|Led by a strong group of seniors including Ethan Cook (40), Gavin Keough (34), Tyler LeClerc (3), and Logan Higgins (24), Groton-Dunstable held off the Algonquin Tomahawks, 57-51, to remain undefeated.|
NORTHBOROUGH, Mass.- The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders kept their undefeated season intact by taking down the Algonquin Tomahawks, 57-51, on Friday night at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough.
The Crusaders (7-0) came out firing, hitting shots on their first two possessions of the game. Senior guard Tyler LeClerc scored 8 of his game-high 18 points in the first period. LeClerc had as many first-quarter points as the Tomahawks (3-4), helping Groton-Dunstable grab a 20-8 lead after eight minutes of play.
“(LeClerc) is a playmaker for us,” Groton-Dunstable head coach Greg Gillette said about his starting guard. “He can beat people off the dribble, knock down shots… he’s a skilled player.”
The Tomahawks responded by finding their groove on the offensive end in the second quarter. Senior Dustin Branson, who finished with 10 points and 15 boards, scored 4 points in the first 49 seconds of the second period.
A three-pointer by senior captain Nick Casapulla and a free throw by Adam Genga (6 points, 5 rebounds) capped off a 13-4 Algonquin run that cut the Crusader advantage to 24-23.
A couple of buckets by LeClerc allowed Groton-Dunstable to respond with a 7-2 run of their own, giving the Crusaders a 31-26 edge at halftime.
The Tomahawks continued to hang tough in the third quarter. After a rebound, putback, and free throw by Crusader starting center Alexander Platt (5 points, 5 rebounds) gave Groton-Dunstable a 36-29 lead, Algonquin ended the third quarter on an 8-3 run. The Crusaders clung to a 2-point lead as the fourth quarter began.
The fourth quarter started with a bang. Algonquin sophomore Kyle Henderson, who scored 9 of his 13 points in the last eight minutes, drilled a deep three-pointer on the final period’s opening possession, giving Algonquin its first lead of the game, 40-39.
On the Tomahawks' next possession, sophomore Nick Redden (10 points) hit a deep three pointer.
Groton-Dunstable star Gavin Keough (16 points, 8 rebounds) joined the three-point fest, cutting the Algonquin lead to 43-42.
Keough managed to reach his average point total, despite not having his best offensive game of the season.
“I was struggling to get my shot, but I kept fighting,” Keough said after the win.
“Tonight, (Keough) was off, but he didn’t really let it get to him,” Coach Gillette said of Keough, adding that the Crusaders continued putting the ball in Keough’s hands, because it is important to trust a team’s best players, even if they are having an off night.
“(Keough) willed that victory towards the end,” Gillette added.
After a free throw and a bucket by Henderson gave the Tomahawks a 2-point lead, free throws by LeClerc and Keough gave Groton-Dunstable a 47-46 lead.
Henderson completed an old-fashioned three-point play, allowing Algonquin to regain a 2-point edge. After LeClerc and Redden exchanged baskets, Groton-Dunstable senior Ethan Cook (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) hit two free throws to tie the game at 51 with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The next four points belonged to LeClerc, as Groton-Dunstable regained the lead they had all night until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Two free throws by Keough clinched the victory for the Crusaders.
Groton-Dunstable gutted out this game. After a fast start, they faced adversity throughout the contest, but they responded well and found a way to come out on top.
Coach Gillette attributed his team’s fight and resiliency to the senior leadership.
“The seniors have been playing together for a long time… they just showed a lot of heart,” Coach Gillette said after the game.
Gillette added that the was proud of his team, calling his players “warriors who work very hard.”
Keough was also complimentary of the eleven seniors on the team.
“This team is awesome, (and) we have the experience,” Keough said.
Algonquin continued fighting throughout the game and made enough shots to stay in the contest for the duration.
The Tomahawks played a tough schedule over the last couple of weeks. They hung with Nashoba until there were four minutes remaining, gave Groton-Dunstable a run for its money, and handed Marlborough its first loss of the season.
Algonquin has the look of a tough team that is better than its 3-4 record indicates.
Groton-Dunstable will once again put their unbeaten streak on the line on Tuesday when they host Fitchburg.
Algonquin will look to return to the .500 mark in their upcoming game on Tuesday when they host Shepherd Hill.