MANCHESTER, NH – The Crusaders of Manchester Memorial have been crowned as champions of the 55th Annual Queen City Basketball Tournament, defeating the Blue Hawks of Exeter High School on Thursday night, 69-67.
Memorial led for most of the night, opening up a six-point lead by the end of the first quarter, growing to 15 just over a minute before halftime.
The Crusaders’ lead peaked at 19 in the third quarter, but the Blue Hawks slowly clawed their way back into the contest as the tempo slowed.
“Our press got us back into the game a little bit, got them on their heels, we got some seals, got some easy buckets,” said Exeter head coach Jeff Holme.
By the end of the third quarter, Memorial’s lead was down to 10, with the Blue Hawks bringing the game within a basket on six separate occasions over the latter half of the fourth quarter.
However, a steady stream of late free throws at both ends proved critical, with the Crusaders converting a dozen free throws in the fourth quarter, including seven free throw points from Memorial’s Jacob Santiago alone.
Memorial head coach Danny Bryson believes that the fatigue of his squad playing on consecutive days during the tournament played a role in the closeness of the final score, as did the quality of the Blue Hawks.
But ultimately, the Crusaders’ ability to play with speed early on just proved too much to overcome.
“You get the ball down court as fast as you can and don’t let the defense set up, that’s what we had been doing well this whole tournament,” said Bryson.
That was a sentiment shared on the other bench as well, with Holme frustrated that his squad couldn’t adapt earlier in the contest.
“We like to run, but there’s times when you have to learn to take some time, make the other team take a layup. We didn’t do a good job of that,” said Holme.
Santiago led all scorers with 19 points, also contributing eight rebounds. Manny Alisandro chipped in 14 boards and 13 points for the Crusaders, with Memorial also getting double digit scoring performances from Michael Roumaj (15) and Elvin Barbosa (12).
Freshman Josh Morissette led Exeter with 17 points and seven rebounds, with Josh’s brother Cody ending the night with 10 points. Bobby Cliché also contributed seven rebounds and seven points for the Blue Hawks.