GROTON -- Sometimes it is difficult to figure the exact reason why a team produces a win. For the Groton-Dunstable boys' basketball team, Friday night was not one of those times. The backcourt of Corey Romich and Matt Conlin joined forces for a big night, finishing with 46 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists between them to carry the Crusaders to a 74-61 victory over Marlboro in Mid-Wach B action.
"Tonight, we put together a solid effort, especially on the offensive side with good ball movement and shot selection," said Groton-Dunstable coach Keith Woods. "I thought Matt had the best game of his career tonight and really had it going from the outside. Corey did a great job of running the offense and working his way to the basket. This was the type of offensive game that I know this team has inside of them and it led us to a win."
After battling to an 11-10 lead over the first five minutes of action, the Crusaders reeled off a 9-1 run to close out the opening quarter. Charles Hill got things rolling with a layup while Phil Dubay provided a lift off the bench with a pair of layups. When Romich knocked down a long three-pointer off a Clint DeLong feed, Groton-Dunstable had extended their lead to nine at 20-11 after one.
Romich set up Conlin for a trey before knocking down a pull-up 15-foot jumper to push the lead to 15 at 31-16 midway through the second quarter, but the Panthers clawed their way back into the game with a 16-4 run. Proppy Iyayi was the catalyst, with eight points on a pair of 12-foot jumpers and two layups. Mike Yates added four points, including a running 10-foot jumper that cut the lead to three at 35-32 with a minute to go in the half as the Crusaders had to settle for a 38-35 advantage heading into the break.
"Our defense is still a work in progress right now," said Woods. "We did some good things, especially in the first quarter, but we had a number of breakdowns in the second. Execution wise, we have to get better at knowing where to be defensively."
The game remained tight early in the third quarter until Groton-Dunstable came up with another kick to gain some breathing room. Holding a 45-42 edge, the Crusaders scored 13 of the quarter's final 17 points, sparked by the long ball. Conlin knocked down a pair of jumpers from beyond the arc while Romich added a trey and pair of assists during the spurt. In the closing seconds, Conlin kicked the ball to the right wing to a waiting Romich, who drained a three-pointer to make it 58-46.
Hopes of a comeback by Marlboro were dashed as Groton-Dunstable converted their chances from the free line in the final quarter. Despite hitting just two field goals, the Crusaders kept the lead in double digits throughout by hitting 11 of their 15 free throw attempts. Romich went 6 for 8, Scott Csaplar was 3 for 4 while Conlin capped his career night by hitting two free-throws and adding his fifth trey of the night to ice the game.
"What I like about what I am seeing is that we are realizing our mistakes and correcting them each time we take the court," said Woods. "We are nowhere near where we need to be in certain aspects, but the kids are working hard and you can see the improvement. There are a lot of things we can get better at, but I know this group will work hard to improve in those areas."
Romich led the way for Groton-Dunstable with 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Conlin finished with a career-high 22 points to go with seven boards. Dubay (eight rebounds) and Charlie Burke added six points apiece while Charles Hill (two steals) and Csaplat (two blocked shots) chipped in five points and four boards each.
Jacob Goulet paced the Panthers with 19 points. Iyayi (15 rebounds and three blocks) and Yates contributed 10 points each while Jose De La Cruz added nine points, four rebounds and eight assists.