Dave Fazio has seen the rival stars and superstars come and go in the Merrimack Valley since he started coaching at Andover High in 1989.
Most of them from Central Catholic. Most of them a thorn in his side.
Saturday Andover fell apart in the second half, losing a game it appeared to be controlling ... to Central. Add in the fact that Central is playing for a state title tomorrow night against Springfield Putnam. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Very bitter.
And there was one particular, very painful, thorn in his side.
“Central is very good every year. Every year!” emphasized Fazio. “Things were going our way, as we had planned and hoped ... And then Tyler goes off.”
Difficult and painful state tourney exits the last two years can be pinned on Central’s Tyler Nelson.
Fazio gives off a big sigh before talking about Nelson.
“We had him a little uncomfortable,” recalled Fazio of the Division 1 North final.
“I think he had about eight points at the time. Trust me. I’ve coached against this kid in a lot of games. Of course I was worried.”
And like a runaway train, a 43-38 Andover lead disappeared following 10 straight points by Central, eight from Nelson.
Two straight 3-pointers, one from 22 feet and another from 27 feet, by Nelson changed the course of the game.
“He almost did the same thing in the last game (eventually won by Andover, 76-65, to end the regular season),” said Fazio. “You have him a little under control, a little uncomfortable, and then he goes off, hitting threes, getting to the line, making passes for lay-ups. He’s amazing.”
Fazio’s teams have not fared well against Central teams with Nelson, a rare four-year starter, going 3-10, with two of those wins this year.
Nobody has seen the best of Nelson more than Fazio.