GROTON — When the Groton-Dunstable boys basketball team hosted Westboro on Saturday night, the Crusaders had some things to be concerned about.
First, it was a “must” game for the Rangers, who entered the contest with their backs firmly planted against a wall in seeking a post-season berth.
Second, Westboro was out to gain a split in the season series after Groton-Dunstable traveled to Westboro earlier in the season and posted an impressive win.
The Crusaders found out that the Rangers were a dangerous opponents as the visitors seemed to be a step quicker in every aspect of the game as they handed the Crusaders its third consecutive loss, 60-49.
“We are doing some soul- searching as a team right now because we are in a funk,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Keith Woods. “I think in the last couple of weeks we have lost our focus during games. Our practices have been great; we just haven’t done a good job of translating that into games. It just seems we lack passion right now.”
Things started out well for the Crusaders as Pete Liljgren ignited an opening-game 6-0 run. The senior shooting guard got Senior Night off to a great start, converting an old fashioned three-point play on a driving lay-up before taking a Kyle Romich feed and connecting on a long three-pointer from the wing.
Westboro got its offense untracked and drew to within 13-10 on a single free throw by Brian Orlando, but Groton-Dunstable’s Will Peregoy doubled the lead in dramatic fashion. With .5 seconds left, Peregoy caught an inbound pass and did a 180 before launching a 35-foot shot that hit nothing but net to give Groton-Dunstable a 16-10 lead after one quarter.
The momentum didn’t carry over into the second quarter as the Rangers reeled off a 10-2 run to take their first lead of the night. Four different players scored, keyed by four points from Brian Orlando and an offensive rebound and put-back by Nick Judd that gave Westboro a 20-18 advantage.
With the score tied at 24-24, Nate Pomeroy’s three-pointer from the left sideline put the Crusaders back on top, but Westboro finished the half strongly, scoring the final six points. Andres Herdt connected on a pair of 17-foot jumpers while Judd converted a Mitch Crowder pass into a lay-up to give the Rangers a 30-27 lead heading into the locker room.
“That 20-point second quarter by Westboro killed us,” said Woods. “We played pretty good defense for most of the night, but we continued to break down in the same spots over those eight minutes.”
Neither team could take a firm grasp of momentum during the third quarter and the lead stayed between three and seven points most of the way. Center Liam Barberich came up big for the Crusaders, scoring six points in the quarter while Dan Orlando matched that number for the Rangers, including a long three-pointer from the top of the key that made it 44-36 heading to the final eight minutes of the game.
A running jumper by Andrew Reynolds pushed the lead to 11 at 54-43, but Kyle Romich responded with a pull-up 15-foot jumper and a pair of free throws to cut the lead to seven with 1:08 to play. The Rangers would not allow it to get any closer by hitting six of eight free throws in the final minute to improve to 9-9 for the season. Groton-Dunstable dropped to 11-6.
“You have to give them (Westboro) credit, they were the much more aggressive team tonight and they just wanted it more,” said Woods. “We are just having a tough time scoring points right now. Our shooting has been really bad the last three games and we need to work on that. Also, we didn’t convert at the free throw line (15 of 28 in the game) and you can’t leave points on the court. We just need to figure this out and soon.”
Peregoy (13 rebounds) and Liljegren led the Crusaders with 13 points apiece. Pomeroy added nine points off the bench while Barberich (11 boards) and Romich (seven assists and three steals) chipped in six points each.