DORCHESTER, Mass. –- It just didn’t feel like a consolation game at the Comcast IAABO Board 27 Tournament, at Boston College High School's McNeice Pavilion. Andover coach Dave Fazio even said it himself.
“You play in this tournament and it’s all about pride,” said Fazio. “So any game you play in any tournament against a quality team like Newton North is all about pride. We try to instill in our kids that it doesn’t matter whether its checkers or chess, it doesn’t matter, if you play in something competitive, you always play to win. That’s what it’s all about.”
And they did indeed play to win. The Golden Warriors bounced back from Saturday’s tough loss against St. John’s Prep to beat Newton North in a 75-66 win.
In the first 45 seconds of the game, sophomore Sam Dowden knocked down two three-pointers to give Andover a solid six point lead for the entire first quarter. Then, in the second quarter, Andover’s star Joe Bramanti scored 15 of his team’s 21 points to put his team up by 13. At this point, it looked as though it was Andover’s game for the taking. It was not, however, even close to being over.
After a Tevin Falzon basket with a foul to finish the second quarter, and a Luke Westman dunk to start the third, Newton North took the momentum back. Powered by Michael Thorpe’s 19 third-quarter points -- including three acrobatic three-pointers -- the Tigers went on a 20-6 run to take the lead at 51-46.
“That’s the player that I’ve been waiting for all season long,” Newton North head coach Paul Connolly said. “Michael has only averaged 13 points per game this year. He hasn’t shot the ball well. We’ve been a different team this year. That’s the level he’s capable of playing at. That’s what we need. Your leading scorer needs to play like that in the tournament. Mike had a period there where he was phenomenal but you know, they have Joe Bramanti, and he took over the game."
Said Bramanti, who only scored two points in the third, “After [Thorpe] hit the third three-pointer, coach put me on him just to contain him and keep him out of his rhythm. Once someone catches fire like that, they are just going to keep going and going and going so you just put the clamps on him and hope he doesn’t keep going.”
Andover decided to then take a page out of Newton North’s book. Coach Fazio told his team to get the ball to Joe, and it turned out that was the right decision. Bramanti went off for 21 fourth-quarter points on various drives, three-pointers, and 11 free throws.
“[Getting to the line] is definitely a big part of my game," Bramanti said. "I was really trying to facilitate early on, but when we got down to the fourth quarter it was necessary for me to get to the line. We needed a break, and those are easy points."
Bramanti finished with 38 points, going nine for 16 from the field (including three 3-pointers) and stayed perfect from the line by sinking 17 free throws.
“This is a big win for us. This is a big win for our program,” said Fazio. “You’ve got to remember, the last two we lost was probably to the number one team in the state and the number two team in the state. Those two losses were against two really good teams. I think we have the best schedule in New England. We play against everyone. It was another great fight by our kids.”
-- While Bramanti may be known as the star for Andover right now, keep your eyes on junior James Costello. Costello finished with 20 points. Whether he was using his mean jab step to get by his man or jumping over defenders for offensive rebounds, there is no doubt that Costello is a unique player. At 6-foot-3, he does not have a true position but is the type of athletic player that every team could use. His coach and teammate would agree.
“I think these past few games, [James] has been tremendous,” said Bramanti. ”He’s been stepping up big time. He’s definitely progressed exponentially. I think it is good for him to have two good games for our game Thursday night against Brockton.”
“He is playing better and better," Fazio said. "He is going to be phenomenal. Hopefully, he’s going to carry the torch from Bramanti.”
-- For those of you making your predictions for the MIAA playoffs, coach Connolly shed some light on who he thinks will be the most successful teams. After having a surprisingly early exit last year, Connolly thinks the teams with the best guards are the most dangerous.
“Hurley took over the game against us yesterday," Connolly said. "Pat Connaughton is capable of taking over games. When you have a player who can take over a game with the ball in his hands, you are dangerous. We had Greg [Kelley] last year but it’s different when you have a big guy. Those are the guys who will make the big tournament runs."