LAWRENCE, Mass. -- What is the difference between the Central Catholic and Andover boys’ basketball teams? On the year, six points, advantage Central Catholic on the heels of their 64-55 win tonight. The victory was retribution for the Raiders, as the Warriors served them with a 55-52 loss during the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament last week.
“There’s not a whole lot that separates these two teams right now,” head coach Rick Nault said. “We’ve got them one more time, and we’ll find out in round three who’s on top” he added, referring to the February 17th matchup at Andover.
With 2:00 left in the game and down by 10, Andover’s Sam Dowden (nine points, eight rebounds) missed his first free throw and made the second, leaving the score at 55-46. On the following possession, Central Catholic (7-1) freshman Tyler Nelson threw one up from behind the line and missed.
“Why did he do that?” yelled a Central supporter from the stands.
Andover’s James Costello got the rebound and down the other end, Joe Bramanti (11 points, five rebounds) went to the rack, was fouled as he scored, and made the free throw to bring Andover within six at 55-49.
With the Andover (6-2) crowd reinvigorated and having scored on the last two possessions, the making of a comeback was in the air. Up six, against their biggest rival, the Raiders give the ball back to Nelson.
“He’s our second leading scorer on the team as a freshman,” said Nault of Nelson, whose trey, his only score on the day, made it a nine point game, the difference in the game at the buzzer. “He really has a ton of confidence in himself… that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“They have faith in me,” said Nelson of his teammates. “And they know that I can hit a shot when they need someone.
“I’m a shooter.”
Senior captain Jimmy Zenevitch led the Raiders with 18 points and added eight rebounds.
“Last week, we came out with no intensity,” said Zenevitch. “This week, today we did our best to deny the ball and finish on defense. Defense is what sets us off.”
Andover coach Dave Fazio was very clear on what he thought the difference was.
“Defensive rebounds. That’s the game,” said Fazio. “We gave up probably 20 defensive rebounds and that’s our biggest deficiency. Until we can figure that piece out, we’re going to lose those tight games.”
Central Catholic's 6-foot-4 sophomore Joel Berroa was one of the culprits, grabbing 11 rebounds and adding seven points, including a three pointer in the first half.
“I was actually just playing my game,” said Berroa, who felt no pressure, even though coach Nault advised him to get 17 points and 13 rebounds. “The shots weren’t going in, and I was like, ‘Let me just get my rebounds, play some defense and do the best I can.’”
Junior Luis Puello, who scored five of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, was pleased with the outcome in tonight’s game.
“The difference between the last two minutes over there and the last two minutes over here is that we thought we could go for a win and everything was going to be OK,” said Puello. “Here, we made it happen.”