HARVARD — When Bromfield and Ayer Shirley meet in any sport, you can be assured that both will grind it out until the very end.
The Trojans came out on top, 50-47, in a physical contest.
The game’s importance in the Mid Wach D standings was paramount for both squads, as a shot at contending for the league title hung in the balance.
Bromfield used an 11-2 first quarter run to take a 21-10 lead into the second quarter.
The Trojans used a strong defensive performance from Liam Sullivan, who is a call-up from junior varsity last season. According to second-year Bromfield head coach Ryan Kilian, he is a strong on-ball defender.
Big man, Ben Neville, paced the Trojans with 13 points. Junior captain Jake Frackiewicz had a double-double for the Trojans with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists.
“We have played three league games in a row this week,” Kilian said after the win. “We play six games in nine days. The guys kept grinding tonight and did what we asked of them — they got the job done. That huge first quarter really helped us out. By no means are we anywhere near close to being a finished product. We still need to find our identity.”
The Panthers tied the game on two occasions in the fourth quarter, but Bromfield was able to cling on.
“It was exactly the type of game we expected it to be,” Ayer Shirley head coach Justin Carlson said. “I am proud of my guys for fighting back, being down nine at half-time and tying it a couple of times. Good free throw shooting has helped us out a lot this season, but that wasn’t the case tonight.”
Bromfield’s strong first quarter was capped off with a three-point play by Jackson Harrigan, who found himself at the line after he was fouled in the act of shooting from behind the arc.
Ayer Shirley shot 58 percent from the free throw line, and it was edged on the glass, 33-27.
“Rebounding could very well be the difference tonight,” Carlson said. “If you erase that first quarter, it could very well be a different game. It’s a learning process for us. Sometimes a loss makes you a better team, too. I think this is one of those games that is just going to make us tougher.”
The Panthers whittled the Bromfield lead down to six with 6:37 remaining in the half on a brilliant feed from senior captain Christopher Patano (11 points, 10 rebounds) to Mike Davis, who kissed it off the glass for the easy deuce.
Bromfield increased its lead moments later, but once again, it was Davis who delivered for the Panthers. Davis drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to trim the Bromfield lead to five.
Bromfield junior point guard Jake Frackiewicz did not score his first basket until the end of the second quarter, when he drained a jumper from the left block to send the Trojans into half-time with a 31-22 lead.
Ayer Shirley responded out of the half with a quick flurry of baskets from its captains, Patano and John Gendron (12 points, 4 rebounds.) Patano’s hoop cut the Bromfield lead to five points, 34-29, with 3:00 remaining in the quarter.
The Panthers 6-0 run screeched to a halt when Frackiewicz hooked up with a slashing Tommy Jackovitz (7 points, 6 rebounds) under the rim.
The Panthers cut the lead late in the quarter to four, following an aggressive play by Luther Salmon, who wrestled the ball away from a heap of diving Trojans players and the Panthers called a time-out.
The stands were shaking in the fourth quarter, as Ayer Shirley showed that it was not going to waive the white flag.
Ayer Shirley weathered the Bromfield offense’s punches and waited for the opportune time to strike.
The Panthers used an 8-0 run to tie the game at 43-43, following a big steal by Mike Davis, who drove coast-to-coast and laid in the tying bucket.
However, Bromfield, albeit weary in the legs, somehow found enough energy to go on a streak of its own.
Nick Wyman sank back-to-back shots to put the Trojans up 49-45.
“I will take winning three league games in one week anytime,” Kilian said. “These close games that we have had will benefit us toward the end of the season. We have different kids doing different things.”
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.