METHUEN — Andover showed off its survival skills in dramatic fashion last night in the Division 1 North semifinals at Methuen High School.
Thrown off track just three and a half minutes into the game when star sophomore Nicole Boudreau picked up her third foul and went to the bench for the next 12 1/2 minutes, the Golden Warriors stayed close to aggressive Westford Academy the rest of the half, trailing just 36-33 at intermission.
"When Nicole went to the bench, I was sick to my stomach," said Andover coach Jim Tildsley. "But, when we went into the locker room only down by three, I was skipping in there."
Then, thanks partly to the return of Boudreau, the Warriors took an 11-point lead in the third quarter, but they were forced to survive again as Westford mounted a furious comeback and even took the lead, 65-64, with 48 seconds remaining in the game.
But five clutch free throws in the closing seconds allowed Andover (22-3) to survive with a 69-67 victory to advance to Friday's North finals at the TD Garden against archrival Central Catholic, tentatively scheduled for 2:30 p.m..
"Our goal was to get to the Garden, and we've got Central and that's what everyone wanted," said a relieved Tildsley. "But let's just enjoy this for awhile. This was a great high school basketball game."
When Boudreau left the game, the score was tied, 6-6, but no one was feeling good at that point, particularly Boudreau.
"It was the worst feeling ever, just sitting there thinking I could be helping the team," said Boudreau. "But my team hung in there the first half. I was really proud of them."
Boudreau was particularly proud of freshman Devon Caveney, and with good reason. She came off the bench and led the Warriors with 11 of her 16 points in the first half, nine coming on three 3-pointers.