No. 1 Central Cath sweeps series with Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Mass. -- The Central Catholic boys’ basketball team comes out of the locker room to Fat Joe’s 2006 platinum single, “Make it Rain”, and rightfully so. The Raiders, when on top of their game, shower teams with knuckle-up defense that greatly alters game plans; and coupled with a barrage of offensive weapons, going hard in the paint and draining rainbow threes, sends the opposition running for the nearest exit.

Although they jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first quarter, No. 14 Lawrence was bombarded in the second quarter, 29-7, and never regained the lead or came close, as pole position No. 1 Central Catholic defeated their cross-town rival 81-54.

“They gave us a punch in the mouth at the start of the game,” Central Catholic head coach Rick Nault said. “We got back up and responded; we gave them a punch in the mouth. I think our intensity dominates games on the defensive end.”

“I took it upon myself to play more defense,” said Central junior captain Luis Puello, who had four steals. “Especially since Jaylen Alicea (nine points) is such a great player, but I love the competition, that’s why I love playing him.”

Although Puello loves being competitive, he is humble, and defers to his teammates who are also adept at scoring -- even when he is hot. In the second quarter, when Central was opening up the game, Puello pitched the pill to freshman Tyler Nelson, who flushed two three-pointers that sent the Raiders’ stands going crazy for the baby-faced gunner.

“Me and Tyler had been playing all summer long,” Puello said. “As soon as he joined the team, I said ‘We have a good opportunity to win.’… Especially when I drive, I know they back off, or they try to help, but I know I’ve got my boy Tyler’s who’s going to hit the three automatically, and I always have confidence in him.”

“I know in the game, with players like Luis and Jaycob [Morales] being so aggressive,” said Nelson, “and being able to take it to the basket, that I was going to get open if they hedged a little bit, and I had my shot.”

Morales (six points, four assists) was being forceful, jawing back and forth with a Lawrence player, the two of them being cautioned by the referee to keep the play civil, but he relishes the gritty play and allows it to enhance his game.

“I’m an aggressive kid,” said Morales, who had four charges called against him. “So I like when someone comes at me, especially since I know almost every player on that basketball team personally, because I am from this town.”

Although he plays with vigor, as a senior point guard Morales has to maintain equanimity, and keep the flow of the game in favor of his team.

“Once we set up, no one is stopping us,” added Morales.

One of the team’s best set up men is 6-foot-7 senior Jimmy Zenevitch, who tallied 22 points and seven rebounds on the day. Some of his points came from looks his teammates gave him, but he also made the best use of offensive rebounds, banking some in off the glass.

“We are averaging 17 offensive rebounds a game,” said Zenevitch. “I think that’s one of the biggest reasons we are winning right now.”