Alvirne runs away from Merrimack in second half

HUDSON — On opening night in Division I boys basketball both teams here came as advertised.

Rebuilding Merrimack High showed flashes but remains a work in progress.

Alvirne High, the choice by many around the Granite State to actually infiltrate the Seacoast’s stranglehold in the division, sent a message that the rumors of its ascendance to the top may not be exagerrated.

Nursing a tenuous 33-27 halftime lead, the Broncos galloped after the break, running Merrimack off the floor for a tidy 71-45 win before a packed house.

“First game with a big home crowd, I think a lot of us had first-half jitters,” said Alvirne senior Jamie Bertrand. “At halftime, coach (Marty Edwards) got on us a little bit, especially about our defense. After that, we just came out firing.”

And hitting.

Ryan Weston buried two of his four threes and Meshack Mugariri slashed to the hoop for a pair of buckets in a 12-2 Alvirne flurry that ultimately proved to be the knockout blow.

“They played a really clean game, and we just didn’t execute,” said Merrimack’s Jared Dyer. “And I think we got a little tired, too.”

That point was driven home late as Alvirne’s pressure yielded eight fourth-quarter turnovers by the Tomahawks.

Broncos’ senior Joey Canelas led the winners with 18 points, and Weston added 17. Cole Zimmerman pitched in 11, and big man Paul Manzi had nine as Alvirne was balanced and lethal.

Junior Pat Yudkin paced Merrimack, driving and finishing with 14 points, while Dyer added 13 to go with 11 boards. Jack Tarleton had eight and Ben Eichman six.

Alvirne next heads to Goffstown, while Merrimack hosts a Seacoast monster, Winnacunnet, in the Tomahawks’ home opener. Both games are Friday night.