IAABO Board 130: Andover 74, No. 8 Everett 54

DANVERS, Mass. –- David Giribaldi had a feeling Sunday’s showdown at Everett could be a big night for himself. He even knew it before the opening tip.

“You kind of know going into it when you have a nice shootaround before the game,” Giribaldi said, “I definitely could feel that coming into it.”

Feel it, indeed. Giribaldi, a junior guard, totaled 34 points on Sunday for the Golden Warriors, teaming up with junior center Connor Merinder (14 points, 13 rebounds) to lead Andover past Everett at the IAABO Board 130 Classic, 74-54.

For Andover coach Dave Fazio though, Sunday’s performance from Giribaldi was nothing out of the ordinary.

“He’s been doing it for 17 games, same old story -– he’s just relentless, he plays hard. He’s a killer, he attacks, attacks, attacks, we’re up 20 and there’s no such thing as a bad shot -- he just keeps throwing them up,” Fazio said.

Merinder the ‘glue guy’ for Andover: At many points on Sunday, Merinder’s play perfect reflected the in-your-face, hard-nosed style of defense that Fazio preaches to his players. An athletic 6-foot-5 forward, Merinder was all over the offensive glass and showed off his touch by hitting several shots outside of the paint.

“At the end of the day, with Merinder we’ve won 15 games, and without him we can’t win three games,” Fazio said, “He gets every rebound, he’s our defensive force inside, everybody in our program knows how important he is. [Giribaldi] is our offensive killer, but Merinder controls everything. Everybody knows we just have to take care of that kid and give him some love on offense -– he’s been that way the whole year.”

The role of tough guy certainly isn’t meant for everybody, but it’s a role that Merinder has come to embrace this year –- asserting himself as a dominant post presence and reliable defensive rebounder.

“I’m usually the one who gets the majority of the rebounds. We try to get everybody involved with rebounding and boxing out, but I know that being the tallest one on the team that’s its my responsibility to get the majority of the rebounds," Merinder said. “When we can come out with a lot of energy, the bench has energy and the starting five has energy, we know that we can compete with anybody.”

Fazio, who has preached energy, defensive intensity, and fundamentals to his team all year, seconded Merinder’s all-or-nothing attitude. Everett’s 54 points on Sunday was their second lowest scoring total of the season, something Fazio and his team take great pride in.

“That’s our staple," he said. "As I said to the kids: ‘you have the opportunity to go against a great team. Let’s do what we do.’ We’ll make our adjustments along the way, but that’s what we do.”

Playoff preparation: At this juncture of the season, the main goal for coaches of playing in big tournaments before the MIAA playoffs is getting their players prepared for playing in different gyms against seldom-seen opponents. The IAABO Board 130 Classic has brought just that for the Golden Warriors, who will take on St. John’s Prep on Monday.

“The more teams we play and the different ways in which they play, it helps prepare you so that there aren’t any surprises in the tournament," Fazio said. "That’s a pressing team, we’ll see somebody who presses or does a diamond or something like that. It just gives you an opportunity to prepare for it."

A loaded offensive team with as much firepower as any team in the state, Sunday will certainly be looked at as a learning experience for Everett. Gary Clark led Everett with 19 points and eight rebounds, but the Crimson Tide struggled with Andover’s ball pressure, as well as the 2-3 zone the Golden Warriors went to in the second half. That being said, Fazio will be hoping to not see Everett on the opposite bench again anytime soon.

“I know I don’t want to see Everett in the tournament cause I think they’re pretty damn good,” Fazio said. “I think Everett’s a lot better than they showed today. We’ll take the win, we’re happy, we get to play another good team tomorrow. We really just want to get ready for the tournament, that’s how you judge. The whole thing at the end of the day is to be tournament ready.”