AYER — It there is such a thing as a comfortable eight point win, Lunenburg’s 58-50 victory over Ayer in the finals of the 2007 Holiday Basketball Tournament was it.
The Blue Knights never trailed in the contest and always had an answer whenever challenged by the Panthers, who continue to show a lack of focus in a number of areas.
Lunenburg took it to the basket right through the teeth of the Ayer defense, neutralizing Ayer’s size advantage. The Blue Knights complemented their thrusts to the basket with an accurate outside game, hitting four of seven three-point attempts. Meanwhile, 16 of the Panthers’ 19 shots from behind the arc missed their mark.
After Charlie Jones hit a 12-footer for Ayer to tie the game at 2-2, Lunenburg steadily built a lead over the remainder of the first quarter. D.J. Guillette (13 points, four rebounds) scored on a drive and converted after grabbing an offensive rebounds to put the Blue Knights on top 17-12 after one quarter.
The Panthers bounced back to draw even early in the second period as a steal for a basket by Sean Sullivan (seven points, three rebounds), a three-pointer by Kenny Rollins and a free throw by Isiah Connor made it 18-18.
Lunenburg went back to the gameplan and were rewarded two-fold for their efforts. A pair of drives by Guillette, followed by another drive which culminated in a three-point play by Mike Xarras quickly made it 25-18. The Blue Knights’ strategy also sadded the Panthers with deep foul troubles.
The Ayer offense consisted of hoisting up shots from the perimeter, which didn’t fall. Lunenburg added five of the final seven points of the half to extend the lead to 10 at 30-20 heading to intermission.
Lunenburg built its largest lead early in the third quarter when Noah Jackson finished off a drive to make it 34-22, but the Panthers battled back. A drive by Cliff Shultz, a conventional three-point play by Charlie Jones, and a bomb from behind the arc by Rollins sliced the lead to four midway through the third quarter.
But nine consecutive points by the Blue Knights quick re-established the comfort zone. When Ryan Major scored on a drive, Lunenburg led 43-30.
The Panthers didn’t go away and drew to within 49-43 on a Jones 17-footer with five minutes left in the game, but the second verse was the same as the first and Lunenburg quickly established breathing room. Guillette finished off a fast break with a lay-up and added a free throw, before tacking on a lay-up for an 11-point lead. The Panthers closed to within nine, but could never get any closer.
Xarras scored 13 points and hauled down four rebounds for the Blue Knights. Mark Proctor was big off the boards, hauling down 15 rebounds to go along with eight points. Major also scored eight points.
Rollins led the Panthers with 16 points and seven rebounds. Jones added nine points, Connor eight points and nine rebounds, while Shultz scored four points and hauled down 14 rebounds. Shawn Butler performed well of the bench, finishing with six points and four rebounds.