AYER -- Ayer-Shirley (1-2) found itself in foul trouble early in the game, and could not seem to find an answer for the Blue Knights' menacing presence on the glass. Lunenburg (2-0) out-rebounded Ayer-Shirley by an astounding margin of 47-21.
An 11-0 run by the Blue Knights midway through the fourth quarter doomed Ayer-Shirley's hopes at a last-minute comeback. The Panthers fell to Lunenburg 67-60 on Friday night in front of a packed Ayer-Shirley gymnasium.
"We were short a couple guys, and were only playing about eight deep tonight," said Ayer-Shirley head coach Justin Carlson. "Getting into foul trouble early really took us out of our rhythm. But I think we were able to fight through it and make it a game at halftime."
Ayer-Shirley senior captain Tyler Gaetz made it evident from the opening tipoff that he intended on having a big game. Gaetz knocked down two three-point missiles in the first quarter to keep the Panthers in the game. Ayer-Shirley was down five following a looping layup by star Blue Knight's forward Kacy Thiapavong to extend the score to 12-7.
Gaetz broke out his calling card and dialed up a deep three-point shot from the left elbow with 52.4 seconds remaining in the quarter to cut Lunenburg's lead to 12-10.
"Gaetz's shots were within our offense," said Carlson. "He kept us in the game not just offensively, but on defense as well."
Lunenburg and Ayer-Shirley traded baskets for much of the second quarter. The Panthers trailed for the entirety of the second quarter, but they managed to level the score before the halftime whistle sounded. The Blue Knight's Bobby Colgate ripped down the rebound following a Georges Tiery miss with under a minute left to go in the half.
Ayer-Shirley senior captain Ryan Goodman picked his pocket and ran for a coast-to-coast layup to tie the game at 25-25 with five seconds left in the half. Kyle Levansailor blocked a potential buzzer-beater to send both teams into the locker room tied at 25-25.
Junior center Anthony Burwell was rather quiet in the first half, as he was limited to just two points after getting into early foul trouble.
Twenty seconds into the third quarter, Burwell knocked down a jump shot from the right side to give the Panthers their first lead since early in the first quarter, 27-25. As soon as the Panthers took the lead, Lunenburg tied it right back up. Ayer-Shirley had a tough time sustaining runs in the third quarter.
Nathan Nash knocked down a three-pointer from the left side with less than two minutes remaining in the third-quarter, giving the Blue Knights a 39-36 lead, and his teammate's made sure that they would keep it for good. Walker knocked down a Barnum & Bailey-caliber circus layup to cut the Lunenburg lead to three with 26 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Blue Knights went on an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, keyed by back to back three-point baskets from Marc Poirier and Colgate. Andrew Sanders capped off the run, knocking down two from the charity stripe to give the Blue Knights their biggest lead of the night at 60-44 with 4:20 remaining in the game.
"We didn't get back into transition a couple times, and they got a few easy buckets at the end of the third quarter that made it difficult for us to overcome," said Carlson.
Gaetz and Ryan Richard helped spark a 9-0 Panthers' run in the latter half of the fourth quarter. Gaetz knocked down a pair of three-pointers during the run. Ayer-Shirley waited to foul until there were just 43.5 seconds left in the game. Greg Abare knocked down both free throws to ice the game.
With 22.8 seconds left Ryan Goodman knocked down a three from about 28 feet out to round out the scoring at 67-60. Gaetz led all scorers with 25 points and he was five-of-six from three-point range. Despite getting in foul trouble early, Burwell finished the game with 14 points. Abare led Lunenburg in scoring with 15 points in the win.