“This guy is the Bill Russell of the MVC,” said Fazio after the game, with his arm around Merinder. “He was a monster. He was close to a triple-double. He played an amazing game.”
Tied 12-12 after a quarter, Andover began to grab momentum with an 11-1 run to take a 27-20 lead into halftime. The Warriors continued to surge to start the third as E.J. Perry IV, Merinder and John Pisacreta all knocked down shots to make the advantage 33-20 midway through the third.
But back came Everett. Trailing 41-32 after three quarters, the Crimson Tide’s aggressive defense began to force Andover into mistakes that led to points the other way, and with just over two minutes left in the game the Tide had cut the Warrior advantage to 44-42.
That was when Perry, who had just come back into the game after a brief trip to the bench, stepped up with a crucial 3-pointer from the elbow.
“I knew I had to redeem myself,” said the freshman. “I knew we were in some group and I had to make something happen. I got back in there, so an open shot and hit the 3-pointer.”
But Everett was able to respond with a pair of buckets, and after Merinder sunk a layup to make the Andover lead 49-46, the Crimson Tide broke free for another hoop to make it a one-point game again.
After a missed free throw, Everett rebounded the ball with 13 seconds left and attacked, but Merinder was there to force the miss and grab the final rebound.
“There was a lot of panic in the final play,” said point guard John Pisacreta. “Everyone was all over the place. You just keep going. Then it was a lot of relief. Now we have our chance. Connor was just great, E.J. and Giri came up with some big shots. It is just so exciting.”