WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — It's impossible to game plan for a 6-foot-8 center, said Westborough coach Brian Willar, and Algonquin sophomore AJ Brodeur proved just that, blocking eight shots en route to a 57-41 Tomahawk victory.
"We played hard, but AJ is just such a big factor and he blocked everything that came his way," said Willar.
The game tipped in Algonquin's favor at the end of the first quarter, and the Tomahawks never looked back. Algonquin (12-1) coach Brian Doherty said he expected the first team that went on a run to win the game, and his team closed out the first quarter on a 9-0 streak after Westborough (7-6) tied the game at 10-10.
The run spilled over into the second quarter and reached 14 straight points to push the lead to 24-10 before Westborough got a shot to fall.
"Our defense pushes our offense," Doherty said. "When we play well defensively we'll make those runs. That's what we work on, and that's why me made that 14-0 run."
A last-second shot by captain Dan Orlando, who finished the game with six points and seven rebounds, capped off Westborough's own run to end the first half, cutting the lead to just nine. But that was the closest the score would get.
Willar said Brodeur's size got into his players' heads, as they would beat defenders off the dribble and then take bad shots in anticipation of a block.
"They were looking around for him instead of going to the rack and finishing," he said.
Brodeur finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Algonquin guard Brandon Lukoff scored a game-high 15 points.
Westborough's leading scorer was Zach Diamond, who scored 11 points.
Doherty said his team, led by Brodeur's excellent fitness, always pays at a high pace, with the goal of wearing down its opponents late in the game. That showed Thursday night against a Rangers team playing its second game in two days, as the Tomahawks were able to push out to a 21-point lead in the third quarter.
"We try to wear you down, we're an up-tempo team," Doherty said. "At halftime after we said 'pick the pace up,' (Brodeur) stepped it up. He can run forever and he did a great job."