WOBURN — With the clock ticking down to its final seconds, Andover’s Connor Merinder had no time consider the moment.
With the game on the line, he had to act.
“You can’t think,” said the center. “You just have to rely on your instincts. You have to be aggressive. Once I got the ball, I was never going to let it go for anything.”
With 13 seconds left in the game and Andover leading by one point, Everett’s Timmance McKinney drove to the basket. But Merinder was there to pressure him into a miss close to the basket.
A Crimson Tide player grabbed the rebound, but Merinder was there tear the ball out of his hands and held it tight as the clock ran out and Andover clinched a thrilling 49-48 victory over Everett in the Division 1 North semifinals last night.
“I knew Connor would be there,” said star guard David Giribaldi, who had 12 points. “Connor always has my back on defense. He rules the paint and he is a rebounding machine. Then it was just relief. I have been waiting since the fourth grade to make it this far.”
With the victory, the Golden Warriors advanced to the Division 1 North finals for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, once again facing off against archrival Central Catholic on Saturday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
“This is everything we have world for and everything we have wished for,” said Merinder. “It is so amazing that we will have a chance to play in the North final. This is the first Andover team to do it in a long time, and that means a lot. But we are going to keep battling. This isn’t going to our heads.”
In the most important game of his career, Merinder was dominant. The 6-foot-5 bigman scored a team-high 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked a whopping seven shots.