Evidently nobody told the Pinkerton Academy and Merrimack High boys’ basketball squads that the Division I tournament wasn’t slated to start until nearly a week after their match-up in Derry last Friday night, March 4.
The Astros and Tomahawks played a contest that had every ounce of intensity that one would expect from a tourney contest, and the visitors ended up celebrating like they’d just won a post-season battle at the conclusion of their fiery, 69-68 overtime victory over Pinkerton.
The prolific offensive machine that the Astros have become known as throughout the 2015-16 campaign – especially during the second halves of games – sputtered rather noticeably during the third period of that game. But veteran coach Peter Rosinski’s PA crew rebounded in quarter four and had the battle tied up at the end of regulation time. But Merrimack ended up being that one, slim point better than PA on the evening.
It was the final regular season contest for both squads and Senior Night for the home-standing Astros. Pinkerton finished the regular season at 14-4 and with a modest 3-2 mark in its last five contests.
Merrimack coach Tim Goodrich’s guys wound up at 12-6 overall in tough Division I and ended a short losing skid of two games with the overtime victory in Derry.
Based on the way play went through much of the first half, it looked as though Pinkerton was bent on claiming a solid victory.
The hosts led 16-8 after one quarter and 33-22 at the half, although the Astros led by as many as 18 points several times in the second quarter before Merrimack ended that stanza with an impressive 9-2 run.
Known for averaging more than 20 points in third quarters, the home team had every intention of opening its lead back up in stanza number three. Instead, it was Merrimack – powered by impressive sophomore Ian Cummings – which netted 21 points and held PA to just 10 to leave the score knotted up at 43-43 going into quarter four.
Cummings, who finished the first half with just three points on free throws, tallied 18 during the remainder of the game and sank four huge three-point shots in the third quarter alone to pace his team.
Frustratingly, the Astros struggled mightily with their shooting in that third period, hitting just one of their last nine shots from the floor during those eight minutes.
The lead bounced back and forth through most of the fourth quarter, with Tommy Romick putting PA up at 64-62 with a bucket with just 38 ticks of the game clock remaining.
However, Cummings sank a floater from the free throw line with seven seconds left to knot the score back up at 64-64, and when Matt Rizzo’s jumper narrowly missed going down at the buzzer it was on to OT.
Merrimack’s Cummings knocked home another trey for the first points of the overtime stanza to put his team up 67-64, and the visitors wouldn’t lose the lead the rest of the way in eventually winning by that one tiny but significant point.
Pinkerton had eight players net points in the tough defeat, and that octet was paced by Romick with 20. Brennan Morris snared 17, and Rizzo collected a dozen on one difficult, losing night for the Astros.
The Astros learned Monday morning that they had snared the second seed in the D-I tourney pairings, and they drew number 15 Trinity of Manchester in round one. That contest was played in Derry Wednesday evening, March 9 after Nutfield News press time.
Caprion: Astro veteran standout Tommy Romick attempts to drive down the lane during his squad’s regular season-ending loss to Merrimack late last week.
Photo by Chris Pantazis