By Hector Longo
LAWRENCE — From blue-chip Sunday to blue-collar last night, nobody in Central Catholic red was about to complain.
The Raider boys, two days removed from a scintillating offensive eruption against Andover, slayed Acton-Boxboro, 52-33, the old-fashioned way in the Division 1 North semis last night before about 2,500 fans.
Central earned a trip to its fifth straight sectional championship game, eighth in the last 10 years. And this one, Friday night's collision against St. John's Prep comes with a bonus. It will be played on the TD Garden parquet.
"We haven't faced a team this year that applies that kind of pressure," admired A-B coach Rick Kilpatrick after his Colonials had their upset hopes choked off by Central's smothering guards. "We knew that, and we tried to simulate it in practice. But you don't know it until you see it.
"We don't get that in our league, and the pressure they put on us just wore us down everywhere. In the end that was the difference, I mean we only scored 33 points."
A-B turned the ball over 28 times on the night, struggling to find the Dual County co-MVP Wes Schroll. When they did, Jimmy Zenevitch played the stalker's role to perfection.
Schroll finished with a hard-earned, but non-factoring 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Raiders did just enough offensively to keep A-B at arm's length.
"It may have been our second worst game of the year offensively," said Central coach Rick Nault. "Shot selection and turnovers, I just don't think we were sharp at all."
Unlike Sunday, when they knocked down 7 of their first 8 three-pointers, the Raiders scuffled against A-B's one-foot-in-the-paint sag.
Zenevitch led the charge with 14 points, and Luis Puello added nine. Carson Desrosiers struggled shooting the ball, hitting only 4 of 14 for eight points but typically dictated in the paint, yanking down a dozen rebounds with eight blocks.
Evan Sheehan and Andrew Ouellette did their thing off the bench, injecting 13 points to the cause.
Now 23-1, the Raiders stand three wins from a state title. The task won't come easily. The Prep, which wore down a Ryan Woumn-less Lynn English squad, 79-78, last night, pushed the Raiders to the brink on Central's home floor just two weeks ago, ultimately falling in a classic, 65-61.
"Our goal is not to get to the Garden, our goal is to keep it rolling," said Nault. "We have a tough, tough matchup and (the Prep's Pat Connaughton) is an absolute handful. We'll have to make adjustments as to how we play him. What we did last time was not effective. Friday night, we have our hands full."
Central Catholic 52, Acton-Boxborough 33
A-B (33): Wes Schroll 3 4-5 10, Kevin McGovern 2 0-0 6, Jake Pilecki 0 1-2 1, Sam Longwell 2 1-2 6, Devin Santilli 1 0-0 3, Kevin LaFrancis 3 1-1 7, Totals 11 7-10 33
Central (56): Jaycob Morales 0 0-1 0, Andrew Ouellette 3 0-0 6, Luis Puello 3 2-2 9, Chris Conlin 1 0-1 3, Jimmy Zenevitch 7 0-3 14, Michael Alvarez 1 2-2 5, Evan Sheehan 3 0-0 7, Carson Desrosiers 4 0-0 8, Totals 22 4-8 52
3-pointers: AB — McGovern 2, Longwell, Santilli; CC — Puello, Conlin, Alvarez, Sheehan
Acton-Boxborough (20-3):âÇ6âÇ11âÇ5âÇ11 — 33
Central Catholic (23-1):11âÇ22âÇ6âÇ13 — 52