Magicians hold off Panthers 86-78 in opening night thriller

Marblehead’s Cam Comstock drives into the paint with Beverly’s Noe Diaz in pursuit. Photo by Ryan Vermette

Before the season began, head coach Mike Giardi said that he was counting on senior guard Tyrone Countrymon to step into a leadership role for his team this year. 

On Tuesday night, he certainly led by example. 

Down 78-77 with just under a minute remaining in the game, Countrymon was handed the ball at the top of the three point line when he squared his feet to the hoop, stared down his defender, and drained a shot that put his team up by two. 

That shot was the difference maker and secured an 86-78 victory over the Beverly Panthers at Beverly High School on opening night for the Magicians. 

Countrymon exploded for 32 points in the win and was a problem for Beverly throughout. The senior guard said that he knew this game would likely come down to the wire, and knew that he had to step up, especially when hitting that shot.

“Coming into this game, we knew how good they were, we knew it was gonna come down to the last few possessions,” he said. “In my mind as a leader, as someone that’s seen this before, been on the other side of what we did to them, [I] had to take over. Someone had to step up in the big moments and it just happened to be me today.”

Countrymon and junior forward Miles O’Neill got Marblehead off to a good start offensively with a couple of buckets in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Beverly responded quickly though and the teams went blow for blow throughout most of the quarter. The Panthers were able to generate turnovers and score points in the paint, which led to Beverly going up 19-18 after one. The second quarter was a different story. Beverly extended their lead to 24-20 initially, but the Magicians went on a 16-5 run in the final four minutes and went into the half with an eight-point lead, 38-31. 

Marblehead put together the run with physical play that forced turnovers, and out-toughing the Panthers on loose balls and rebounds. After the game, Giardi commented on the effort he saw from his team. 

“You gotta be just really really happy with the effort,” Giardi said. “Obviously nothing is going to be perfect, nothing is going to be exactly the way you want it, but we’ve really been focusing on playing defense and even though we gave up a ton of points I think we really made them work at it tonight.” 

To open the third quarter, Marblehead had to weather the storm that was Beverly junior guard Noe Diaz. The sharpshooter scorched the Magicians for 19 points in the third quarter, 10 of which came within the first two minutes. Diaz’s performance quickly eroded Marblehead’s lead, but three-pointers from junior forwards Nicholas Lemmond and Ryan Commoss helped get the team back on track. 

Lemmond and Commoss both finished with double-digit point totals, scoring 16 and 10 points respectively.

Both teams combined for 52 points in a high-scoring third quarter. A jumping floater from Countrymon at the end of the third gave Marblehead a narrow 63-59 lead heading into the final quarter. 

Time and time again, Beverly would cut into the lead, but Marblehead would continue to fend off the Panthers. Finally, Beverly was able to get over the hump and took the lead with a minute remaining. The lead was short lived, however, as great defensive efforts from the Magicians allowed Countrymon to hit the shot that put Marblehead up for good. 

Countrymon said the key to withstanding Beverly’s rallies was about keeping calm in the moment.

“It was composure. He (Giardi) said to not get within the crowd or anyone here,” said Countrymon. “Just stay with our 16 guys and the coaches, play with everyone there and stay within us.” 

O’Neill collected 12 points and was one of four double-digit scorers for Marblehead. Cam Comstock added five, while Isaiah Makor and Scott Campbell each chipped in six.

The win gives the Magicians a little bit of revenge as Beverly coasted to a 63-46 victory over Marblehead last season. The two teams will meet again on Jan. 19 at Marblehead High School where the Panthers will try to split the season series at one a piece.

For now though, Giardi’s squad has their eyes set on the home opener against Salem on Friday, Dec. 16.