By Ed Niser
GROTON -- Groton-Dunstable came into Tuesday night's Mid-Wach B league match-up with Marlboro looking to get back on the winning track after suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss at Nashoba on Friday night.
The Crusaders rallied behind a monster effort from senior forward Gavin Keough, who led all scorers with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks to defeat the Panthers going away, 59-49.
"They've been working so hard and I wanted them to have a special win," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Greg Gillette. "If we would have won Friday night, we would have earned a piece of the league title with this win. These guys needed a big win over one of these teams that has been kin of our Achilles' heel the past four years. They (Marlboro) beat us three times last year."
Senior guards Ethan Cook (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Tyler Leclerc (12 points) also played well in Groton-Dunstable's senior night victory. No matter how hard Groton-Dunstable pressured Marlboro junior standout Chris Doherty -- the junior big-man still managed to exit Groton-Dunstable Regional High School with a double-double, 15 points, 16 rebounds and 2 blocks.
"It was an awesome night for us," said Keough. "For it to be senior night and we come out like that -- we haven't been able to beat a team like that -- one of the top in our league -- it is a big statement win for us.
The six-foot-eight Doherty provides a challenging match-up for almost any team Marlboro faces.
"He is a very strong and athletic player," said Keough. "A couple of guys got into foul trouble and I had to guard him. You just need to stay tight to him and go straight up and do your best. He is a freak athlete out there."
Groton-Dunstable jumped out to a 9-3 lead early on in the first quarter behind three-pointers from Leclerc, senior Logan Higgins (5 points, 8 assists) and Keough. Marlboro scored five unanswered points with baskets from Doherty, Kevin Short and Alex Santos to make it a one-point game.
Keough canned two three-pointers in the waning seconds of the opening quarter, which included a shot at the buzzer that rattled home to put the Crusaders up 15-10.
Marlboro used an 8-0 run to take its first and only lead of the game, when Marlboro's Evan Schmidlein swished a three-pointer from the right-side to put the Panthers up 20-18. At the half, Groton-Dunstable led 26-20 following back-to-back three-pointers from Cook late in the quarter.
The Crusaders had Marlboro teetering on the ropes at the start of the third quarter.
Keough swished a three-pointer and on the ensuing play scooted in through the backdoor for a layup off a nice pass from Higgins to build the lead to 31-20 two minutes into the quarter. Marlboro battled back late in the quarter to draw within six behind strong post play from Doherty and a swipe and score by Marlboro's Joao Mendes.
Groton-Dunstable managed to keep Marlboro at bay in the fourth behind timely shooting from Keough and Cook. The Panthers whittled the Groton-Dunstable lead to as little as six points on two occasions but the Crusaders' defense stood its ground.
"I think hitting those shots comes with experience," said Keough. "I have confidence in myself and my teammates and we rose to the occasion tonight."
Tuesday is just the start of a busy week for the Crusaders, who travel to North Middlesex (7 p.m.) Friday before facing Oakmont in the Clark Tournament Large School quarterfinal round.
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