LAWRENCE -- Has Jim Boeheim relocated?
OK, probably not, but the legendary Syracuse University maestro of the 2-3 zone would ooze pride at the work of his latest convert, Central Catholic coach Rick Nault.
Last night, as he has done about a handful of times this year, Nault switched up from his bread-and-butter man-to-man to an air-tight 2-3, and the change-up was just what his Raiders needed to kick it past upset-minded BC High, 59-54, here in the opening round of the Raider Roundball Presidents’ Day Classic.
Central’s victory and the earlier 74-45 Cambridge stomping of New Bedford set up a classic high-speed championship game here tonight (7:30) between the 16-4 Raiders and 15-4 Falcons.
“You know when I interviewed here, I swore I’d never play any zone defense,” said Nault. “Tonight, we had some real foul trouble (losing both big men Aaron Hall and Nick Cambio) for long stretches. We needed a change, and it really did it for us again. It’s been huge for us at times.”
The switch delivered at just the right time for the Raiders, who were in danger of letting this one slip away, trailing 24-21 at halftime 38-37 after three quarters.
But after Cambio had missed nearly 12 minutes of the first half with fouls and Hall played a mere 24 seconds in the third, Nault flipped the switch and the Raiders took control.
Cambio, with fresh legs, scored on a traditional 3-point play to give the Raiders the lead for good at 42-39. The 6-foot-5 baseline menace then took a sweet Tyler Nelson no-look pass, strode to the hoop and unleashed a merciless one-handed rim rocker that sent the Raider bench skyward.
Nelson, drawing company all night in an extended BC High 2-3, then put things on ice with a three-point bomb -- one of the few clean looks he saw.