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Ayer Shirley clinches district berth with victory over rival Bromfield


AYER — With a snowstorm swirling outside, Ayer Shirley and Bromfield played Sunday afternoon inside the newly renovated Ayer Shirley Regional High School Gymnasium.

Bromfield junior point guard Jake Frackiewicz dropped a game-high 31 points, but it was not enough as the Panthers downed the Trojans 72-65 on senior day to clinch a berth in the Division 4 Central Mass. District Tournament.

“To beat a team that you lost to earlier in the year is a special feeling,” Panthers head coach Justin Carlson said following the win. “I just like the fact that different people are stepping up each night and giving us a chance to win. It allows us to play more intense defense because we aren’t wearing down the same guys each night. Our depth is our biggest asset.”

It has been quite a week for coach Carlson and Ayer Shirley.

“It has been the best week to be a coach,” Carlson said following Sunday’s victory. “We had Cassidy Manna sign for girls’ soccer at Assumption. And now we qualified for both the Clark Tournament and the Central Mass Tournament — hopefully we can do some damage.”

The Panthers, who come in as a number 7 seed at 9-7, will face No. 2 seed Sutton out of the Southern Worcester County League Monday Feb. 16 at 2:45 p.m.DJ Richard led the charge for the Panthers in Sunday’s win with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Three other players including Jon Durben (12 points, 7 rebounds) , Christopher Patano (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Mike Davis (17 points, 3 rebounds) provided the spark for the Panthers.

“It may be buried in the stat column with Jake Frackiewicz downing 31 points, but I think Mike Davis had an exceptional night for us,” Carlson said. “Jake had a lot of points, but I still feel Mike made him work and take tough shots tonight. We have a lot of balance in our lineup. The guys are getting the job done on defense and they’re sprinting into transition well.”

Weary legs hampered the Trojans throughout the day, having played in three consecutive games due to snowouts, but yet the Trojans, who went 2-1 in that stretch, still need one more win to clinch a tournament berth.”I think it was one of those games where they outplayed us in entirety,” Bromfield head coach Ryan Kilian said. “We had great stretch runs, but over the course of the game, they were very consistent. I don’t like to make excuses for these guys, but it’s their third game in row — they need to dig deep and get some production off the bench.”The Bromfield lineup fringes heavily on the success of its point guard Frackiewicz, and the junior has put up some impressive numbers in the three-game stretch. In the last three contests Frackiewicz has averaged 30 points-per-game.

Ayer Shirley opened the game on an 8-2 run and finsihed the quarter up 19-11.The Panthers lead grew to 15 points midway through the second quarter, but three-pointers from Ross MacMahon and Frackiewicz to end the quarter capped off a 9-0 run to bring the Trojans back to within eight at 32-24.

Bromfield never led in the second half, as clutch shots from Richard, Patano, Durben and Davis helped to keep the Trojans at bay. Frackiewicz splashed down a three-pointer in the corner with 2 seconds left in the third to trim Ayer Shirley’s lead to two, 49-47.Ayer Shirley guard Jeff Gendron canned a half-court heave at the buzzer as the Bromfield bench was still celebrating the bucket from Frackiewicz to send the Panthers’ student section into a frenzy.

Ayer Shirley went into the fourth up 52-47.

Ben Neville (22 points, 18 rebounds) had some key shots under the basket to keep the game close in the fourth, but the Panthers ultimately pulled away late.

“Ben gave us a good performance tonight,” Kilian said. “I called him out at halftime and said we need somebody to step up and play in the second half. At the end of the day, they outplayed us. Ben is going to very important for us in the postseason, but we still need one more game to get in.”

Bromfield secured a playoff berth Tuesday night with a 67-56 win over Tahanto. Frackiewicz dropped 22 points, while Neville added 17 to pace the tournament-bound Trojans.

Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout:@EdNiser