Deadlocked with the 23-3 Boxers, 26-26, at halftime, Central rode a dominant performance from 6-7 senior Dan O’Shea to a 60-50 victory and a weekend date with Amherst in the state final in Worcester.
O’Shea scored 16 of his team-high 24 points and hauled down nine of his 13 rebounds in the final 16 minutes to help the Raiders pull away. In the process, O’Shea netted his 1,000th career point when he sank his first basket of the game, finishing the contest with 1,020 points and, more importantly, another game to play.
“In the first half, it’s a lot of nerves,” O’Shea explained. “In the second half, there was this sense that I was on every loose ball. You always try to play like that, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Ironically, O’Shea’s father played for Brockton.
Big contributions also came from Jeremy Shannon (10 points and 6 assists) and Marquis Victor (10 points).
Tickets for the contest sold at a brisk clip. Central’s initial allotment of 500 disappeared in two hours, and after driving to the MIAA office in Franklin for another 500, those were gone five hours before game time.
“If we could have gotten 500 more tickets, they would have been sold out, too,” said Raider head coach Dick Licare.
As it was, 5,000 people attended the penultimate game, followed by an audience of 7,000 in Worcester.
Central held an eight-point second-half lead, but difficulties at the free throw line opened a door that Amherst, behind 16 points from junior Ben Coblyn, ran through for a 65-64 victory.
“We missed 11 free throws in the second half,” said Licare. “It just really came down to foul shots.”
Victor had 18 points and Jonathan Cruz 17 in the heartbreaking defeat.
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