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Fitchburg Fades in Second Half

December 20, 2017 GMT

FITCHBURG -- A series of late 3-point daggers by visiting Wachusett Regional doomed host Fitchburg Tuesday night, as the Red Raiders fell, 62-46, at the Doug Grutchfield Fieldhouse.

Wachusett 62 Fitchburg 46

Fitchburg (0-2) will host Amherst-Pelham Regional at The Grutch in its penultimate game of 2017. Wachusett improved to 2-1 and have won two in a row following its loss a week ago to Catholic Memorial.

Longtime Fitchburg coach Jack Scott credited Wachusett’s long-distance game in his postgame press junket.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Scott said. “We’d make a run, a small run, and they’d come back with a couple of really good defensive trips and not allow anything. They are a really good defensive team, but we didn’t do ourselves any favors with some of the screens we set tonight and some of the cuts we were making. Against a defensive team like Wachusett, you can’t get away with going 80 percent in those areas.

“If you’re setting a screen at 80 percent, they’re fighting through it and you won’t be open at the other side. I think that, coupled with some timely shooting in the third and fourth quarters, kept us at arm’s distance.”

The Red and Gray had fought back from an 11-point, 37-26 deficit at the half to within seven points on several occasions, thanks to a pair of baseline jumpers by R.J. Clapper (team-high 13 points) before the two sides traded baskets.

But after Mendes Morrison busted the Mountaineer press break with a dish to Clapper, Wachusett went on a 9-2 run with a pair of hoops by Liam Griffin (game-high 14 points) and a 3-pointer by Sam Dion (13 points) to lift the tourists from Holden -- which never trailed in the game -- out to a 14-point, 42-28 lead.

Morrison then started a series of trifectas by both sides over the final 2:05 of the third quarter. Wachusett’s Barry Quinn (10 points off the bench) hit both for his squad, while Adam Ramos scored a pair, including a banker off the square, to pull Fitchburg to within 11, 48-37, at the end of three.

Two treys by Quinn and Dion, however, midway through the fourth, pushed Wachusett out to an 18-point, 57-39 lead.

Fitchburg’s stiff 2-3 zone defense kept the Mountaineers in check for most of the first half, but Red Raider fouling pushed Wachusett into the bonus situation early in the second quarter.

Wachusett was 9-of-12 from the charity stripe in the first; after Dion made the last freebies of the quarter, Wachusett had led, 13-4.

The Mountaineers were 13-of-18 from the line in the first half, while shooting 6-of-23 from the field.

“Other than the fouls -- and we spread them out pretty good, so we weren’t in significant foul trouble at halftime -- overall, the defensive effort in the first half was very solid,” Scott said.

The Red Raiders closed the quarter with a 6-0 run, as Devin Deleon scored on a 16-footer and off an offensive rebound before Davonte Johnson’s quick dish to Alex Alejandro (eight points off the bench) went for a layup that made it a three-point, 13-10 Mountaineer lead.

At that point, Wachusett (19-of-46, 41 percent) was in the midst of a near four-minute span without a field goal, which continued until the 4:18 mark of the second quarter when Quinn scored off an offensive rebound in the paint.

But Fitchburg (21-of-50, 42 percent) also had difficulty in hitting the bottom of the net after its run, but a pair of Clapper buckets made it 19-16 with three minutes remaining in the half.

That was the closest the Red and Gray managed to get.