BEVERLY — With the game and a spot in the Division 1 North sectional finals pretty much salted away, Tyler Nelson stepped to the line to the chant of “MVP, MVP, MVP!” from the fans in the Raider cheering section.
Last night, those “Red Sea” folks were flat-out wrong.
The amazing Nelson had to share the honors last night. Central’s incredible, 81-74, overtime win here over St. John’s Prep was the ultimate team performance.
Pick a Raider, he stepped up as the Prep swarmed Nelson with everything and everyone.
Nobody played bigger than Aaron Hall in the second half. The senior netted 13 second-half points to be one of three Raiders with 19 on the night.
Of course, front court mate Nick Cambio (19 points) was another. At the Raiders’ most dire time, down nine in the third quarter, it was Cambio’s number that got called and he responded with three huge hoops from the block.
Defensive specialist Alex Santos? Ten big points.
Sophomore A.J. Pettway? A pair of overtime hoops, one on a fearless drive, the other giving Central the lead for good at 73-71 with 1:06 left in OT as he scooped up a loose ball, tripped and as he was falling to the floor, banked in an over-the-head hook shot.
It was that kind of night, and Central needed every bit of to combat an uncanny shooting night from Prep junior Ben Judson, who led all scorers with 32.
“Ben was unbelievable for them, but tonight it was my teammates who really stepped it up,” said Nelson. “Aaron was huge. Nick dominated. That’s what has to happen when teams are all over me.”
Of course, so much of the comeback still flowed through Nelson, who played nearly the whole fourth quarter and overtime with four fouls.
The Fairfield-bound senior led with 19 points and nine assists. He also had eight big rebounds including one in traffic at 73-71 in overtime that might be one of the greatest in Central history, fighting through at least six Prep hands to rip it away.