MANCHESTER, NH – Win or lose, Sudi Lett’s son wants to play when his dad gets home. On many occasions this season, Lett hasn’t been able to match his son’s enthusiasm for fun and games at home after his his Manchester Central High School boys basketball team has dropped games on the court.
Recently, however, Lett has arrived home with a big smile, eager to engage with his little one.
And that was certainly the case Thursday night when Lett’s Little Green set the pace of play for most of the night while facing cross-city rival Memorial.
Though Central led for most of the contest, it had to hold off a late Crusaders charge to earn a 59-57 victory, Central’s second “W” in the last three games after an 0-6 start.
“(It was an) inner-city battle, lot of bragging rights, lot of talking on social media, so happy the boys got the win,” said Lett.
“I’m relieved,’ he said, echoing an older fan who had just let him know her heart couldn’t take many more games like Thursday night’s barnburner. “You know, we haven’t been getting blown out, we’ve been in most game, so I’m just happy to be able to pull one out. It’s tough teaching the kids how to win late games, how to hold leads, how to play with the lead, what happens at the end, but we’re learning on the fly.”
Though Memorial was able to charge back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to draw within one point with 30 seconds remaining in the contest, Crusaders’ head coach Danny Bryson said he wasn’t impressed with his team’s overall effort.
“You can’t wait until the last four minutes of the ball game to start playing,” he said. “You know, we missed a ton of free throws (3-for-9) in the first half, and then that continued in the second half (7-for-14) … if we made half those free throws it’s a different game.”
In reality, the game was either team’s for the taking throughout the first half. Central led, 12-11, coming out of the first quarter, and then 31-28 at halftime.
Though the score was close, Bryson said he felt his players didn’t start with enough energy to set the pace for the contest.
And they certainly didn’t show much of a spark coming out of the locker room as the Little Green stretched their advantage to 11 with a 17-9 third quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game, and yeah, that’s a 1-and-something team, but you let a team like that start believing, and this is what happens … you know, we missed some key free throws and layups, and they made some baskets when they had to,” said Bryson. “It doesn’t matter what your record is. When you play in a city game, everyone’s record is 0-and-0 and it’s whoever brings their best game, and they played 30 seconds better than us tonight.”
Indeed, Memorial chipped back with a 20-point fourth quarter to leave the final result in flux until the final shot and buzzer.
“We just came a little short, which is disappointing because we had the opportunities, we just didn’t complete them today,” said Bryson. “But we’re onto Spaulding tomorrow, so we don’t really have a lot of time to dwell on this … the loss sucks, but it just shows you have to come ready to play all 32 minutes.”
Memorial looks to get back on track against winless (0-8) Spaulding tonight at 7, and then hosts 2-7 Keene next Friday at 7 p.m.
“On paper, we’ve got a really good chance (to make the playoffs) and maybe even host a home game (by finishing top 8 in the regular season),” said Bryson, “but you’ve got to do it on the hardwood, and that’s something we didn’t do out there today.”
The win was especially meaningful for the Little Green (2-7) who were able to bounce back after being edged, 50-49, at Concord Tuesday.
Now, they’ll attempt to string back-to-back victories together for the first time this season when they host 5-3 Windham tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Central closes the month Tuesday at undefeated (10-0) Pinkerton Tuesday night at 6, and then returns home to battle 4-4 Merrimack next Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“I haven’t looked at the standings because I know what our record looks like so there’s no reason to go on the (NHIAA) website to look, but usually you need 6 (wins) to get in,” said Lett. “My second year, we started 1-8 and we made the playoffs, so I know it’s possible but that’s not an optimal situation we’re having to play from, so happy we got the win, and hopefully we’ll get win number three tomorrow.”
Game notes: Jason Gasana led the victors with 19 points, while Asher Zegno dropped 11, Wesley Olmeda and Sean Venator each had 10.
Mateo Ancic led Memorial with 18 points, while Abdalha Ramadhani finished the contest with 12. Simeon Bilolo and Devin Lavallee has 9 and 8 markers, respectively.
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