NORTH ANDOVER — The North Andover High boys, playing on Tuesday night at mighty Central Catholic, with the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division championship hanging in the balance?
“Outrageous!” declared Knights’ forward Chris Bardwell, as in nobody — Nobody! — might have pondered this scenario when balls started bouncing back in late November.
But behind a wildly proficient 35-point performance from Bardwell and Co., North Andover pounded Andover, 73-50, to assure that Tuesday’s tussle will be a brawl for it all with Central.
North Andover moves to 12-1 with Central and Methuen left. Central is 11-1 with the Knights, Andover and Lowell remaining.
“I think we all just came into this one with the attitude, ‘We’re not losing,’” explained Bardwell of last night’s effort, which saw the Knights trail 12-10 after one quarter then steamroll Andover to the tune of 49-22 through the next two. “Playing us at home is very dangerous. We don’t lose at home.”
At least not yet, anyway. In fact, those two middle periods were strikingly reminiscent to North Andover’s 35-9 closing blitz to beat Central here at cozy Crozier just 13 days ago.
North Andover played loose. The Knights defended, ran, found both big men, and knocked down shots from everywhere.
Setting a career-high with 35, Bardwell was unstoppable, hitting 14 of 22 field-goal attempts -- many of which came as he just hung around the hoop. Classmate Derek Collins appeared stunned at times to spot the big fella by himself, but the senior was quick to unleash a handful of 70-foot fastballs that Bardwell deposited for two.
“We’re a fast-break team, and those guys like Derek just found me,” said Bardwell.
But as much as the break skewered the Warriors, now 13-5, it was the long ball that finished the job in the third.
At 37-31, Isaiah Nelsen (11 points, 12 boards) launched a 21-footer from the top that back-rimmed up and in to kick-start a 15-0 barrage.