LUNENBURG — Prior to the championship game of the Lunenburg Boys Summer Basketball League, Leominster was practicing its dunks while North Middlesex watched the finals of the junior varsity league. Once the game started, North Middlesex did a solid job of neutralizing Leominster’s quickness and allowed no dunks as it reigned with a solid 53-44 victory.
Kyle McDermott, known well for his three-point bombing, struggled from behind the arc in the game for North Middlesex, but reverted to plan B. Using his quickness on drives to the basket and defensively with steals that led directly to points, McDermott paced the win with 27 points, six rebounds and five steals.
Also instrumental to the victory was the play of Stephen Valacer. He scored just a single point in the contest, but continually found open teammates for easy baskets, finishing with five rebounds and seven assists. He was a key in the transition game, which hurt Leominster throughout. Another factor was the outstanding help defense North Middlesex played. When a Leominster player slipped past one defender another stepped in his way.
On this night, Leominster players played in anonymity, all but one of the Blue Devils playing without numbers on their shirts, a nightmare for referees, scorekeepers and sports writers.
North Middlesex stunned Leominster with an early burst by aggressively taking the ball to the basket. Kevin Marciano (six points, two rebounds, two steals) finished off a drive and added two free throws to make it 4-0, before a pair of drives by McDermott upped the lead to 8-0 and forced a Leominster timeout.
The Blue Devils responded out of the stoppage in play, shutting down the North Middlesex offense for more than four minutes and scoring nine points to move in front 9-8.
The teams played on even terms over the next eight minutes as Leominster held a 17-16 lead, when North MIddlesex opened up some ground with a mini-burst. McDermott scored eight consecutive points to build a 24-17 advantage. The senior sniper hit a 15-footer, a pair of free throws before finishing off back-to-back lay-ups, the second off a sensational pass from Valacer.
Leominster capped the scoring off in the half with a three-pointer and a free throw to slice the lead to 24-21 at intermission.
The teams traded baskets early in the second half as the lead ranged from one to three points. North MIddlesex led 28-27 when Marciano finished off a drive, Lorden hit a lay-up at the end of a fast break off a pretty pass from Valacer, and McDermott hit a pair of free throws to build the lead to seven at 34-27.
Leominster refused to go away and scored nine of the next 12 points to draw to within 37-36, setting the stage for North Middlesex’s C.J Flavin to step up. Flavin, who finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, tipped in an errant shot, scored on a tough drive and added a fast break lay-up, off a lead pass from Marciano to fuel a timely 10-0 run to put North MIddlesex in command at 47-36.
Once again Leominster answered, sandwiching a pair of 15-footers around a follow-up basket, to make it 47-42 and force a North MIddlesex timeout with 2:20 remaining.
Needing a basket, Valacer struck again, finding McDermott for a lay-up to build the lead to seven. After Leominster answered with a 15-footer, another unselfish play by North Middlesex put the game out of reach. Flavin drove and found Lorden alone under the basket for a lay-up to seal the deal.
Lorden contributed inside the paint in the victory, finishing with seven points, 10 rebounds and two steals. One of the keys to victory was North MIddlesex’s ability to create turnovers, as 14 steals led to points in transition.
Leominster used its leaping ability to own a 45-35 advantage off the boards.