Quinn Parker (17 points).
Down eight points and a timeout later, the Tomahawks (11-5) finally got on the board (two Jeff Giannelli free throws) and matched the Warriors for a few minutes. A nifty backdoor cut by Tyler Gendron (9 points) with an assist to Brad Jarry put the Merrimack deficit at 14-8.
Because Winnacunnet was carrying a six-game losing streak, my thinking was that this would be a back-and-forth contest the rest of the way.
It didn‘t turn out that way at all! The next five minutes of playing time, stretching to the 4:17 mark of the second quarter, was completely dominated by Winnacunnet. And similar to the start, the damage to the Tomahawks was on both ends. They didn’t score for the 5+ minutes while the Warriors rolled up eleven straight.
The home team was really in command, by the time Tyler Gendron hit a free throw to stop the bleeding. The Warriors lead was, 25-9, and there were still 2 ½ quarters left.
During the eleven unanswered, Ben Gareau (10 points) contributed a free throw while Ryan Gigliotti added a spinning layup and a free throw. Ryan also set up Sam Knollmeyer (10 points) for a long one that ended the first quarter. Sam added an end-to-end layup and two free throws.
As you can see, Winnacunnet was getting scoring from everywhere while Merrimack struggled to connect from even in close. It certainly didn’t help that the Tomahawks recorded six turnovers during the lengthy scoring lapse.
The lead was 32-14 at the half, 48-26 after three periods, and 62-31 when it was over.
This was clearly a game that was won early. Let it be noted that there wasn’t a letup in the effort by either squad despite the large lead.
Minus a shot clock, the Tomahawks had to extend their defense in an attempt to start some sort of a rally. Here again, the team with the five wins and the six-game losing streak showed the ability to deal with double teams and full court pressure remarkably well. Instead of getting closer, Merrimack lost more ground.
Not having Dimitri Floras was huge for Merrimack. The junior led Division 1 in scoring last season. He is supposed to be back in March. His scoring was badly missed by Coach Tom Goodridge and his Tomahawk team versus Winnacunnet.
Merrimack has now lost three straight. They will host Bishop Guertin on Tuesday night.
Winnacunnet broke their six game losing stretch. They had been 0-for-February before tonight’s win. They host Manchester Central on Tuesday.
This was the first New Hampshire high school game I have seen. Most of the games I cover have been in Massachusetts. Two differences between the two states are the lack of a shot clock in NH and the fact that all the players have mouth guards in NH.
I did see, arguably, the best team in New England (Brewster Academy) defeat Tilton on Monday afternoon at Wolfeboro.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge significantly if you click on them.)