TOWNSEND -- Friday night's rivalry clash with Algonquin was about much more than the game on the floor; it was about a community coming together to battle an often terminal disease, pancreatic cancer.
North Middlesex senior forward Bobby Larsen lost his father last April to the disease, and he, along with his family, were honored prior to Friday night's tip-off with Algonquin.
North Middlesex raised $1,200 for pancreatic cancer, due in part to the strong involvement of the surrounding community. Algonquin defeated North Middlesex in a barn-burner, 48-44.
"Sometimes life puts a different perspective on basketball," North Middlesex head coach Erik Dellasanta said. "Basketball is very important to each and every one of us. Tonight was one of those nights where we could see the bigger picture. What's important is family, togetherness and community.
"I am proud of our community and kids who came out to support the kids on the basketball court," he said. "I told the kids in the locker room at half-time that I hope they remember the night for all the good that was here. We certainly wanted to win tonight, but it was nice to see people come out and support the cause."
Senior captain Tyler Thomas led the Patriots with 17 points.
North Middlesex opened the first quarter on a 4-0 run behind back-to-back baskets from Larsen and Thomas. However, for the remainder of the opening frame, it was a seesaw battle.
More of the same ensued in the second quarter, as neither team could pull away. The Patriots toted a 7-0 run into the third-quarter following lay-ups from Drew Patno (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Larsen (10 points, nine rebounds). Six-foot-one Algonquin sophomore forward Joe Wallace (16 points, seven rebounds) carried the Tomahawks with 14 first-half points. North Middlesex jumped out to a six-point lead following a three-point strike from sophomore Richie Sharp with 2:45 remaining in the first half. However, Algonquin ended the half on a 6-0 run to cut the Patriots' lead to 26-24 at the half.
On the first play of the second half, Tim Keville tied the game at 26-26 on a pop-up jumper from between the blocks. North Miiddlesex continued to push its up-tempo offense, but it failed to convert in transition. Algonquin capitalized on the Patriots' misfortunes late in the second half with a 6-0 run. Algonquin junior guard Joe Egizi stripped Thomas at half-court and rolled in a lay-up to put the Tomahawks in front by three, 39-36.
North Middlesex continued to scrap and claw its way back midway through the fourth quarter. Larsen converted on a clean-up play below the rim, and Patno knocked down a one-and-one from the free throw line to bring the Patriots back within three, 47-44, with 52.9 left. Justin Brilliant iced the game for the Tomahawks with his free throw with 2.5 seconds left.
North Middlesex drops to 5-9 overall and 1-6 in Midland League A play.
"We had a similar game with them down there," Dellasanta said. "There was never one point where either team was in control of the game. I felt like we made a couple of good loose ball plays and rebounds late, but I didn't feel we got enough good chances.
"It's one of those nights that is tough to put a finger on," he said, "but I am proud of the team amidst all of the emotion that goes into a game like this. The kids fought through, but did not make enough buckets late."