By Hector Longo
LAWRENCE — Wear the uniform, and it comes with the territory.
"When you play for Central Catholic, you have a target on your back," said Raider girls coach Sue Downer. "Our kids are used to that, we have that all the time."
With the Division 1 North basketball tourneys set, that statement has never been more true.
The 20-1 Central boys, who were North runners-up a year ago, and the 19-2 defending state champion girls are the teams that everybody wants to knock off.
Beating Central is a season-maker.
"There's always a bull's eye on us," said Central center Carson Desrosiers. "Just the name Central Catholic gets people emotional, and everybody wants to be the one."
But as the tourney opens this week, there is a sense of urgency unlike any that Downer and boys coach Rick Nault have encountered in their seasons on the bench.
One final shot
In the previous four years, Desrosiers and Katie Zenevitch have rolled up an amazing 164-30 mark, with each pulling in a state title - the boys back in 2008 and the girls last year. In addition, the girls went to the state final in 2008 and a North final back in 2007. A year ago Desrosiers and the Raiders were upset by Lynn English in the Division 1 North final, and they also reached the 2007 North final.
The next month ends one of the great eras in area sports history.
"Last chance with Katie," admits Downer. "I'd be crazy not to understand what that means. She's a big-time player, one of the best players ever to come out of the region. We have to seize that opportunity having her one more time."
Nault did some soul-searching this past week. Call it nostalgia. Maybe, the memories of all those blocks, dunks and wins got to him a little bit as Desrosiers hit the 1,000-point plateau.
"Time is running out, I know that," said Nault. "It's been such a great run with Carson, I really find myself appreciating every minute we have left with him."
Those minutes could come to a crashing halt any time now. One bad night, one amped up opponent playing the game of its life, and it might be over.
The bond is forged
Desrosiers, who will play before rabid ACC crowds and national TV audiences at Wake Forest next year, has forged a deep bond with his teammates and classmates.
"I never expected it to grow like this and get like this," said Desrosiers, after yet another impromptu mid-court rave broke out on the court following the wild season finale win over St. John's Prep. "The only word I can think of is special. It will be a crazy atmosphere in North Carolina, but I don't know if it will ever match what's gone on in this gymnasium this winter."
That emotion and passion flowed over to the girls, too. All three showdowns with Andover took on "event" status.
"It's emotional going through four years with the players, coaches, all of them," said Zenevitch, a cornerstone of the Boston College recruiting class which is ranked 11th in the country. "I've made so many relationships. I'm going to miss them all.
"It's been on my mind the last couple months. It's a little depressing, and exciting at the same time. When we played Masco it really hit me, we have to go out with a big bang."
How long can Desrosiers, Zenevitch and the Raiders carry out the drama?
We see beginning this week.
"It's going to be exciting, lot of fans, great atmosphere, just play hard every game," said senior co-captain Michael Alvarez. "We just try not to think about the end, deal with the moment. The end is something I don't want to think about. Any game could be your last, so do all you can not to let it happen."
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Overall recordWin percentagePlayoff recordWin percentageTitles
Central Catholic's Carson Desrosiers
Central Catholic's Katie Zenevitch