LAWRENCE — A Salem State coach waiting to talk to a Central Catholic player asked if he’d be upstairs shortly.
When he was told the player was showering, the coach asked incredulously, “He is?”
It was no sweat for the Raiders, who roughed up Salem, 76-31, to set up what figures to be a much-hyped meeting with Andover in the semifinals of the 38th annual Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney.
Coaches generally can find flaws anywhere.
Hayden Panettiere is too short. Casablanca was too long. Something smells funny with the Corinthian leather in that 2013 Mercedes.
But Central’s Rick Nault was about as satisfied as a coach can be after his club improved to 4-0.
There was no looking past a young Blue Devil club (only two senior starters) playing without its best player (Andrew Ruffen is out with a broken foot) and still looking for its first win of the young season. Not even with archrival Andover waiting in the wings.
“Our energy was outstanding,” said Nault, whose club has won the four games by an average margin of 33.3 points. “Every game, we want a certain mentality regardless of the opponent.
“Kids are kids. They will always look ahead. They are 16- and 17-years old.”
Central, though, was all business out of the gate. Doug Gemmell sank two early 3-pointers and Jamahl Lopez’s on-the-ball defense had Nault comparing him to former Raider defensive whizzes Luis Puello and his assistant coach Wilfredo Pagan.
Lopez, who is filling in at the point for injured Lucas Hammel, didn’t score but had four steals and seven assists.
“For somebody people didn’t know a lot about, he changes the game with his defense,” said Nault.
Gemmell certainly is no surprise. He is one of three returning Eagle-Tribune All-Stars for the top-ranked team in EMass. (along with Tyler Nelson and Joel Berroa).