LAWRENCE — Andover erased a 5-point deficit in the final 1:31 of regulation and owned the overtime to earn a thrilling 76-63 win over North Andover in the opening game of the 38th annual Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney.
Sam Dowden (26 points, 8 rebounds) was immense fighting the Knights’ tall and talented big men 6-6 Isaiah Nelsen (27 points) and 6-5 Chris Bardwell. Senior guard Max Silveira added 17 points and sophomore sub David Giribaldi was Mr. Clutch with 17 points.
But this game was won on the defensive end with Andover forcing the Knights into a whopping 25 turnovers for the game and set the tone with 11 in the first quarter.
“We always try to keep the opposing team uncomfortable,” said Dowden, a 6-4 senior co-captain who can hit the outside shot, take it to the basket and finish around the rim with either hand.
The Knights, who are replacing their top two ballhandlers from last year (Eagle-Tribune MVP Zach Karalis and Brandeis guard Colby Smith), were uncomfortable. They committed turnovers of the forced and unforced variety.
Coach Dave Fazio raved about Tyler Verrette’s eight rebounds and defensive brilliance off the bench.
“Ty was just lock down,” said Dowden.
In a rollercoaster game, the Knights showed why the Boston Globe ranks them No. 2 in all of Eastern Mass., behind only Central Catholic.
Swingman Brendan Miller started handling the ball more and made some nifty passes to Nelsen and Bardwell. Trailing 29-17 at the break, the Knights went on a 10-0 run late in the third to take the lead. The foul-plagued Miller’s sweet lob to Nelsen for the lay-up with three seconds left in the third were the St. Anselm recruit’s 12th and 13th points of the quarter.
The Knights (3-1) held the lead throughout the fourth. It was 56-51 after Derek Collins found Nelsen for a lay-up with 1:50 left in regulation.