FITCHBURG -- Games can not always be won in the first half, but they can be lost.
Such was the case last Wednesday night in the Monty Tech Summer League semi-finals. The North Middlesex boys' basketball team could not get anything going over the first 20 minutes, scoring just seven points and finding their way into a 12-point deficit. In the second half, the Patriots battled back but could not overcome the early hole as Mahar claimed a 42-35 victory.
The story of the night was the difference in style of play North Middlesex could not solve the Senators' 3-2 zone defense, settling for long jumpers that weren't falling. Mahar was aggressive throughout, constantly taking the ball to the basket, attacking every chance they got, leading to a 24-6 advantage in free throw attempts -- the difference in the game.
After falling behind 4-0 early, the Patriots had a brief burst of life to draw even. Tyler Thomas got NM on the board, knocking down a 12-foot jumper off a feed from Taylor DeLuca, who then converted an offensive rebound into a lay-up to make it 4-4.
Over the remainder of the half, the Patriots went ice cold and the Senators took advantage with a 15-3 run. Brendan Woodard was the catalyst, scoring seven points on a long three-pointer, driving lay-up and a pair of free throws. Josef Whitman showed off a solid inside-outside game, putting home a lay-up off an offensive rebound and knocking down a pull-up 17-foot jumper. When Larry Adams hit a running
In the opening minutes of the second half, the lead grew to 14 at 23-9, but North Middlesex finally found their footing and came up with a 12-4 run to get back into the game. Bobby Larsen got things started with a three-pointer before Francis Phillips caught fire, hitting for nine points, all on three-pointers, the last of which was set up by Thomas and cut the lead to six at 27-21.
Feeling momentum slipping away, the Senators attacked the basket and came up with six unanswered points. A Whitman lay-up was sandwiched around four free throws from Woodard, who finished the game 10 of 12 from the line, as the Mahar lead was extended to 12 at 33-21.
DeLuca came up with a driving lay-up and pair of free throws while Mark Rossi knocked down a three-pointer off a Sam Heller dish to get the Patriots within eight at 36-28, but it wouldn't get closer until the closing seconds. Rossi hit another three shortly before the buzzer to account for the final as Mahar advanced on to the championship game.
Phillips led North Middlesex with nine points and five rebounds. DeLuca added seven points while Rossi chipped in six. Larsen had a solid night with three points, eight boards and two assists while Heller hauled in eight rebounds.
Woodard paced the Senators with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists. Whitman contributed 11 points, five boards and two steals while Sam Evans added four points and four blocked shots.