LAWRENCE, Mass. — If this was a potential preview of what's to come in the MIAA Tournament, then fans of high school basketball in the area are in for a treat.
Central Catholic nipped St. John’s Prep, 59-58, on a lay-in by Nick Cambio with six seconds left to claim the IAABO Board 130 Basketball Classic last night on its home floor.
Joel Berroa, who made the pass to Cambio on the determining bucket and who finished as the tournament MVP, played sparingly in the first half due to foul trouble but came on with 13 points and three tide-changing 3-pointers in the fourth period.
Cambio (four points) also picked up three quick fouls in the first half and only finished with two field goals, but got the one when it mattered most.
“When they got in the flow a little bit in the second half I felt like it was the difference for us with (Berroa) hitting some big shots and (Cambio) finishing in the paint,” said Raiders (20-1) coach Rick Nault.
The Game-Winner: The Eagles (13-7) got the ball back down a point after a costly turnover by the Raiders with 33.6 seconds on the clock.
Mike Carbone drove down a crowded lane and his shot bounced out, but Steve Haladyna (25 points, 10 rebounds) tipped the ball twice to himself over a couple of Raiders, and he was fouled sending him to the line for a 1-and-1 situation.
Haladyna sank the first free throw to tie things at 57 and nailed the first for the one-point lead with 18.5 seconds remaining in the game. Central Catholic decided against a timeout after the made bucket, but Nault quickly changed his mind when the ball got stuck at halfcourt with several Prep defenders in good position.
Nault knew exactly what play he wanted to run out of the timeout with 11.5 seconds left, but Cambio jokingly said that his coach had a little bit of trouble communicating exactly what X’s and O’s were going to be drawn up.
Apparently all of those hours of practice can build silent communication between coaches and players.
“He was too nervous writing down the play and he forgot what it was,” Cambio said with a big smile on his face. “We ran the play and that’s what the play was, an up top handoff and back screen pick over the top, and I got the lay-up.”
Berroa got the ball at the top of the 3-point line and Cambio was able to slide wide open on backdoor cut and finish with about six seconds remaining on the clock. Haladyna had an opportunity at the buzzer to take back the win, but his shot from just inside the free throw line hit the back iron and bounced out.
“It was something that we know what it is side-out,” said Nault. “I kind of forgot who was supposed to come to the ball and I was telling my assistant to help me out with it. But the kids knew exactly where to go.”
The foul that didn't come: Prep had three fouls to waste with 11.5 seconds left and the players went for the foul on Berroa and Cambio at the top of the screen that got the latter open, but the contact wasn’t enough to draw a whistle.
“We slapped him a little, but we should have fouled harder,” said Prep head coach Sean Connolly. “I told the refs to look for it, but I guess they didn’t think it was much of a foul.”
PENTUCKET 59, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 41
Before the girls final, Pentucket head coach John McNamara said his team would be in for a tough task to get a win over Central Catholic on the home floor.
The game was decided after maybe the strongest 16 minutes of defensive basketball by the Sachems.
Pentucket held the Raiders to 12.5 percent shooting and 10 points in the first half to run away with a 59-41 victory.
“We just came out and played defense the way we are capable of,” said McNamara. “We did the things that we had to do.”
The one-two combination of Sarah Higgins (17 points) and tournament MVP Tess Nogueira (19 points) helped carry the offensive load for a team that was 3-3 and one point, but ended the season 18-4.
Westford Academy 85, Lynn English 68
Westford - Alex Preckol 22 points, Matt Ellis 21
English - Keandre Stanton 19 pts, Fred Hogan 18, Ben Bowden 14
Archbishop Williams 61, Revere 38
Williams - Michaela Flanagan - 13 points, Sara Ryan 12
Revere - Caitlyn Caramello - 14 points