Home > News > Moving On! Merrimack Basketball holds off Shark Attack in NEC Quarterfinal game.

Moving On! Merrimack Basketball holds off Shark Attack in NEC Quarterfinal game.

Robert Gambale – Student Reporter

Marcus Antonelli – Sports Editor

NORTH ANDOVER, Ma. – A tough loss to Sacred Heart this past Saturday changed the tide in the NEC rankings. With that loss, MC conceded the #1 seed to CCSU and therefore lost the conference regular season title. For the Warriors, they had no time to sit and ponder. The NEC Tournament was upon them.

Regardless of seeding, No. 2 Merrimack (19-11, 13-3 NEC) looked to build an amazing conference playoff run, which would start against the No. 7 Long Island Sharks (7-21, 6-10 NEC).  

The Warriors, after a back and forth battle, got it done.

MC started the game with a ton of energy, leading 10-5, which forced a timeout early from Sharks HC Rod Strickland. The Warriors played at a very fast pace and it threw off LIU.  

However, Long Island wasn’t going down without a fight. Merrimack found themselves down as much as nine in the middle of the first half, LIU led 24-15. 

After a much needed timeout, the Warriors rallied back. MC ended up causing four consecutive defensive stops to tie the game up.  

LIU got back up big before Jordan Derkack, the reigning conference MVP, made some big buckets to give Merrimack the advantage into the half. Both Adam “Budd” Clark and Derkack led the way with 27 points combined to give the Warriors a 43-39 lead at the half. 

Budd Clark was amazing defensively with 3 steals in the opening frame along with Derkack, who ended the half shooting 75% from three-point land.

In the beginning of the second half, the game was still a close one. LIU and MC were both causing turnovers against each other, which made it a very sloppy start.

The Sharks must’ve smelt blood in the water, they amassed 19 personal fouls on Merrimack throughout the game. For Warriors Head Coach Joe Gallo, it was nothing new.

“The first game we played at LIU might have been the highest foul total from two teams combined,” said Gallo, “so it’s been very physical, we knew they got some tough kids, they were going to come at us with some heat.”

Back to back threes from Jacob Oโ€™Connell and Jordan McKoy gave Merrimack some momentum but LIU kept up. It was 62-54 at the eight-minute mark of the second.

All game it seemed like Shark attacks wouldn’t go away. But every time they took the lead, MC didn’t shy away from taking it back.

For Freshman Guard Adam Clark, it was simpler than need be, “We just kept our composure,” said “Budd”, “Basketball is a game of runs, so we just kept our composure and kept on fighting.”

Merrimack had kept LIU scoreless for 5 straight minutes in the second half. At the five minute mark, the Warriors boasted an 8 point lead. 

All of a sudden, there was a change in the winds.

In the blink of an eye, the Warrior lead was eradicated. Long Island put the pressure on Merrimack by cutting the score to a 3 point game with less than a minute left. 

Prior to the mini-collapse, Jordan Derkack, who had been taking a beating from the Sharks defense, suffered a lower-body injury that was later revealed to be his ankle. As you could tell, LIU took extreme advantage of this mishap.

Depsite the late scare from the Sharks, Merrimack kept the score to a two-possession game. An amazing defensive ‘foul to give’ in the paint, helped Merrimack’s defense set up well to pull it away.

In the end, Merrimack, when fouled, made their free throws in the crunch time. Warriors won 72-66.

“It got a little sloppy late,” said Coach Joe Gallo, “but we’re happy to come away with a winner. That was a March game.”

The Warriors, with this win, advanced to the Semifinals of the NEC Tournament. They’re set to host the 4th place Le Moyne Dolphins. Tip-off is set for noon on Saturday the 9th.

For Coach Gallo and Co., you can’t let your foot off the gas pedal now. Just two wins away from clinching the schools first March Madness appearance, consistency, persistence and resilience are key to the ultimate goal.

For more on all things Merrimack Men’s Basketball you can follow the Beacon Newspaper on Twitter (X) (@MCBeacon) for updates on all things Warrior Hoops!

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