BOSTON -- No. 12 Andover’s guards might not be the quickest or the most agile in the state, but against No. 19 Brookline Saturday at the Good Sports Invitational, they impacted the game in a big way.
Andover’s Dave Giribaldi had 26 points in his team’s 57-48 victory. Fifteen of those points came in the first quarter alone. He was never deterred from driving the lane or shooting from outside if he felt like he was open. Right as the first half ended, he drained a three from just beyond the left elbow.
“It doesn’t matter what defense they play, he’s going to attack no matter what,” said Andover (10-2) coach Dave Fazio. “It doesn’t matter. They can play box-and-one, triangle and two, he’s just a killer. He’s just going to keep attacking. The bigger the game, the better he plays.”
Freshman E.J. Perry IV (12 points, six rebounds, three steals) made his mark on the game in the second quarter. After draining a three-pointer in the halfcourt, Andover switched to a 2-1-2 full court press. Perry intercepted a Brookline (7-4) pass and drained another three to extend its early lead to 17-13.
Brookline coach Luke Day came away from the game impressed with the guards’ defensive prowess and ability to capitalize on other team’s mistakes.
“They’re pretty good, they really penalize mistakes,” he said. “I thought for most of the game, particularly in the first half, we didn’t lose them too often. Every time we did, they make you pay. There’s just kind of a confidence there. They’re going to keep coming at you, keep coming at you, and keep coming at you.”
Brookline’s guards had strong games for themselves as well, most notably senior Elijah Rogers, who finished with 13 points. He made a habit of hitting long-distance, off-balance threes Saturday, some when the shot clock was winding down. His first three came from beyond the right elbow.
“We’re well aware of their abilities, but we were trying to focus more on Andover, believe it or not, than Brookline,” said Fazio. “We started out straight man-to-man on the line, up the line, but Rogers is so quick and so dynamic that when he caught the ball we dropped a couple guys in just to try and not give him those lanes.”
In the third and fourth quarters, Andover’s Connor Merinder made his presence felt on the offensive end. Earlier in the game, he was doing the dirty work of defending Brookline’s bigs and rebounding in the post. As the game went on, he started hitting baseline jumpers and even a three-pointer. He finished the game with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“This season, we’re going to go as far as those two guards and our big guy take us,” said Fazio.
Staying the course: Saturday was the second loss in a row for Brookline. It lost 65-64 Tuesday against Natick. Day has been a high school basketball coach long enough to know not to overreact to two straight losses.
“You get to three or four losses in a row and you start to worry a little bit,” he said. “The cliche about the season being a marathon and not a sprint is really true. It’s about peaking at the right time. That being said, there are some lessons to be learned. We still have a ways to go.”
Special atmosphere: The Good Sports Invitational is a way to not only showcase MIAA boys’ basketball to the community, but it also gives players the chance to play on the famed TD Garden floor. For many of the players, the opportunity to play in the same arena as the Boston Celtics is a once in a lifetime opportunity. After the game Saturday, Day was able to put the loss in perspective in the big picture of the entire season.
“I told the kids in the locker room they aren’t going to remember the wins and the losses,” he said. “Obviously it would be my preference to win, but I told them 20 years from now, you can take your kids to a Celtics game and tell them you played on the floor. You can tell them you won, nobody will know the difference and they are going to think it’s great. Those are the kinds of things that are really important.
“We got a lot of kids involved today and got a lot of contributions from a lot of kids. The loss is secondary on a day like today. It just is.”