Lunenburg’s late kick finishes off gutsy Crusaders

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LUNENBURG — With the temperature in the mid-90’s and the humidity not much below that, Wednesday night might have been an occasion when Ernie Banks declined to play two. But the Groton-Dunstable boys basketball team faced a tough challenge with a 5 p.m. game in Nashua and an 8 p.m. game against Lunenburg in the Lunenburg Summer League.

The Crusaders showed plenty of guts in the nightcap, but ran out of gas and fell 54-42. Their challenge became even greater when the team dug itself a significant first half hole.

The game turned out to be three games within one. Lunenburg dominated the first half, keyed by the play of Troy Cutter and built a 24-12 halftime advantage.

Groton-Dunstable, keyed by the red-hot shooting of Will Peregoy, opened the second half with a determined run and drew even.

But Lunenburg put the game away with a 22-10 closing burst, keyed by strong play and outstanding free throw shooting by Josh Moore.

After Cutter scored on a strong drive for the first points of the game, Groton-Dunstable took a 4-2 lead on a Liam Barberich lay-up, off a pass from Will Peregoy, and two Barberich free throws.

Keyed by Cutter, Lunenburg exploded for 12 unanswered points to move in front 14-4. Cutter was the catalyst with 10 points, including a pair of drives to go along with two three-pointers.

Eric Stone ended the drought for the Crusaders with a long three-pointer to cut the lead to seven, but Lunenburg finished the half with a 10-5 run, capped by a Cutter three-pointer to take their 12-point halftime lead.

Groton-Dunstable struggled with its long-range shooting in the first half. Barberich came up big off the boards for the Crusaders with seven first-half rebounds as Lunenburg owned a slim 16-14 edge in that department.

The Crusaders offense started to click as the second half opened. Aaron Honkonen drained a three-pointer, and Peregoy followed with a follow-up basket and a drive to draw the Crusaders to within 24-19.

Cutter broke the run by finishing off a drive, but Groton-Dunstable kept coming. They harassed Lunenburg with a stifling defense, and back-to-back three-pointers by Peregoy made it a one-point game at 26-25, forcing Lunenburg to call a timeout.

The Blue Knights responded out of the stoppage of play with baskets by Nick Priest and Josh Moore to rebuild the advantage to five points at 30-25.

Groton-Dunstable continued to play strong offensively and scored seven of the next nine points to draw even at 32-32. Barberich hit back-to-back 15-footers to tie the game.

After Cutter and Peregoy traded three-pointers as the game remained even, Lunenburg took the lead for good on another three-point bomb by Cutter, who finished with 25 points and five rebounds.

A free throw by Moore (14 points, three rebounds) made it a four-point game, before a trey by Chris McKinney cut the lead to one, but that was as close as the Crusaders would get. Priest (six points, five rebounds) hit a big lay-up to start a 4-0 run and the closest Groton-Dunstable would get was a 45-42 on a pair of free throws by Peregoy, who led Groton-Dunstable with 20 points, to go along with six rebounds.

Moore put the game on ice with some outstanding free throw shooting in the final minutes.

Barberich played a strong game for Groton-Dunstable with 12 points and 12 rebounds while McKinney added four points and four rebounds.

David Knutson was a defensive force for Lunenburg and grabbed five rebounds.