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NHIAA Boys' Basketball: Memorial keeps its cool

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 24. 2018 2:13AM

MANCHESTER — All the success the Manchester Memorial boys’ basketball team has had this season hasn’t come without some sobering moments. Most of those instances deal with a lack of composure in key situations, which has burned the Crusaders on some occasions.

Friday proved to be a night when Memorial stayed cool under pressure as it held off Exeter 70-65 at Bronstein Gymnasium. The Crusaders (11-4) were down four points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before making an 8-0 run to take the lead for good. Exeter (11-4) did crawl back to within one possession on two occasions, but Memorial’s disciplined offensive approach and 14-of-15 shooting from the free-throw line in the final quarter paved the way to a win.

“That Bishop Guertin game was a wake-up call for us,” Memorial coach Danny Bryson said. The Crusaders lost in overtime to BG last Friday due to unruly game management in the final minutes of regulation, where they led by as many as six points with a minute to play. “We had two really good days of practice and focused on owning the possession more while getting good shots, which I though we got all night.

“We played poised with some great energy and effort. Credit to our guys for stepping up for the big game.”

Memorial let an 11-point lead slip away in the third quarter and watched Exeter score the first two buckets of the fourth quarter to get its first lead of the game. Instead of folding, Memorial remained steadfast and calm on offense while locking down defensively. Consecutive stops spearheaded by Tyson Thomas yielded two transition buckets to put the Crusaders ahead for good.

Upon earning the lead, it was all about free throws the rest of the way for Memorial. Elvin Barbosa hit eight of the Crusaders’ fourth-quarter freebies, which came while Memorial tried to generate buckets from in close or with Exeter fouling to retain possession faster.

“We’ve been working on free throws all along, and what better time to start sinking them here at the end of the year,” Bryson said. “There is just this confidence from the line with these guys and we’re trusting the offense more and more as well.”

Barbosa finished with 10 points overall while Manny Alisandro led the way for the Crusaders with 19. Memorial also had Mike Roumraj (14) and Jake Santiago (12) also registered double-digit points.

Ryan Grijalva paced Exeter with 24 points and Cody Morissette followed with 23.

The Blue Hawks played catchup from the onset before finally drawing even in the third quarter. Grijalva and Morissette combined for 18 of Exeter’s 25 third-quarter points, which came while shredding through Memorial’s ghost-like defense.

“We told our guys that it’s really hard to get down 10 to a team like this on the road and try to work back,” Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. “Really nice to see the guys get back and even get the lead, but we knew this was going to be a battle. That’s a good team.”

Memorial held Exeter’s top two scoring options, Cody Morissette and his freshman brother Josh, to just five points in the opening half, which helped Memorial to a 34-25 lead at the break. While Cody Morissette spouted off in the second half, Josh Morissette was held scoreless for the entire game. The focus on the Morissettes proved crucial in the fourth quarter, where Bryson simply asked his team to revert to its defensive plan from the opening half.

“It was working there (in the first half), so I didn’t need them to switch anything,” Bryson said. “In their heads, I think they just wanted to take away a little too much. We really just got back to what we went over and practice and with the game plan, which was to focus on the Morissettes.”

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