By Derek Blanchette
GROTON -- After winning their opener, the Groton-Dunstable boys' basketball team has found the going difficult against a tough schedule, but progress has been made. On Sunday afternoon, the Crusaders overcame a sluggish start to battle back and hold an early fourth-quarter lead, but they couldn't hold on. Chelmsford, behind 11 three-pointers, including four in the final quarter, pulled away for a 56-50 nonleague victory.
"I am extremely pleased with the effort today, we just couldn't make enough plays down the stretch to get the win," said Groton-Dunstable coach Keith Woods. "We did a lot of good things, especially defensively, but when a team hits 11 threes, victories are going to be hard to come by. It is a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of steps to take."
Holding a 5-4 lead, the Lions reeled off seven consecutive points to create some breathing room. Adam Daniels hit a 14-foot jumper, Jackson Gamer knocked down a running 12-footer and Eric VanGelder put home a three-pointer to make it an eight-point game.
The Crusaders responded with nine of the next 12 points to get back within striking distance. Charlie Burke got things rolling with a conventional three-point play off a Corey Romich feed while Clint DeLong, Phil Dubay and Charles Hill added two points apiece as Groton-Dunstable drew within two at 15-13.
With the lead slowly slipping away, Chelmsford caught fire from the outside, using four three-pointers to highlight a 15-5 kick to end the second quarter. VanGelder was the catalyst, scoring eight points on a pair of treys and a lay up, while Gamer and Joavun Forman also connected from distance to extend the advantage to 30-18 heading into the intermission.
"We worked on a 1-3-1 zone that we put in yesterday and we took away some of the easy inside looks we had been giving up," said Woods. "But by doing that, you leave certain spots open and we didn't do a good enough job of recovering and challenging the outside shot and it killed us, especially in the second quarter."
While the three-pointer can prove key to a run, it also can lead to scoreless droughts when the touch goes cold, which was the case for the Lions early in the third quarter. The Crusaders took advantage of a six-minute field goal drought by their opponent to take their first lead of the day. A 15-2 run was highlighted by a pair of buckets by Matt Conlin and five points from Romich, whose three-pointer off a DeLong feed gave Groton-Dunstable a 33-32 edge.
Early in the fourth quarter, Romich knocked down a 10-foot jumper off an offensive rebound to give the Crusaders a 40-38 advantage. It was the last lead they would hold as Chelmsford found their rhythm from the outside and pulled away.
A Voshon Holmes trey was sandwiched in between a pair of three-pointers by Russell Olive, as a two-point deficit was quickly turned into a seven-point lead. Romich hit a pull-up three with 21 seconds left to make it a four-point game, but Olive iced the game for the Lions, hitting a pair of free throws to account for the final and drop Groton-Dunstable to 1-7 on the season.
"Corey and Matt hit some big shots for us tonight and Charlie played strong in the post," said Woods. "Our scoring was pretty balanced, which was nice, and we did a decent job on the boards. We are just looking for answers right now and trying to right the ship."
Romich (six rebounds and four assists) and Conlin (three steals) led the Crusaders with 15 points apiece, while Burke finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
VanGelder led all scorers with 18 points. Gamer added 11 points and five rebounds. Olive chipped in nine points, all in the second half, while Forman scored six points.