Recap: No. 19 N. Andover 45, No. 4 Central Cath. 44

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -– It was only fitting that the championship game of the 2012 Greater Lawrence Girls' Christmas Tournament came down to the final shot.

Trailing 44-43 North Andover had the tall task of going the full length of the court with eight seconds remaining in the game. After guard Morgan Lumb received the inbound pass she advanced the ball up the court and found a sprinting Megan Collins, who beat the buzzer and gave the Scarlet Knights a 45-44 tournament championship victory.

“Speechless,” exclaimed an overwhelmed Collins after the game. “I was taking the ball out so I was not really expecting that. I just ran down the middle and was wide open. We really wanted to win this one.”

Tournament MVP Lumb (19 points) proved why she is one of the State’s best guards as the Hartford-bound captain came up with two game changing 3-pointers in the second half comeback. Her first trifecta, with three minutes remaining in the third quarter, gave North Andover their first lead of the second half at 28-27.

“Whoever was open I had to get the ball to,” Lumb said after the game. “ I knew I was probably not going to shoot it that last time but Megan flashed to the middle, I hit her with a pass and thank god she made it.”

Trailing for most of the game, and by a score of 20-15 at the half, North Andover knew they had to make some adjustments to make the difference in the game.

“When we play our defense it makes our offense,” Lumb said. “That was our whole goal, to make them turn the ball over and make them get flustered. That is what we did.”

Central Catholic received strong games from their all-tournament stars Casey McLaughlin and Courtney Walsh. The Stonehill-bound McLaughlin scored 17 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds. Walsh scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half after the junior point guard got into early foul trouble.

McLaughlin had another stellar game as the 6-foot senior scored eight points in the fourth quarter and hit the go-ahead shot to give Central Catholic the lead with eight seconds remaining.

Lumb scored a game-high 19 points and also did a great job on the defensive end of the court as the hard-nosed guard had four steals and three blocks in the win.

Role Players: Collins was instrumental off the bench for the Scarlet Knights as she scored nine points to go with eight rebounds and countless hustle plays.

Senior point guard Pam Coufos also had a strong game as she provided good ball pressure on Walsh and totaled four steals on the evening.

Senior forward Michaela Mello and her junior sister Mackenzie Mello provided valuable post-defense and much needed rebounding against a taller Central Catholic front line.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my inside players, Michaela and her sister Mackenzie and Megan Collins,” North Andover head coach Susan Breen said. “They did a great job limiting them to one shot and they did a nice job making them work for everything.”

Sophomore Leah Chittick (six points) and junior guard Christina Cataldo (two points) also made plays on both ends for the Scarlet Knights.

Defense wins championships: In their first season as a member of the Merrimack Valley Conference the North Andover Scarlet Knights certainly sent a message that they are a top contender.

North Andover’s ability to defend the post along with strong perimeter play sets them apart from their competition early in the season.

“It was a defensive battle on both sides tonight,” Breen said. “What a great game and I am just thrilled for the kids. This is a game that that they will remember forever.”

All-tournament: Lumb took home the Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament. Collins and Alex Nagri both earned the coaches awards for North Andover and Central Catholic respectively.

The remainder of the all-tournament team consisted of Michaela Mello, McLaughlin, Walsh, Devon Caveney of Andover, and Emily Hickey of Salem (N.H.)

Caveney hit an impressive seven 3-pointers in a 64-44 win for Andover over Salem (N.H.) in the Third Place game played prior to the Championship.

Methuen and Pinkerton (N.H.) also picked up wins in early tournament action on Sunday.