Rangers Hold Off Leominster, Hand First Loss to Blue Devils
LEOMINSTER -- Facing its first major test of the season, the Leominster High boys’ basketball team showed plenty of heart and potential.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, tough games aren’t won on effort and hustle alone.
Leominster fell behind early and nearly clawed its way past a talented Westboro side, but ultimately came up just short in a 65-62 loss at home Tuesday night.
“We have the potential to be a pretty good team. We haven’t played together long enough, so these kids are still feeling each other out,” Leominster head coach Kevin Grutchfield said. “Tonight, I loved that even when we struggled, we didn’t hang our heads. Our defense kept us in the game and we were able to wear them down.”
The Blue Devils (3-1) trailed by just one, 52-51, with 5:50 left in the contest following a short jumper by Givensky Pierre-Louis (15 points). But Westboro answered with back-to-back baskets by Michael Doherty (17 points), including a 3, to push the advantage to 57-51.
The teams traded buckets over the final four minutes, with Pierre-Louis making a nice move in the post to pull the Blue Devils within two with a minute left. Matthew Doherty (18 points) scored Westboro’s final point on a free throw with 45 seconds left, but Leominster’s Trevon LeBlanc missed a 3 that would have tied the game with 10 seconds remaining and Pierre-Louis missed a long heave as time expired, allowing the Rangers (3-0) to escape with the win.
“We missed some free throws that would’ve iced the game,” Westboro head coach Brian Willar. “It was frenetic pace, a back-and-forth game, and they came right at us. They hit some big shots down the stretch, but we were able to answer.
“I’ve got a good group of seniors who have been through some battles here, had to battle back in the past, so they knew what it was going to take tonight.”
Pierre-Louis kept the Blue Devils in the game early, controlling the paint and scoring seven first-half points, though the Rangers took a 36-28 lead to the break.
“Givensky’s one of the premier post players in Central Mass. and everybody knows we’re going to pound it inside to him,” Grutchfield said. “He’s one of our captains, one of our leaders, and he and Brian Rodriguez led us tonight and we almost beat a really good team.”
Willar was impressed by what he saw from the opposing center.
“They ran some nice stuff to get (Pierre-Louis) some looks inside, and he’s tough,” Willar said. “We gave up some size, so we had to front him, but we were able to come up with some steals.”
The Rangers saw the lead balloon to 42-30 early in the third, but the Blue Devils hung around. Jeremiah Paulino (team-high 18 points) and Brian Perez hit back-to-back 3s with three minutes left in the frame to cut the lead to 42-36 and Trevon LeBlanc hit a deep trey as time expired in the third to pull the Blue Devils to within three, 50-47, after three quarters.
Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.