“We know they are one of the best teams in the state,” said Costello, who finished with 16 points. “But we also know we are right there with them.”
It was a money performance for Costello, who had also put his team up 59-58 with his first triple of the night, with 90 seconds left in the game.
Taking on Nelson in a complete face-guard from the opening tip is a physically taxing proposition.
“It’s hell,” said Costello. “He’s constantly moving, running off screens, trying to stay with him. He had some moments, but I did my best to disrupt.”
Nelson finished with 18 points on the night, but missed significant time in the first half when he was hit with a touch foul and then an off-the-ball, inconsequential push.
“Believe me, anytime he’s out of the game, it’s a huge relief,” said Costello.
For Central, it was a similar case to the last time these teams met in Danvers.
The Raiders put themselves in a deep hole, only to show their grit and make a furious second-half run.
St. John’s put up 40 in the first half, a fact that will definitely haunt Nault. The 17-point intermission lead grew to 21 in the third, until Joel Berroa and the Raiders decided enough was enough.
On Central’s Senior Night, Berroa delivered what might have been his best performance in a sparkling four-year career.
“He was an animal,” said Costello admirably. “He killed us on the boards.”
Berroa finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and two savage blocks right in the heart of the Raider comeback.
“Joel was amazing. He nearly willed us all the way back,” said Raider coach Rick Nault. “My heart hurts for him right now.”
Central now will face defending Division 1 state champion Springfield Central in the consolation game tonight at 5:30. The Raiders will close out the regular season on Wednesday night at Lowell. A win will give the Raiders sole possession of the MVC Division 1 championship. A loss would mean the Raiders would split the title with North Andover.