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Alvirne fends off Merrimack in DIvision I basketball tourney

Photo by STEVE DALY Alvirne's Joe Canelas dishes off in front of the defense of Merrimack's Ian Cummings during Thursday night's NHIAA Division I boys basketball quarterfinal in Hudson.

HUDSON – On a night when the newly minted Gatorade Player of the Year was held in check, the Alvirne High School boys basketball team had plenty of weapons ready to step up.

Junior guard Ryan Weston had 12 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead three Broncos into double figures as the seventh-seeded Broncos held off No. 12 Merrimack, 50-39, in the first round of the NHIAA Division I boys basketball tournament Thursday night at C.J. Steckovicz Gymnasium.

With the win, the Broncos (13-6) will travel to Exeter to face the No. 2 Blue Hawks in a quarterfinal-round matchup at 7 p.m.

Max Bonney-Liles, who earlier in the day was named the state’s top boys basketball player, finished with just five points – more than 16 below his average – but his teammates were more than ready to pick up the scoring slack.

Joe Canelas’ scored nine points on three 3-pointers in the first quarter to push the Broncos to a 13-12 lead after one. In the second quarter, the Broncos’ stifling defense held Merrimack star Ian Cummings and the rest of the Tomahawks to just four points, including nearly seven minutes without a point.

The Broncos seized control by stringing together a 12-0 run, eventually heading to the locker room with a 25-16 lead at the break.

Bonney-Liles was held to 1-for-6 shooting in the first half, converting his only bucket on a 20-foot jumper with 2:26 left to go in the first half. Merrimack senior guard Daniel Differ, who, at 5-foot-10, was giving up six inches to Bonney-Liles but his tough man-to-man defense limited the senior’s touches.

In the third quarter, Weston hit a pair of 3’s and Connor Lambert had five of his 10 points as the Broncos built their lead up to 13, 39-26, heading into the final eight minutes.

Merrimack (8-11) pulled within 47-39 in on a putback by Cummings with 1:55 left, but that’s as close as the ‘Hawks would get.

The senior Cummings finished his career with a game-high 27 points.

“Our defense was key,” Alvirne coach Marty Edwards said. “But we had a lot of guys step up and play a big role for us. Weston had a strong game, (Ruigrok) hit some big shots early and Max did a lot of the little things to help us out.”