Methuen Rangers Boys Basketball '07-'08

Thu, Dec 27, 2007 06:00 PM @ Neutral Location
Team 1 2 3 4 Final
Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament - Semifinals
Lawrence 16 20 20 24 80
Methuen 10 23 14 10 57

Nieves heats up again, Lawrence knocks off Methuen

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Roger Darrigrand, Staff PhotographerMore photos

Friday, December, 28 By Hector Longo
Staff writer

Methuen High made plenty of headway in slowing down Lawrence's beefy big men, Mariano Fortunato and Jorge Escoto.

But the Rangers, gritty as can be, had no such solution when it came to Lancer point guard Justin Nieves.

The junior made it two straight as the dominant figure on the Crozier Field House floor, netting a game-high 24 points and handing out eight assists in an 80-57 Lancer victory in the semifinals of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament. Back before Christmas, Nieves toasted Pinkerton Academy with a tourney-high 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Last night, Nieves sunk 9 of 17 from the field. For the tourney he's shooting at 56 percent, including 11 of 26 (42 percent) from 3-point land.

"Justin's good," said Ranger coach Rich Barden. "Top to bottom, Lawrence is very good. They just outlasted us. They're a team that just doesn't quit."

This one did not come without some tense moments for the Lancers.

Undersized and undermanned, Methuen actually pulled into a 43-41 lead midway through the third quarter.

That's when Nieves started to percolate, netting a pair of threes, then dumping the ball into an open Fortunato for a layin and some breathing room at 49-45.

The Rangers deserve plenty of credit for hanging around, considering No. 2 scorer Edwin Gonzalez sat on the bench with his crutches after twisting an ankle in practice yesterday and starting senior guard Matt Merritte was knocked unconscious in a freak halftime accident.

Methuen's Eagle-Tribune Super Teamer Romeo Diaz knocked in a runner at the buzzer, closing the Lancer lead to 36-33. Diaz' celebratory fist pump landed squarely, and accidentally, on Merritte's jaw, sending his mate to the hardwood.

Lawrence did ultimately exploit its height advantage, dissecting the Rangers zone with some pin-point passing. Fortunato and Escoto couldn't match the 47 points and 31 rebounds they hung on the Rangers two weeks ago in an 86-74 win, but each struck double figures in points, 15 for the former and 11 for the latter, combining for 16 rebounds.

"We know they're smaller and at some point we're going to get the ball inside," said Fortunato. "We worked hard on our passing, especially against the zone, and it paid off for us tonight."

Diaz finished with 23 for the Rangers, and Mike Gorman barely left the floor in a superb nine-point night.

Sean Gallagher, Matt Richardson and Roudy Marcelin combined for 19 points and left nothing in their tanks, even in defeat.

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