Jack Lawhorne & Robert Gambale – Student Reporters
Photo – Lauren Hearn
NORTH ANDOVER, Ma. – 1st place Central Connecticut State came into Lawler looking to maintain themselves as the best team in the Northeast Conference. Coach Gallo and his team had other plans.
The Blue Devils came in hot riding a 4 game winning streak with an overall record of 13-8. Merrimack, in comparison, entered the contest not too far behind, winning their last 3 with an overall 12-10 record. That put them at 2nd in the NEC only behind their opponent tonight.
The Warriors, led by the NEC’s top scorer Jordan Derkack (17.0), started strong and controlled much of the first half until the Blue Devils went on a late run to keep it close.
But a hustle play got the Warriors the ball with 5 seconds left in the opening half. Head Coach Joe Gallo made sure to waste none of that 5 seconds and instead took advantage of the opportunity to enter the 2nd half with the momentum on their side.
Even with the ball in Merrimack’s own end, Jaylen Stinson made a beautiful pass to sharpshooter Devon Savage. Savage proved he was the right guy to get the ball to, and beat the buzzer to give Lawler a huge boost of energy.
At the end of the 1st half, the Warriors led 41-36 and started the 2nd on a good note.
Devon Savage entered the contest with 60 3 point tallies, second in the NEC. He was critical for the Warriors as he helped Jordan Derkack lead the charge with 15 points and five 3 pointers. After setting the tone at the end of the 1st half, he only heated up as it looked like he couldn’t miss from 3 point land all game.
While Merrimack controlled much of the 2nd half and the game as a whole, CCSU’s Allan Jeanne-Rose, who finished with 23 points, was a problem all game, especially late in the 2nd half, as he refused to let the Blue Devils go away.
Turnovers were an issue late as they allowed the Blue Devils to climb back into it in the last 2 minutes. CCSU finished the game on a 10-3 run.
Merrimack led by just 2 when a forced jump ball by Allan Jeanne-Rose gave CCSU the ball with 23 seconds and a chance to tie the game. But a HUGE block by Merrimack’s Jacob O’Connell gave Merrimack the ball back still up 2. Adam “Budd” Clark added to his impressive freshman season with a clutch free throw with 8 seconds left to give Merrimack a 3 point lead.
In a thrilling conclusion, CCSU’s Jordan Jones airballed a potential game tying 3 at the buzzer and Merrimack came out with the 71-68 win.
The Warriors pick up a huge conference win to improve to 13-10, while Central Connecticut State falls to 13-9. The Blue Devils remain in first place, but Merrimack makes a massive statement with a transcendent win.