Panthers enjoy some Purple Rein vs. North, 66-45

Staff photo by TOM KING Nashua North's Curtis Harris goes airborn to try to stop Nashua South's Richie Mercado from getting an easy shot, while North's Casey Lane tries to get a block from behind during Friday night's Battle of the Bridge at North.

NASHUA – It was a clear case of Purple Reign.

Most years, the Nashua High School North-South boys basketball game is a nip-and-tuck affair.

Not this time. The Panthers got 20 points from Richie Mercado overall, went on a late run to take a 40-20 halftime lead and rolled to a 66-45 Battle of the Bridge win on Friday night at the loud – for a half anyway — Titans Gym.

“Our defense basically got us the momentum we needed,” Mercado said. “It felt pretty good. We needed that.”

Indeed they did, suffering a tough loss to Concord and having to sit on it for a week before improving to 4-3. The Titans, meanwhile, continue to struggle at 1-6.

“Our focus prior to the game was, if we can handle pressure, attack it effectively, we’d be OK,” North coach Steve Lane said. “If we could defend their speed in a half court set, we’d be OK. If we could make some shots, we’d be OK. And they’re pretty good, and those three things just did not line up for us.”

Things instead lined up for the Panthers, and that put a smile on South coach Nate Mazerolle’s face. He wasn’t happy with his team’s defense a couple of weeks ago but was pretty happy after it held North’s best player – thanks in a large part to the work of senior Sean Holland – to nine points.

“The last week and a half, two weeks of practice have been devoted to our defense,” Mazerolle said. “As I told them before the game tonight, kind of our history in Nashua is you play good half court man-to-man defense. We hadn’t been, but tonight we did.”

The Panthers led 14-9 after one period, and it was 17-11 after a Casey Lane bucket, and the Panthers went on a 9-0 run to take a 26-11 lead. Then, after a couple of Lane treys cut the gap to 29-20, the Panthers, paced by Tony Amigo and Mercado, went on an 11-0 run to end the half up 40-20. Basically, that was it. South led 53-31 heading into the final period. Mike Beaudette had eight points and Clay Medling added seven to the Panther cause. Jakib Yassine added seven for the Titans.

The Panthers got a good influx of offense from Mercado, working in synch with point guard Alex Amigo, during that late second quarter run. “What I asked them to do was play with poise,” Mazerolle said. “I was happy they could settle down, and we got good looks because of it.”

But again, Mazerolle pointed to the job Holland did taking Lane out of the game.

“We all know what a great quarterback he is,” he said of the player just named to the CHaD All-Star Game. “What does it say about his character that he can come in here, he’s not the star, knows his role, and he’s as good a defensive player as there is in the state in shutting the other team’s best player down. He did that tonight.”

The Titans will look to bounce back. “He (Casey Lane) didn’t get any clean looks,” Lane the coach said. “They did a pretty good job of that.”

The Panthers want to keep up the energy that they enjoyed, feeding off the crowd.

“They all want to shoot, and they have no fear,” Mazerolle said.