NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Central Catholic made some critical halftime adjustments and held Lowell to just 12 second half points as they defeated their Merrimack Valley Conference counterpart, 53-28, in the first round of the 2012 Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament.
Central Catholic (4-0) led 23-16 at the half in a first half that was dominated by the inside presence of Central Catholic senior Casey McLaughlin and Lowell freshman Alexi Schecter.
Schecter imposed her 6-foot-3 inch frame in the key and created problems for Central Catholic on the defensive end of the floor. She finished the first half with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“We knew we did not play the way we wanted to play in the first half,” Central Catholic head coach Susan Downer said. “That was the first time we played against Schecter and she is very good. We focused on fronting her and helping from behind and I think we did a lot better job in the second half.”
McLaughlin and Central Catholic came out and turned up the defensive intensity in the second half as they extended their defense and caused numerous turnovers in the third quarter resulting in a 12-point Central lead after three quarters.
“We knew we had to pick it up in the second half,” McLauglin said after the game. “We just breathed and focused in the locker room and came out and turned up the defensive effort.”
McLaughlin, who walks off the bus with a double-double, led Central Catholic on the evening with 18 points and 20 rebounds. Her relentless effort on the offensive glass and on the defensive end of the floor proved to be too much for Lowell (3-1) to handle down the stretch.
The fourth quarter would prove to be the most dominant for Central as they outscored Lowell 16-3 in the final frame to earn their fourth victory of the season.
Central Catholic also received strong games from junior forward Amanda Williams (11 rebounds) and junior point guard Courtney Walsh (nine points, four assists).
Veteran team: Despite just having three seniors on their roster Central Catholic returns their starting lineup and a very experienced veteran group.
“Our intensity has been great at practices and we have worked very hard all pre-season,” Downer said of her veteran team.
The Stonehill-bound McLaughlin, one of two seniors and four-year varsity veteran, echoed her coaches thoughts.
“We have a very strong team this year,” McLauglin said. “I think we have a very fast team and we are always looking to push the ball. We want to win every game, starting with this tournament, as we have never won this one.”
Lowell’s fab frosh: Schecter was very impressive for Lowell in the loss. Reminding many in the gym of former Central Catholic standout Katie Zenevitch (Boston College) Schecter showed a mature post-game to go with an aggressive defensive mentality.
Battling double teams and fighting through physical defenders all night Schecter showed why she will be one of the most talked about players in Massachusetts for years to come.
“She made a huge difference in our game plan,” Downer said. “You have to be very smart when you play against someone like her. She is agile and has a good knack for the basketball.
Schecter finished the game with a stat line of 15 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
In other tournament action: In earlier action Andover defeated Lawrence 60-40. Andover’s win sets up a semi-final match-up with rival Central Catholic. Senior guard Devon Caveney led Andover with 17 points.
North Andover and Hartford-bound senior Morgan Lumb defeated Methuen 52-32 in another semifinal contest. Lumb, who is one of the most explosive guards in Massachusetts, led the Scarlet Knights with 20 points.
Pinkerton Academy (N.H.) and Salem (N.H.) play in the nightcap and make up the final two teams in the annual eight-team tournament.