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  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack fans, including Sam Privey, center, are elated to greet the players of the newly named Div. I State Championship team back to their bench after Saturday's 65-56 win over Manchester Central at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack fans clap as Jared Peabody hoists the NHIAA Div. I State Championship trophy over his head during the award ceremonies at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, Saturday.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack's Tyler Gendron drives through the lane during Saturday afternoon's Div. I State Championship game at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack's Kyle Richardson tries to hook shot the ball through the hoop during Saturday afternoon's NHIAA Div. I State Championship Game against Manchester Central at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Cooper Hett, a Merrimack High School Senior runs down the aisle dressed in a blue body suit to try to get Merrimack fans pumped up during the last quarter of Saturday's Div. I State Championship Game against Manchester Central at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack fans raise their hands in anticipation for a completed free throw while Dom Hudon uses a Jeff Gianelli face cutout to block his face during the last quarter of what would be a 65-56 win for Merrimack making them the Div. I State Champions, Saturday at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack's Jeff Giannelli points to people in the stands after he and his team won the Div. I State Championship game against Manchester Central, Saturday at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Three Merrimack defenders encircle Manchester Central's Troy Pelletier causing him to look to get rid of the ball during Saturday's Div. I State Championship game at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack's Dylan O'Brien heads to the hoop as Manchester Central's Troy Pelletier peels himself off of the floor during Saturday's Div. I State Championship Game at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack's Dimitri Floras weaves through the Manchester Central defense during Saturday's Div. I State Championship game at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack's Eric Gendron finds himself sliding across the hardwood during Saturday afternoon's NHIAA Div. I State Championship game against Manchester Central at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Merrimack fans go wild after Eric Gendron hit the only three pointer of the first half during Saturday afternoon's NHIAA Div. I State Championship basketball game against Manchester Central at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Sunday, March 18, 2012

Merrimack overpowers Central for Division I boys title

NHIAA DIVISION I BOYS BASKETBALL FINAL No. 7 Merrimack 65 u No. 4 Man. Central 56

DURHAM – There was just over three minutes left in Saturday’s Division I boys basketball final when Merrimack’s Dimitri Floras came away with a steal in the Manchester Central end and quickly pushed the ball up the floor.

He spotted teammate Tyler Gendron streaking toward and the basket and hit him in stride. But Gendron, the senior leader who had played the biggest role in keeping the team together during an injury plagued season, inexplicably missed a wide open layup.

It might have been the final blow for a Manchester Central team that trailed by 11 points at the time. Instead it kept the Little Green’s hopes alive for about 30 seconds, when Gendron would get a second chance to secure Merrimack’s first state title in eight years.

This time, on another feed from Floras, Gendron went up and slammed it home, putting the Tomahawks up 55-44 with just over two minutes left. All that was left was the finishing touches on a 65-56 Merrimack win.

“I had the layup and I could hear the crowd starting to get on their feet,” Gendron said. “You are going to miss layups, but the team told me to keep my head up and 30 seconds later I got another chance and jammed it.”

From the game’s opening minute, it was obvious Floras’ job Saturday was to make everyone on his team better and lead the team to a championship.

That was the goal when he returned from prep school just before Thanksgiving, a move that immediately altered the balance of power in Division I. When Floras missed a little over a month after breaking his wrist on Jan. 24, there was a fear that he might not return this season.

He returned all right, and was clearly most valuable player of the tournament.

“Dimitri Floras was just outstanding,” Central coach Dave Wheeler said. “He really shared the ball tonight. He had 23 points but made everyone better. He made the passes to create a lot of thing for him.”

There were plenty of heroes to go along with Floras. Tyler Gendron finished off an outstanding season with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds. His brother, sophomore Eric Grendron, had 16 points for a Merrimack team that shot 67 percent from the floor (14 for 21) in the second half.

And for the second time in two games, Jeff Giannelli played the game of his life. The 6-foot-7 senior, who had 10 points in 12 minutes off the bench in the semifinals, followed it up with 10 points in 18 minutes on Saturday as a starter.

“It might have been his best two games of the season,” Goodridge said. “We run so much that I think he just got in really good shape. Maybe it took until March to get there.”

One thing was clear from the opening tip. The Tomahawks were going to dig in on defense and hope the offense would take care of itself. It helped in the first half, when Merrimack hit just 35 percent of its shots (8 for 23), but still led 22-20 at halftime.

Outside of a 9-0 run early that gave Central a 9-5 lead, the Little Green seemed to be fighting an uphill battle all night. Merrimack took the lead late in the first quarter and never gave it back, but Central was still within four when Junior Brown drained a jumper with 6:10 left.

“It seemed like every time we did something positive, Merrimack answered,” Wheeler said.

The final answer, in the final six minutes, started when Floras drained a corner 3-pointer. Two free throws by Giannelli and another Floras 3-pointer gave Merrimack its first double digit lead, 53-42, just under five minutes left.

It set the stage for Gendron’s miss and moment of retribution.

“I think he thought about dunking it,” Goodridge said. “Then he remembers what I say in practice, if you dunk and miss I’m going to knock you out, not in those exact words.”

The moment of indecision was temporary.

“I thought the best play of the game was when I drove and dished the ball to Tyler for that dunk,” Floras said. “When he missed the layup I told him to keep his head up, it’s not going to do any good keeping you head down right now.”

A few minutes later Gendron left the floor for the final time of his career, his head up, fist raised to the Merrimack crowd – a group that doesn’t just show up for the big games, but like Gendron has been there all season.

at Durham

MERRIMACK (65)

Dimitri Floras 7-7-23, Eric Gendron 4-6-16, Tyler Gendron 5-0-10, Jeff Giannelli 3-4-10, Jared Peobody 1-0-2, Kyle Richardson 1-0-2, Dylan O’Brien 1-0-2, Jackson King, Bryan Courtemanche. Totals: 22-17-65

MANCHESTER CENTRAL (56)

Troy Pelletier 7-1-17, Gabriel Lacount 7-1-15, Christian Artiga 4-0-10, Dawson Dickson 3-0-7, Junior Brown 2-1-5, Isaiah Joseph 2-0-4, Michael Plentzas. Totals: 25-3-56.

Merrimack (16-6) 16 6 20 23 – 65

Central (16-6) 11 9 17 19 – 56

3-pointers: M – Floras 2, E. Gendron 2. C – Artiga 2, Dickson. Officials: Hicks, Tostevin, McCarthy.