By Ed Niser
AYER — Ayer Shirley rattled off a pair of league wins against Narragansett and Murdock heading into Tuesday’s game with West Boylston. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it was West Boylston who played the complete game as Ayer Shirley fell 66-49.
Ayer Shirley overcame a 14-2 West Boylston run in the first quarter but it was unable to stop the Lions’ second flurry in the second half.
Senior Jon Durben scored a game-high 20 points and had six rebounds for Ayer Shirley. Ben Hebert added 11 points — nine of which came from three-point range. Jeff Gendron (8 points) rounded out the top-three scorers for the hosts.
The Panthers fall to 2-2 in the Mid Wach D and 3-5 overall.
West Boylston’s Max O’Day and Gyles Sapong each had 15 points to lead the Lions (5-0 Mid Wach D, 8-1) to their fifth league win.
The week does not get any easier for Ayer Shirley as it travels to league-leading Maynard Friday.
“We came into tonight with a lot of confidence after winning a couple league games,” said Ayer Shirley head coach Justin Carlson. “We thought we had a good chance tonight and things did not go our way. We didn’t take care of opportunities tonight.”
Ayer Shirley was 6 of 11 from the free throw line — something the Panthers need to clean up heading into Friday.
“There were times where we needed to hit free throws and could not make them,” Carlson said. “We couldn’t hit layups consistently.
West Boylston did a good job locating their guys in the corner for three. They were tough to defend tonight.”
Ayer Shirley found itself trailing 14-2 five minutes into the opening quarter. The shots simply would not fall for the Panthers who shot 2 for 8 from the field.
Despite its woes inside the arc, Ayer Shirley clawed into the West Boylston lead with a pair of three-pointers from Ben Hebert and a buzzer-beating trifecta from Jon Durben to bring the Panthers within four at 19-15.
West Boylston opened the second quarter with a 12-2 run to nullify the damage Ayer Shirley inflicted late in the first.
The Panthers slipped behind by the largest margin of the first half when West Boylston’s Peyton Quaterane knocked down a corner three to push the lead to 38-25.
The Lions took a 41-28 lead into the half.
West Boylston led by as much as 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“West Boylston just did a good job at keeping us off balance,” Carlson said. “They had the ability to score in a variety of ways. Our guys know that we didn’t do a good enough job tonight in most phases of basketball. Hopefully, the outcome will be a bit different the next time we meet them.”
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