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March 16, 2014

Central comeback falls short of mighty Putnam

WORCESTER — The best boys basketball team in Massachusetts, Putnam Tech of Springfield, won its second straight state championship last night at the DCU Center, 74-70, before 6,500 fans.

But the toughest team in the state, Central Catholic, which won three state tournament games coming from behind in the final seconds, almost did it again.

Putnam fought off several eight-point leads, with Central eventually cutting the deficit to two points on three different occasions. In fact, Central had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.

“That’s one of the best teams I’ve seen in about four years,” said Central coach Rick Nault, of Putnam, which has won 34 straight and 49 of 50 over two years.

“They not only were athletic and ran the floor,” said Nault. “But they defended as well as any team we’ve seen. That was a great, great high school basketball team.

“We were really good in 2008 and 2010. This Putnam team was right there with our teams.”

Still, because of another “career” game from Nick Cambio, who scored 27 points for the second straight game, Central almost pulled off the upset.

So many times it appeared that Putnam was ready to pull away and make this a double-digit victory, but so many times Central answered back, particularly on offense.

“We’ve sort of been used to beating teams by double digits,” said senior guard Dizel Wright, who had two steals in the last three minutes. “But they were so fundamentally sound. They set a lot of picks. They run their plays. And they shoot the lights out. (Central Catholic) is one, tough team.”

Tyler Nelson (17 points) had a highlight lay-in while being fouled, to close it to 67-65 with 2:51 remaining and sending Central’s student section into a frenzy.

But five seconds later, Tyron Malone took a long pass and dunked the ball to send their student section into a frenzy, too.

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