Merrimack starts the season off strong with an overtime win over Sacred Heart

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here at Stranded Sports, we are trying something new: Watching and writing recaps of college basketball games from smaller conferences and programs. During times like these, we believe that it is important to shed some light on all teams battling through the current circumstances, not just the big programs.

NORTH ANDOVER Mass. - It has been 314 days since the Merrimack (1-0, 1-0 NEC) hosted a men's basketball game as the Warriors faced off against Sacred Heart. (2-4, 2-3)

This was the Warrior's first game of the season after their only previously scheduled game against Bryant (8-2,4-1) was canceled. Even though this was Merrimack's first game of the season it did not seem that Merrimack had any rust as they traded punches left and right with the Pioneers in their 97-90 win on Thursday night.

In the early stages of the game, both teams got out to a hot start trading shots left and right. By the first media timeout, the Pioneers led the Warriors 12-9.

Both teams were still jockeying possession midway through the first half as neither team wanted to give an inch. At the 7:56 mark of the first half, Merrimack had a one-point advantage over the Pioneers.

After the break, Sacred Heart was able to find some traction as they were able to retake the lead and by the last media timeout of the half, SHU was up 38-28.

The Pioneers were able to keep their 10 point lead intact as both teams traded buckets in the final minutes of the first half and at halftime, Sacred Heart led Merrimack 46-36.

Overall in the half for Sacred Heart, they shot 51% from the field and shot a solid 56% from beyond the arc. Merrimack shot 46% from the field and just 30% from three-point range.

The Pioneers dominated on the glass in the first half as they outrebounded the Warriors by 15.

In the second half, SHU's Mats Spokas nailed a three-pointer and got fouled. He converted the and-one opportunity to increase the Pioneer lead up to 14.

This was when Merrimack made their push to get back into the game. After Spokas converted the and-one the Warriors proceeded to go on a 15-2 run to bring the game within one point with 15:04 left in the contest.

Both teams returned to their early first-half forms trading baskets left and right until Merrimack was able to take a 65-64 lead with 9:18 remaining in the second half. This was the Warrior's first lead since the 9:09 mark in the first half.

Moving forward both teams changed leads a total of five times throughout the rest of the second half.

Aaron Clarke the sophomore point guard for SHU drove in the paint and was able to get his layup to fall to knot the game up at 82 with 1:32 to go in the game. Neither team would score the rest of the half sending the game into overtime.

Sacred Heart's Bryce Johnson opened up the scoring in the overtime period. After that bucket Merrimack had control of the lead for the rest of the game. After the Pioneers layup, the Warriors went on a 12-2 run to take an eight-point lead with only 1:44 to go in overtime.

Sacred Heart tried to claw their way back into the game but time was not on their side as Merrimack was able to hit free throws down the stretch to close out the game.

Overall for the Warriors, they shot 56% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. As for the Pioneers, they shot 48% from the field and 40% from downtown.

Individually for Merrimack Jordan Minor led the way on the scoresheet with 20 points, behind him was Mikey Watkins who logged 19 points in the win. For Sacred Heart, Tyler Thomas led the team in points with 36 in the loss.

These two teams face off once again at Hammel Court tomorrow afternoon at 4:00.