LUNENBURG — It seemed like Monday night’s trip to Lunenburg would be refreshing for the North Middlesex boys basketball team, a night away from the rigors of MidWach A. But refreshing turned to tested as the Blue Knights battled from first whistle to last. In the end, despite playing without an ill Drew Dion, the Patriots had enough firepower to prevail, 66-56.
That firepower came mostly from two sources. Senior center Matt Foley was a tour de force, especially in the second half, finishing with 23 points and 22 rebounds. Foley battled relentlessly inside the paint on both ends of the court. Complementing Foley was junior Kyle McDermott, who finished with 19 points, five rebounds and three steals. His production was balanced in all ways, from half to half and both from the inside and outside.
“Matt played really well for us and he was in the middle of the mix all night,” said North Middlesex coach Erik Dellasanta. “This was an outstanding high school basketball game. It was physical and Lunenburg played hard. We are learning to adapt to the role of the hunted, and tonight Lunenburg really came at us.”
The Blue Knights sent early notice that they weren’t bowing down to its Division 1 opponents, keyed by Josh Trainque (17 points, four rebounds, two steals). Trainque scored his team’s first seven points for a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter. Lunenburg complemented Trainque’s scoring with hustling defense, making the North Middlesex offense work for everything it got.
Point guard Kevin Marciano finished off a drive and added a free throw for a conventional three-point play to put the Patriots on top 9-7.
Lunenburg would get even on Troy Cutter’s (14 points, six rebounds), and a couple of minutes later the quarter ended with the teams tied at 12-12.
Trailing 19-18 midway through the second quarter, the Patriots put together a mini-run to establish some breathing room. David Lorden (six points, seven rebounds) finished off a fast break with a lay-up, and McDermott drained a 15-footer before a Marciano drive made it 24-19.
But Lunenburg wouldn’t go away, battling back to tie the game at 26-26 on a short jumper by Gregory Abare, before Marciano’s free throw sent the Patriots to intermission with a slim 27-26 advantage.
The third quarter was very much the same as the teams battled back and forth. Cutter drained a three-pointer to start the scoring and put the Blue Knights on top 29-27.
North Middlesex came out with a different mindset after halftime, looking to penetrate the lane and find big men underneath the basket. Marciano did it to perfection, connecting twice with Foley to set up lay-ups, the second of which put the Patriots back on top 33-32.
“Kevin played a fantastic game,” said Dellasanta. “He did a great job of getting into the middle of the lane and distributing.”
But the stubborn Blue Knights refused to go away, and Ryan Corcoran (11 points) put together a mini-run, scoring five consecutive points as Lunenburg took a 37-33 advantage with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Patriots continued to try to work the ball inside with positive results and finished the quarter with an 11-1 run to build a 44-38 advantage heading to the fourth quarter. Scott Cavanaugh and Marciano scored on drives, Foley hit a lay-up after taking a pass from Cavanaugh and hit a pair of free throws, before McDermott capped the scoring with a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Lunenburg fired its final salvo to start the fourth quarter, keyed by Trainque. He drained a three-pointer, then hit a lay-up after taking a pass from Priest to make it a one-point game.
With the game hanging in the balance, Foley came up big in the most meaningful run of the contest, hitting five free throws in an 8-0 run which built the lead to 52-43. Schulze shook off foul trouble to add a vital three-pointer as the Patriots were finally able to create breathing room.
The closest Lunenburg was able to get over the final minutes was seven points at 61-54, but solid free throw shooting down the stretch by McDermott and Schulze held the Blue Knights at bay.
“This was a tough test tonight and we really had to work hard for the win,” said Dellasanta. “Over our final games we will be working on details and our execution both offensively and defensively.”