GROTON - For three quarters, the Groton-Dunstable boys' basketball team hung with the best team that Central Massachusetts Division II has to offer. The problem was the game was four quarters. Keyed by a 25-7 advantage in scoring in the second quarter, St. Bernard's held off a feisty Crusader squad to claim a 69-56 victory in nonleague action Saturday night. "We haven't been able to put together a lot of 32-minute efforts this season and that was what killed us tonight," said Groton-Dunstable coach Keith Woods. "I thought the kids played hard and gave me everything they had; we just had that one bad quarter and couldn't get out of the hole it created. We hung with the best team in our area and gave them everything they could handle, so I am proud of the kids tonight."
The first eight minutes were highlighted by back-and-forth play as there were 10 lead changes and two ties. The Bernardians were led by John Conry's five points while John Crawley and Andrew Baron added four points apiece. On the other side, the Crusaders got five points from Drew Moore and four each from Charlie Burke and Phil Dubay. When Dubay knocked down a 10-foot jumper off a Moore feed, it gave Groton-Dunstable a 17-16 lead after a quarter of play.
St. Bernard's responded by putting together its best stretch of play of the night, reeling off a 14-2 run to open the second quarter. Crawley was the catalyst, starting things off with a three-pointer while adding a pair of free-throws and a layup to cap things off and give the Bernardians a 30-19 advantage.
Dubay cut the lead to single digits with a 15-foot jumper off a Coleman Hill feed, but St. Bernard's got things rolling again, closing out the opening half with 11 of the final 14 points. Crawley continued his big quarter by connecting on five free-throws while Justin Valliere closed out the half with a trey off a Conry look that pushed the Bernardians lead to 17 at 41-24 heading into the locker rooms.
"I felt like early on in the game, we were at least contesting the outside shots to make it a little more difficult," said Woods. "In the second quarter, we gave up too many open looks and you can't do that against a good shooting team."
In the third quarter, the teams traded long bombs, combining for seven three-pointers in the period. Corey Romich connected twice from downtown for the Crusaders while Moore added another.
For St. Bernard's, Conry and Michael McGuirl each knocked down treys, but it was the play of Bryan Franciosi that allowed the lead to grow. The backup shooting guard scored his team's last eight points, including consecutive three-pointers in the last minute to push the lead to 22 at 58-36 with eight minutes to play.
A Crawley jumper early in the fourth quarter gave the Bernardians their largest lead of the night at 60-37, but Groton-Dunstable chipped away in an attempt to make things interesting.
Romich had a solid final period, scoring seven points while adding a pair of assists. Moore continued his big night with six points and an assist, while Dubay hit four free-throws.
Unfortunately, the late run by the Crusaders could not make up for the hole they dug earlier as they fell to 4-12 on the season.
"Drew has really been coming on for us lately and he played extremely well tonight," said Woods. "Corey had some trouble with his shot early, but found a nice groove in the second half. Phil and Charlie did a nice job for us tonight as well. The kids fought hard tonight and that is all I can ask of them."
Moore led the way for Groton-Dunstable with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Romich finished with 15 points, four boards and three assists. Dubay added 13 points and six rebounds while Burke chipped in six points and nine boards.
Crawley led St. Bernard's with 21 points and four rebounds. Conry (five boards and six assists) and McGuirl had 10 points each while Franciosi scored eight points.