By Michael Muldoon
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.
But Dowden’s 3-point play made it 56-54 at 1:31. North Andover missed a pair of chippies from in close and Silveira gave the Warriors (4-0) the lead on a 3-point drive.
Silveira found a streaking Giribaldi on a long pass for a 3-point play to make it 60-56 with 29 seconds left.
But Knights reserve Brett Daley drained a 3-pointer to cut it to 1 with 12 seconds left for his only points of the game. Silveira missed the front end of a 1-1 a second later. The Knights had a chance for the win but Bardwell’s first free throw wouldn’t fall with five seconds left. He made the second to force the OT.
The extra session was all Andover as the Knights missed three trifectas and continued to be plagued by turnovers. Silveira (6 points), Giribaldi (6 points) and Dowden (4 points) carried the Warriors to victory.
Asked if he had a little extra incentive facing the Knights’ highly-touted big men, Dowden admitted, “Maybe a little. There is some personal pride.”
North Andover coach Mike McVeigh explained, “As high as our kids were, it almost became a liability. The game can’t be played with just emotion. ... Andover had all the execution and discipline.”
Andover had dominated the series when the two met infrequently as non-league rivals. But the Knights snapped an 11-game losing streak to AHS on Jan. 29 and showed it was no fluke by doing it again late in the season.
With that backdrop, plus the enormity of the Christmas Tourney and the Knights’ No. 2 EMass ranking, this wasn’t just another game.
“We’re usually two great teams,” said Dowden. “And we’re both Andover!”
Odds and ends
In an Eagle-Tribune preview it mistakenly said Central Catholic is playing famed St. Anthony’s this week. It’s actually Friday, Dec. 28. ... Game 1 today, Central Catholic vs. Salem, is on Eagle Radio or livestream broadcast on eagletribune.com with Frank Benjamin and Bob Schufreider on the call. Pre-game begins at 5:30 p.m.
North Andover 63 (OT)
agateText:North Andover (63): Kyle White 0 0-0 0, Casey Walsh 0 0-0 0, Brett Daley 1 0-0 3, Aaron Straus 0 0-0 0, Derek Collins 3 2-4 10, Alex Gorgoni 1 0-0 2, Garrett Upson 0 0-0 0, Brendan Miller 1 4-6 7, Chris Bardwell 5 4-5 14, Isaiah Nelsen 9 9-10 27. Totals 20 19-25 63
Andover (76): Jack Konevich 2 0-0 6, Max Silveira 3 11-12 17, Tyler Verrette 1 0-0 2, David Giribaldi 8 1-1 17, Chris Dunn 0 4-6 4, Greg Dreyfus 2 0-0 4, Sam Dowden 10 6-7 26. Evan Singleton 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 22-26 76
3-pointers: NA — Collins 2, Daley, Miller; A — Konevich 2
North Andover (3-1): 10 7 20 23 3 — 62
Andover (4-0): 10 19 6 25 16 — 76
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.
Tourney scoreboard at Lawrence High THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20 Game 1: Andover 76, North Andover 63 (OT) Game 2: Lawrence 69, Methuen 58 FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21 Game 3: Central Catholic vs. Salem, 6 p.m. Game 4: Pinkerton vs. Greater Lawrence, 7:45 p.m. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27 Game 5: North Andover vs. Game 3 loser, 2 p.m. Game 6: Methuen vs. Game 4 loser, 3:45 p.m. Game 7 (semifinal): Andover vs. Game 3 winner, 5:30 p.m. Game 8 (semifinal): Lawrence vs. Game 4 winner, 7:15 p.m. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29 Seventh-place Game: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 2 p.m. Fifth-place Game: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 3:45 p.m. Third-place Game: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 5:30 p.m. Championship Game: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7:15 p.m.