ANDOVER — With the ball in his hands and the weight of the Andover team and community on his shoulders, David Giribaldi had no question in his mind.
He was going to the basket.
“I was taking the shot,” said Giribaldi. “Absolutely. I had no doubt in my mind. I was confident.”
With 27 seconds remaining in the game, Giribaldi attacked the hoop and sunk a contested layup, giving Andover its first lead of the game. That capped a massive comeback that saw the No. 3-seeded Golden Warriors stun upset-minded No. 14 Billerica 54-52 last night in the Division 1 North first round.
“I had total confidence,” said co-captain Connor Merinder. “I knew I just had to do everything I could to get Giri the ball. He was amazing.”
Andover advances to host No. 6 Lynn English, which pounded Lexington, on Friday at 7 p.m.
“I really didn’t want to go out like that in my last game,” said senior co-captain John Pisacreta. “We took some bad shots and gave them some good ones. Luckily, Giri bailed us out tonight. He is the reason we are moving on.”
The Indians stunned the Golden Warriors out of the gates, starting the game on a 18-3 run, holding the Warriors to just one basket in the first 6:48 of play. Billerica then ended the half on a 11-2 run to take a 47-39 lead into the break.
“I don’t think we lost confidence, but we were definitely worried,” said Merinder. “We had to settle into our game. We had to find our strengths.”
Following buckets by Giribaldi, Pisacreta and E.J. Perry IV to end the third period, the Warriors trailed 47-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Warriors began a comeback. Ryan O’Connell forced a turnover then hit a jumper and Giribaldi nailed a three-pointer with a minute left to make it a one-point game.
“When Giri hit that three we started to feel it,” said Pisacreta. “He scores the ball. He is really tremendous.”
The Warriors fouled, and Billerica went 0 for 2 from the line.
Giribaldi then got the ball at half-court, and worked his magic.
“I knew I could get to the basket because that is what I do best,” said the junior guard. “It was a drive to the hole, a kid ran through and I spun it off the glass. It was absolutely exciting, but I knew they had time for one final shot.”
The Indians rushed up court, but Pisacreta pressured the shooter and Perry grabbed the rebound, setting off a celebration at center court as the loud Andover fanbase rushed the court.
“It was just relief,” said Merinder. “We only have one chance at this and that is it. It is do or die. We have to lock it down and learn from this one.”
Giribaldi finished with a game-high 23 points while Perry had 10.
“We have to learn from this,” said Giribaldi. “We have to come out every night and play. Just because we think we are a better team doesn’t mean anything. We have to play our game.”
Andover 54, Billerica 52
Billerica (52): Luke Sands 2 1-2 7, Rob Gambale 4 0-1 10, Brendan Bouthillette 2 0-0 5, Jeff Trainer 3 2-5 9, Ruben Sands 7 0-0 14, Dan Najjarian 2 0-0 4, Josh Brandanese 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 3-8 52
Andover (54): David Giribaldi 9 2-3 23, Ben Brown 1 0-2 3, Ryan O’Connell 4 1-2 9, E.J. Perry IV 2 5-5 10, Reid Bryant 1 0-0 3, Connor Merinder 1 1-3 3, John Pisacreta 1 0-0 2, Jeffrey Dreyfus 0 1-2 1. Totals 19 10-1754
3-pointers: A — Giribaldi 3, Brown, Perry, Bryant; B — L. Sands 2, Gambale 2, Bouthillette, Trainer, Brandanese
Billerica (10-11): 18 14 15 5 — 52
Andover (17-4): 11 10 18 15 — 54