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Sports

March 15, 2014

Hoop summit tonight

To capture state title, Central must topple Putnam

Central Catholic and boys hoop greatness have become so synonymous, especially in the Rick Nault Era.

We myopic types in the Merrimack Valley tend to forget they play the game outside our area, too. And they do it very well.

Enter the unbeaten Putnam Tech Beavers of Springfield, defending Division 1 state champions and winners of their last 33 games. The Raiders and Beavers collide tonight (7:45) at the DCU Center in Worcester for the 2014 Division 1 title.

Putnam’s quest — add to the win streak and make it 49-1 with back to back championships in the last two seasons — dwarfs Central’s. But this is the state title game, and the Raiders would be more than happy with the third state championship during Nault’s reign and closing this pretty amazing year — once at 3-3 — at 23-5.

“It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure,” said Nault. “This is a great Putnam team that went out and beat people. They’ve beaten New Mission and Cambridge. And look at their run through the tournament. It hasn’t been close.”

While Central has had to rise from the grave in comebacks vs. Cambridge, St. John’s, Andover, only to run away late from Catholic Memorial, Putnam has rolled through three near 20-point blowouts.

“They’re explosive. They run and can score,” said Nault. “It’s a team with 123 3-pointers as a team this season, and that’s an awful lot.”

Much like CM, Putnam plays the high-octane running game, albeit without a huge stopper in the middle.

Recent 1,000-point scorer David Murrell leads a lineup built on balance with five different players scoring between 8 and 15 points a game.

“A lot like CM, they spread it around,” said Nault. “They all can shoot it and take it to the basket.”

The difference, though, is defense.

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