GROTON — After an instant classic in their first meeting, the Groton-Dunstable and North Middlesex boys basketball team tried to one up themselves on Friday night. The chaos that ensued might have achieved that. On a night that featured bloody noses, technical fouls and bodies strewn all over the floor, the Crusaders emerged victorious, taking a 58-49 decision in overtime.
“This was a gut check for us and we managed to pass it,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Keith Woods. “We know how good they are, even without Kevin Marciano and we knew this would be a battle. It was an extremely physical, hard-fought high school game and we made just a few more plays down the stretch.”
For Patriots coach Erik Dellasanta, it was a night of missed opportunities. “I thought that we had a number of chances during the end of regulation to make a play that could have won it for us, but we just couldn’t get it done,” said Dellasanta. “Our defense throughout the night was outstanding, but offensively, we just could get that key bucket when we needed it.”
In the first half, neither team could grab control as the lead never went higher than five. A 15-foot jumper by Francis Phillips off a Steve Valacer look gave North Middlesex a 24-19 lead with two minutes to play in the second quarter, but it didn’t last. Behind five points from Liam Barberich, the Crusaders closed out the first half on a 9-0 run to grab a 28-24 lead at the break.
The teams played an even third quarter, both putting 12 points on the board. Kyle McDermott led theß way for the Patriots with seven points while Barberich chipped in four points for Groton-Dunstable, who held a 40-36 lead going into the final quarter.
North Middlesex reeled off a 10-2 run over the first five minutes. The big shot came from Phillips, who buried a three-point off a Valacer feed to make it 43-42. ßß
After scoring only two points in the first six minutes of the final quarter, the Crusaders offense was given a gift in the form of an untimely technical foul. Will Peregoy drove to the hoop and was fouled hard, having to leave the game with a bloody nose. During the discussion afterwards, the Patriots were assessed a technical foul. Ben Chilcoat hit one of two free throws in place of Peregoy and Barberich connected on both technical foul shots to make it 46-45. A single free throw by Romich tied the game at 46-all with 44 seconds to play. Both teams had chances in the final seconds but couldn’t convert as the game headed to overtime.
In the extra period, Groton-Dunstable’s offense awoke from its slumber and put the game away early. Romich hit on a driving lay-up, then set up Honkonen on a trey before Peregoy hit on a short jumper to make it 53-46. A three-point play by David Lorden drew North Middlesex within four, but they got no closer. Barberich hit on a lay-up while adding a pair of free throws to close the scoring as the Crusaders improved to 11-3.
Barberich led Groton-Dunstable with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Romich finished with 15 points, 10 boards, five assists and three steals. Honkonen chipped in nine points while Phil Dubay contributed four points and six rebounds.
“Liam had another fantastic game and did a great job of scoring on the inside and from the outside,” said Woods. “Kyle came up big down the stretch and Aaron knocked down a couple of big shots for us. We did a nice job on the boards (48-37 advantage) and our defense was strong, especially at the end of the fourth and in the overtime. This is just a good win for us and we can build from it.”ßß
McDermott paced North Middlesex with 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Phillips added 10 points off the bench. Lorden contributed seven points, nine boards and two blocks while Valacer finished with seven rebounds and seven assists.
“We lost our composure a little bit and didn’t have a great night from the line (12 of 25) and that was the difference,” said Dellasanta. “I thought the effort on both sides tonight was outstanding. This was a great game played by two teams that gave an amazing effort. I wish we just could have converted on a couple of chances. But we will move on from this and we are still looking for that 10th win to clinch our post-season spot.”