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).
He was 5 of 6 from the floor and 3 for 3 from deep. Berroa added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Nelson added 12 points. The starters only played a few minutes in the second half.
“We denied everything and we just played well,” said Gemmell, a 6-4 forward from Windham who has narrowed his college choices down to Plymouth State, Roger Williams and University of New England.
“I’ve always considered myself an inside-outside player. The first one went in and it was easy sailing from there.”
For Gemmell and the Raiders.
Andover is flying high after its OT win over North Andover, which was ranked No. 2 in EMass.
Nault said, “They’re defensive intensity is outstanding and the chemistry they play with is something special.”
Fans of the Day
Dan Halloran was at the tourney like he has been for over 30 years.
The native Lawrencian said he used to sneak in the back door at Merrimack College with his friend, future Central standout Bob Sheehan.
Halloran has passed on the love of the game and the tourney to his daughter, Franceska, who is a regular at the tourney.
He’ll be back
Injured Salem forward Andrew Ruffen said he’ll be out five weeks with a broken third metatarsal in his right foot. He was dressed for success with two earrings, a bow tie and suspenders. ... Greater Lawrence only attempted two free throws last night. ... The Central victory margin was tied for fourth highest in tourney history and Salem’s 31 points was tied for sixth fewest in tourney history. ... Some of the young Blue Devils showed plenty of potential including 6-4 freshman Matt Vartanian, who had four points despite not even being listed on the roster.
Central Catholic 76, Salem 31
Salem (31): Anthony Lopez 1 1-2 3, Michael Felix 3 1-2 7, Jeffrey LaRosa 0 0-0 0, Jeff Frias 0 4-5 4, Jack Hartman 1 0-0 2, Isiah Latham 0 0-0 0, Steve Nugent 0 0-0 0, Brent Barrett 0 0-0 0, Chris Caraballo 0 0-2 0, Miguel Pimentel 2 0-1 5, Jake Slepian 2 0-0 4, Nick Shumski 1 0-0 2, Matt Vartanian 2 0-1 4. Totals 12 6-14 31
Central Catholic (76): Tyler Nelson 4 2-2 12, Jamahl Lopez 0 0-0 0, Anthony Crespo 1 2-2 4, Nick Cambio 0 4-4 4, Neil Sheehan 0 0-0 0, Joel Berroa 5 2-2 12, Aaron Hall 3 0-0 6, Alex Santos 1 1-2 3, Nick Boes 3 0-0 6, Austin Perry 2 0-0 4, Mike Barry 2 0-0 5, Doug Gemmell 5 3-4 16, Andrew Hamel 2 0-0 4. Totals 28 14-16 76
3-pointers: S — Pimentel; CC — Gemmell 3, Nelson 2, Barry
Salem (0-4): 5 8 7 11 — 31
Central Catholic (4-0): 15 28 16 17 — 76
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.