TOWNSEND — The Groton-Dunstable and North Middlesex boys basketball teams took different paths to the final game of the North Middlesex Christmas Tournament. The Crusaders held off a late charge by Oakmont, while the Patriots dismantled an overmatched Lunenburg squad.
On Thursday night, the Patriots continued to play excellent basketball with a convincing, nearly wire-to-wire 66-49 win.
Kyle McDermott turned in a strong effort to lead the way, grabbing an all-tournament berth with 21 points, four rebounds and two steals. Teammate Drew Dion captured Most Valuable Player honors, scoring six points, grabbing 12 rebounds and making three steals. Mark Schulze (11 points, five steals) and Matt Foley (10 points, six rebounds, two steals) also scored in double figures as the Patriots improved to 3-1 on the season.
“We knew that Groton-Dunstable had two good big men and is a disciplined team,” said North Middlesex coach Erik Dellasanta. “We needed to bring our A game. We were aggressive on defense and did a good job of pushing the ball offensively. Drew didn’t score much but he is willing to do what it takes to win, and Kyle becomes a better offensive player when he defends and rebounds. Drew deserved the MVP Award. We are doing things better and we are progressing the way we should.”
“We are a young team,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Keith Woods. “We made inexperienced mistakes and 28 turnovers killed us. We are getting good effort out of the kids but we are still trying to figure out everyone’s roles. I love the heart the kids show, but turnovers, unforced errors and mental breakdowns killed us.”
The teams played on even terms over the first 5:30 of the game. North MIddlesex held a 9-5 lead, but baskets by Liam Barberich (five points, five rebounds, three steals) and Kyle Romich (five points, 11 rebounds, three steals) tied the game at 9-9.
Keyed by strong play off the boards by Dion, the Patriots finished the first quarter strongly, taking a 19-11 lead with a 10-2 closing burst. The Patriots used a lightning-quick transition game to advantage. McDermott had three baskets during the run, including a pair of fast break lay-ups while Foley and Kevin Marciano (eight points, three steals) finished off drives.
Groton-Dunstable dug in defensively to open the second quarter, allowing just a free throw over the first three minutes. A short jumper by Nate Pomeroy (13 points, three rebounds) and a fast break lay-up by Will Peregoy (nine points) drew the Crusaders to within 20-15.
But the Patriots turned things around in a hurry. Dion hit a pair of free throws, Foley hit a lay-up after taking a pass from Dion, and Schulze drained a three-pointer to make it 27-15.
David Lorden converted after hauling down an offensive rebound to extend the lead to 14, before Groton-Dunstable scored five of the final seven points in the half to trail 31-20 at intermission.
Three times in the third quarter, the Crusaders sliced the lead to nine points. Peter Liljegren scored on a drive to make it 31-22. Pomeroy’s strong drive made it 33-24, and another Pomeroy drive made it 37-28.
At that point, the Patriots landed the knockout punch with an 11-3 burst to build a 48-31 advantage. Marciano led the way with a pair of drives while Schulze buried a three-pointer, McDermott converted a steal into a lay-up, and Lorden hit a pair of free throws.
Groton-Dunstable never quit and continued to play hard, slicing the lead to 10 to open the fourth quarter when Liljegren nailed a three-pointer. North Middlesex quickly turned the momentum around when Schulze stole the ball and made a lay-up, and McDermott finished with a fast break lay-up for a 57-43 lead. The Patriots maintained a double digit advantage the rest of the way.
The Patriots’ running game was a key element of the win as both strong defense (16 steals) and a 31-25 edge off the boards fueled the transition game.
“We now head into our tough league schedule and Algonquin will be a big challenge for us,” said Dellasanta. “The kids on this team have been ready when called upon and we want to try to wear teams down with our depth.”