EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

March 24, 2013

Saluting the soldiers, the shocker and the studs

The close of the 2013 boys basketball season took a chunk out of Central Catholic coach Rick Nault and Andover High’s David Fazio.

One reason is “breaking up” with four-year varsity seniors Joel Berroa and Sam Dowden?

Both athletes, who saw so much of each other the past four years, exit after providing the pulse for each team.

“He’s definitely one of my top five favorite kids of all time,” said Fazio of Dowden, the all-conference forward who scored 2,000 on his SATs. “He got everyone’s best and most attention. He battled every possession of every game without one complaint in four years.”

Dowden definitely leaves his own legacy as one of the top competitors in Warriors history. Few athletes have embraced Fazio’s way like he did.

And his opposite number on so many nights was the uncanny Berroa. How confident was Nault in Berroa’s defensive will and skill?

If Paul Pierce was on the opposite end of the floor, Joel would probably get the call.

“There’s nothing you can’t say about Joel, and the way he plays defense,” said Nault. “He’s given us everything he possibly could over the last four years.”

Both players are fighters who hate to lose. And each rarely did. But it was when the two collided that they each shined brightest.

It’s a matchup hoop fans in the region will surely miss.

BARDWELL’S SEASON SIMPLY UNCANNY

Can you imagine the pounding the Cape Ann League would have taken this winter if North Andover High had stayed, and senior transfer Chris Bardwell unleashed his fury there?

But Bardwell didn’t beat up the tiny CAL after transferring from Central Catholic to the Knights for his senior campaign. He rumbled through the big boys, the beasts of the Merrimack Valley Conference, leaving nothing but rubber treads on the way.

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