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AYER — It has been said that you ‘live and die by the three-pointer.’

In a 52-49 win over Ayer, Murdock’s long-range bombing proved to be the difference as the Blue Devils connected on 7 of 16 from behind the arc.

Ayer, after trailing by 12 points in the first half, made a gallant comeback to grab a four-point lead in the second half, but couldn’t hold off the visitors.

Murdock came out on fire, draining five of their first six three-point attempts to roll to a 22-10 lead. Glenn Spellman hit all three of his attempts, while Eben Bartlett connected on two of three tries as the visitors threatened to put the game away early.

The Blue Devils started to cool off and Ayer inched back into the game. Sophomore Jordan Murphy (17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals) came up big for the Panthers, converting back-to-back offensive rebounds into baskets to keep the Panthers within striking distance.

Scott Haney’s follow-up basket put Murdock on top 28-19 with 4:30 left in the first half, but the Panthers scored eight unanswered points to make it 28-27. Cliff Shultz hit a pair of free throws, Kenny Rollins finished off a drive and added a free throw for a conventional three-point play, before a single free throw by Will Comerford and two freebies by Jon Minnich made it a one point game.

Murdock rebuilt the lead to four at 32-28 when Haney (14 points, 14 rebounds) hit a lay-up, but Sean Sullivan hit a turnaround jumper to draw the Panthers to within 32-30 at halftime.

Ayer stayed in the game with strong advantages in two categories over the first 16 minutes. The Panthers dominated the backboards with a 22-11 rebounding edge, including ten at the offensive end. Also, they went to the free throw line 11 times to just four for Murdock.

The Panthers got off to a quick start in the second half with six consecutive points to move on top for the first time in the game. Sullivan hit a free throw, Murphy buried a mid-range jumper, before Steve Wallace drained a trey to make it 36-32.

The Panthers nursed a small lead over the next few minutes before the Blue Devils drew even with some diligent work off the offensive glass as follow-up baskets by Haney and Jack Maliska tied the game at 44-44 with just over six minutes left.

The Panthers went into an offensive drought for more than five minutes and it cost them as Maliska hit a free throw, before Bartlett’s fast break lay-up gave the Blue Devils a 47-44 lead, and forced an Ayer timeout with 3:34 left.

After Murdock called a timeout two minutes later, Sullivan hauled down an offensive rebound and converted to slice the lead to one at 48-47, but three free throws by Mike Quist gave the Blue Devils some breathing room at 51-47.

Murphy scored on a drive to make it 51-49 with eight seconds left, but the Panthers could never get any closer.

Bartlett led Murdock with 18 points while Spellman added nine points, and Maliska five points and 14 rebounds.

Sullivan played well for the Panthers, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds. Wallace and Rollins (three steals) each added six points, while Minnich had five points and six rebounds, and Shultz four points and 11 rebounds.

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