EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 12, 2014

Santos back as Central's X-factor

Boys Basketball
Hector Longo

---- — For a kid that is averaging a mere 4.7 points a game, nobody in the sellout crowd at Andover High Friday night could doubt the impact that junior Alex Santos makes in the lineup at Central Catholic.

“Without Alex, (David Giribaldi) had 27 on us, and what did Alex hold him to tonight?” queried Central coach Rick Nault, knowing the answer was seven points. “Alex did an incredible job.”

Santos has not been spoken of so glowingly in the early going by Nault as he was sent to the bench for two of the biggest games in the Raider season, the Christmas Tournament finals and the St. Anthony’s of Jersey City game.

“I’m now on track,” said Santos. “I feel more like part of the group than I was. I just made some dumb mistakes and I learned from them.”

Santos, at 6-feet, is long and athletic, kind of in the vein of a Luis Puello — although Puello might go down as the best on-ball defender this region has ever seen.

He couldn’t wait for the challenge of the all-league Gribaldi last night.

“He’s so quick and athletic, such a great player,” said Santos. “He like’s it physical and that’s the way I like to play, too.”

Remember, these two teams get to hook up again Feb. 13.

More Friday night fallout

Andover coach David Fazio took the loss hard, especially the way his team played in the second half.

“They got us,” said Fazio. “The Christmas Tourney win was last year. It’s old news. This is tonight. If the best thing that happens to this basketball team is winning the Christmas tourney, then it’s not a good year.” …

Talk about a tone-setter. Lost in the Raider win Friday night was the start by Nick Cambio, who had six points and three offensive rebounds in the first three minutes.

Python sellout

Friday night’s Pelham win marked a milestone for the boys hoop program in Kress Country.

“First time ever, we’ve had to lock the doors and turn people away,” said Pelham coach Matt Regan.

Think about the players and teams this program has had, and that’s a pretty amazing feat. Of course, having rival Windham in as the opponent helps the gate tremendously.

The bottom line is the kids in both of these schools get it. It’s a great rivalry in schools where the boys sports are rising fast.

With the Jags at 4-1 and the Pythons 4-2 in Division 2 play, it’s a good bet that either or both will make some noise come March.

Along with the win and a 2-1 week, Regan’s club got some good news with a return to the lineup of football hero Joe Slattery.

“He’s still hobbling a bit, and he’s not himself,” said Regan of his tri-captain. “But he immediately makes us tougher. You can see it right away.”

As for the Jags

Windham coach Todd Steffanides wasn’t about to be discouraged in the hard-fought loss.

“We don’t plan on going anywhere,” said Steffanides. “Last night was a setback, but it was something we can learn from.

“It was the first atmosphere like that for us this season. It was great for the players to experience that, great to be a part of it.”

Windham, with its core four of David Carbonello, Andrew Lowman, Tucker Lippold and Tyler Masone, is expected to hang right at the top of Division 2 as a matter of fact.

Lowman and Carbonello combine for about 28 points a night. Lippold averaged over 10 points in his first three games back from a broken wrist this week and Masone remains a spark plug for the group.

Windham hosts Pelham again on Feb. 18.

“We get them at our place,” said Steffanides. “It’s one of the rare times we pull out both sides of the bleachers.”

Blazing Lancers

Can anyone tell me the last time Londonderry High ripped off four straight road wins to start the year in Granite State play?

That’s a sizzling start for first-year coach Nate Stanton’s crew.

Friday night’s nail-biter with Spaulding flaunted a different strength of the 2014 Lancers — toughness.

“Things didn’t go our way all night, and we found a way to respond,” said Stanton of the 37-30 win. “That’s a great sign. We fought, and Cody Ball made an absolutely huge three in the last minute to put us up for good (by six).”

Remember, this is a young cast of Lancers Stanton has put together, lncluding a pair of freshmen, Caleb Green and Jake Coleman, who are contributing well in the regular rotation.

Let’s hope for a rousing ovation from a giant home crowd as Londonderry hosts Concord on Tuesday night.

More on Tanglis

A couple of final thoughts from the Paul Tanglis opening at North Andover.

One thing Friday’s Page 1 story didn’t touch on was Tanglis’ commitment to the future. Here’s a coach who is ready for battle.

“We have a great feeder system in town with a lot of kids playing year-round,” said Tanglis. “Coaches are coming to our practices, looking to get on board with our system. I’m doing all I can to meet all the kids and try and show the kids we care about them and their future. There are so many schools and opportunities, we’re looking to get to know them.”

North Andover’s youth ranks are traditionally packed with players and teams. Currently, North Andover’s four travel teams in the MVBL have a 20-7 combined mark in the top divisions.

“The excitement is there,” said Tanglis.

But can he keep it there? Remember, this is a town that delivered the top three guards — Tyler Dooley, Drex Costello and Max Burt — plus big man Max Butterbrodt to a powerhouse St. John’s team last spring.

Can North Andover keep the likes of Little League district heroes Steven Hajjar and Jake McElroy and the bulk of the talent in the system home?

“We’ll see,” said Tanglis. “But we are doing all we can.”

Christmas tourney talk

Most people ignored it, but there was a bit of furor this week from the camp of the Commonwealth Classic Christmas Tournament when Greater Lawrence Tech senior captain Oscar Reynoso eloquently expressed his displeasure with being forced out of the tournament.

Almost immediately, Greater Lawrence Tech athletic director Christa Gillis responded to clarify:

“The decision to leave the tournament was made by the school and involved the coaches, athletic director, superintendent and school committee. The decision to leave was based on our past history in the tournament and being able to give our players a better chance at succeeding in a tournament what was a better fit for the school.

“I am not sure why he made the comment, but this information was never given to the players or team. The coaches communicated to the team that the decision to leave was a full school decision and we were never asked to leave the newly created tournament.”

So there are the facts in black and white. The Reggies weren’t forced out. They left for the North Reading Kipnes tourney, which they won.

With that said, I commend Reynoso for speaking from his heart, and I told A.D. Gillis that this week. If the kid felt wronged, it took a lot of courage for him to speak out on it. For a high school senior to step up and speak from the heart like that speaks volumes about Reynoso and the job the folks at the Tech are doing educating him.

This one was my mistake. Had I called her immediately, we could have avoided any issues.

When we take some time and look at potential new venues for the tournament — bigger than the lyrical Warrior bandbox — so 100s of people looking to enjoy the finals don’t get turned away, I will be a bit more diligent.