Leominster Erupts for 100 Points, Clinches Postseason Berth
LEOMINSTER -- The locker room was silent post-game. Eerily silent. Almost too silent for a team that just popped in 100 points and clinched a berth in the postseason. You know, that kind of silent.
“The last time I saw a Grutchfield-coached team score 100 points in one game,” one observer said to the quiet locker room, “was in 1991-92. Fitchburg 103, Worcester North 55.”
That’s when the locker room came to life, and a pig pile of sorts spilled out and swarmed Leominster boys’ basketball coach K.C. Grutchfield, the long-awaited celebration getting started.
The Blue Devil boys clinched their postseason berth in tremendous fashion Friday night, as Leominster hit 10 3-pointers and dominated in practically every facet of the game en route to a 100-67 win to silence visiting Shepherd Hill Regional at the Leominster High Gymnasium.
The win lifts Leominster to 11-9 overall (3-5 Mid-Wach A) with one game remaining in the regular season -- a date with archrival Fitchburg here at 7 p.m. Monday. Shepherd Hill’s season came to its conclusion at 4-15 (0-8 Mid-Wach A).
Grutchfield was understandably proud of his team, which controlled the boards, 53-20, and had 29 second- and third-chance opportunities to their credit.
“Our seniors really stepped up tonight,” Grutchfield said. “This was a must-win; we didn’t want to take any chances with a really tough opponent come Monday, so we knew we had to take care of business. Shepherd Hill is sneaky good when they want to be. When they get hot, they’re dangerous.
“We just kept grinding, getting the ball inside, and Givensky (Pierre-Louis) hit the shots he needed to. And we had great guard play. It was a great team effort.”
Not only that: Leominster valued the basketball, only turning it over nine times, including three times in the second half.
“That’s going to be critical if we want to do anything in the tournament,” Grutchfield added. “He have to take care of the basketball, we have to take good shots, and we have to rebound.”
Both teams put five players in double-figures scoring, with Leominster’s five doing just a little more damage: Pierre-Louis led all scorers with 26 (8 rebounds, 6 offensive) while Janier Cora Huetas scored 18 (12 rebounds, 8 offensive). Jeremiah Paulino (4 rebounds, 4 steals) and Treyvon LeBlanc (6 rebounds) -- who scored the buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end to eclipse the century mark -- each poured in 16, while Derrick Thomas added 14 (8 rebounds).
Shepherd Hill had tied the game midway through the first quarter, 11-11, when Leominster had enough of the pesky upstarts from the South County and put the accelerator through the floorboards with a game-changing 18-2 run.
Pierre-Louis slipped around a defender at the near-side post to lay it in, before Eduardo Flores Ramierez, on the offensive rebound, fed Cora Huetas for a bucket.
On the next trip, Flores Ramierez ripped a trey near the elbow -- Leominster’s first triple of the evening -- after some good ball movement, before the Blue Devils came up with the first of 18 Shepherd Hill turnovers. Pierre-Louis sank two from the line before the Rams turned the ball over again.
On the ensuing trip, Flores Ramierez fed Liam Connacher for a deuce, and it was 22-11 at that point.
Cora Huetas scored out of the timeout on the offensive rebound, before LeBlanc scored two from the charity stripe.
″(The second-chance opportunities) are a testament to Givensky, to Janier, to Liam Connacher, for crashing the boards and being aggressive,” Grutchfield said. “It’s been a huge focus for us this season: we haven’t rebounded like we should, and that’s why we fail against the good teams.
“Tonight, we boxed out and got those second- and third-chance opportunities, and that’s the key to the victory.”
Shepherd Hill’s Eric Lehmann (14 points) scored on the next trip, before Paulino hit a 3-pointer to cap the run.
The Rams, who were 14 of 27 in the first half and went into the locker room trailing 51-33, came out in the third quarter looking to cut into the deficit, and they did. While not feeling confident with the 3-ball on a couple of occasions late in the first half, the Rams came out and sank five in the first four minutes and cut the deficit to 15 points.
But after that fifth and final trey, Leominster scored 11 of the next 13 points to end the quarter, taking a commanding 75-50 lead into the fourth and final stanza.
Leominster (38 of 80 from the field, 48 percent) scored five 3-pointers in the fourth, including LeBlanc’s buzzer-beater.