SHREWSBURY – Two Central Massachusetts basketball heavyweights met on Thursday night – and it came down to the last play.
With just seconds left, Shrewsbury’s Nate Nardella dished the ball to teammate Jack Christopher. Christopher gathered the ball, spun around, dribbled and looked for space to shoot. There was none, and with Grafton’s Jake Robertson closing in, Christopher settled for an off-balance three-point shot. The would-be game-winner bounced off the back of the rim.
The buzzer sounded as Christopher’s shot hit the floor, and the Grafton Gators defeated the Shrewsbury Colonials, 52-51.
“We were just trying to get smart possessions,” Grafton Head Coach John Patraitis told the Community Advocate after the game. “We wanted to stay composed – they were pressuring us, doubling us – so we were talking about composure, smart possessions, and digging in on the defensive end. That’s what we talk about a lot in practice – being able to get that stop to win that game, we talk about those things. We had to dig deep and have the defense win the game for us.”
The Gators were led by sophomore Larry Lamar, who scored 16 points. Shabd Murty and Mark Dickson each added 10 points.
Both teams scored early and often, and the first quarter ended with Grafton and Shrewsbury knotted at 16. While both sides traded blows throughout the first two frames – and entered halftime practically tied – Grafton pulled ahead after the break, dominating Shrewsbury early in the third quarter.
“[At halftime] I said ‘We have to go take charge. We have to grab this game. Nobody is going to give it to you for free, we have to assert ourselves and go after it.’ They did a great job of that, and I’m proud of these guys,” Patraitis said.
Shrewsbury – led by Christopher’s 13-point performance – made the game interesting down the stretch, but came up short. Jesse Osafo added 12 points for the Colonials, going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, while Will Tonelli scored 9 points.
The Colonials drop to 6-3 after the heartbreaking loss. The Gators improve to 8-3.
“We’ve got a good group of guys – I love this squad. They work hard. They’re good kids. Good team chemistry. I’m really proud of them,” said Patraitis.