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AYER – On Friday night, the Ayer boys’ basketball showcased what talent and inexperience can bring when mixed together. The underclassmen-dominated Panthers stormed out of the gate to a 15-0 lead, building an advantage as high as 22, only to see senior-laden Tahanto get back within three. But Ayer managed to hold on for a 69-56 victory.

“This is a good learning experience for the kids,” said Ayer coach Justin Lamoreaux. “We got off to a good start which is very rare for us, but we eased up for a bit in the game. I thought we got a little passive at points offensively but the kids were able to pull away in the end and get a much-needed win.”

In the first five minutes of the contest, the Panthers did little wrong in racking up the first 15 points. Jordan Murphy and Cliff Shultz each had four points while Will Comerford knocked down a three-pointer that made it 15-0.

The Stags finally broke got on the board, producing a 10-4 run to get within nine, but Ayer put together another dominating stretch of play to extend the lead. Over a four minute span, the Panthers outscored Tahanto 22-5, keyed by eight points apiece from Murphy and Kenny Rollins as the advantage grew to 22 at 37-15.

With their backs against the wall, the Stags fought back with a 14-5 spurt of their own to close out the first half. Paul Blackmer was the catalyst, scoring nine points on a variety of post moves to help Tahanto cut the lead to 13 at 42-29 heading into the intermission.

When the second half began, the Stags picked up right where they left off, scoring 11 of the first 12 points. Blackmer led the way with four points, including a pair of free throws that made it 43-40 with 12 minutes left to play in the game.

After seeing their lead dwindle down to just three points, Ayer responded with a 12-4 run to create some breathing room. Jon Minnich came off the bench to provide four points while Shultz added three as the Panthers rebuilt the advantage to 11 at 55-44.

Tahanto came back with four points to get within seven, but that was where the comeback ended. A technical foul call on the coach sparked a 9-2 spurt by Ayer that put the game out of reach. Murphy was the catalyst, scoring seven straight points while Sean Sullivan finished a lay-up off a great look by Rollins that made it 64-50.

Down the stretch, the Panthers did well enough from the line to keep the lead in double digits. Murphy and Rollins both knocked down a pair of free throws and the Stags couldn’t get their outside shots to fall as Ayer held on for the win and improved to 2-2 in Mid-Wach D play.

“We are still experimenting and trying to find the right pieces that work together,” said Lamoreaux. “Tonight was a step in the right direction. Cliff had a big night on both ends of the floor. Jordan and Kenny did a nice job of scoring and Will stepped up his play and gave us quality minutes. We are entering a tough stretch of games and this is a nice win to go into it.”

Murphy paced the Panthers with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Rollins added 16 points and five assists. Shultz had a big night with 13 points, 14 boards, three assists and two blocked shots while Comerford chipped in seven points and four dimes.

Jon Bogosian led the way for Tahanto with 22 points and eight rebounds. Blackmer finished with 20 points and 10 boards while Patrick Giguere added four points, nine rebounds and four assists.

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