Gendron Steps Up to Lead Merrimack Past Memorial
by Julia Maldonado
The Manchester Memorial Crusaders paid a visit to serious Division I title contenders, the Merrimack Tomahawks on Friday night, but we unable to get into any sort of offensive rhythm due in large part to the collective defensive effort by Merrimack. Merrimack came out on top, 44-28 following a second half scoring surge. With junior standout Dimitri Floras sidelined nursing a broken wrist, the Tomahawks found inspiration from an overall solid performance from senior forward Tyler Gendron (pictured left) , who finished the game with 22 points, three rebounds and two blocks.
The game opened with six consecutive turnovers, with neither team maintaining ball possession, or even taking a shot. Memorial seemed to have an edge over Merrimack with a 2-3 zone defense that denied all lanes to the basket, and also on the offensive end by catching the Tomahawks on their heels and causing them to pick up five quick fouls in the first few minutes. It took the home team just over five and a half minutes to finally get on the board, when Tyler Gendron was fouled on a made layup and completed the 3-point play.
The teams scored a combined nine points after the first quarter, with Merrimack leading 5-4. That changed in the second quarter, as players from both teams began finding the bottom of the net and exchanging a series of baskets, keeping the game within 4 points throughout the quarter, Memorial’s underclassmen Oumaru Kante and Tyler Kelly connected on various occasions and scored a combined eight points in the quarter. However, Merrimack’s Gendron brothers, Tyler and his younger brother Eric, responded to the pressure, and together scored 11 points to keep the Tomahawks ahead 21-18 going into the half.
As Tyler explained, Floras’s absence has had a noticeable impact on the team, but nevertheless he and his teammates have been able to adjust their game and continue the success that the team has enjoyed thus far this season prior to the injury that has taken their leading scorer out of the rotation for roughly three weeks.
“(Dimitri’s) injury is definitely something to overcome,” said Tyler Gendron. “Eric (Gendron) has to bring the ball up the court every time now that Dimitri’s out. He’s definitely got a lot more pressure on him. It’s changed for me too, having to be the person to score the most, but it’s something I’ve gotten used to.”
Tyler lived up to the high expectations he put on himself, especially in the third quarter, during which he scored eight points on his own, and also created shots for his teammates. More importantly for him though, was the team’s defensive effort that he claims was the reason they were able to get their offense running successfully. Merrimack had two blocks, both by Gendron, outrebounded Memorial 6-2 and held the Crusaders to only two points in the entire third quarter.
In the second half, Merrimack dominated defensively, which allowed them to play the transition offense they prefer.
“That’s what Coach (Tim Goodridge) has us work on in practice,” said Gendron. “We have a fast break where everyone runs in separate lanes. We make steals, and we’re fast breaking -getting the rebound and going. That’s definitely when we are most effective.”
Memorial’s fate was ultimately determined by turnovers (15 total). While some came from unforced errors, the majority were results of pressure from Merrimack players who played tightly on their men on and off the ball. Tyler Gendron noted that while Memorial tried screens and cuts, Merrimack displayed “great team defense” marked by improved communication on the screens and switching.
Memorial was able to add eight points to their tally in the fourth quarter, but Merrimack held on for a 44-28 win, which earns them a 10-2 record on the season. With the loss, Memorial now holds a 6-5 record.
With all of the injuries we have, being able to win, especially how we did tonight - stepping up on the defensive end and letting in less than 30 points,” concluded Gendron.” It’s definitely big. Everyone’s stepping up with Dimitri out and working hard at practice. Everyone knows their role now with the injuries.”
Merrimack’s leading scorers on the night were Gendron (22 points), junior Brad Jerry (6 points), senior Jackson King (5 points), senior Bryan Courtemanche (5 points), and sophomore Eric Gendron (5 points). Manchester Memorial top scorers were junior Zoubel Iradukunda (8 points), sophomore Tyler Kelly (6 points), and junior Tong Akat (5 points.)
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