EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2012

Three days Central will never forget

Christmas Tourney romp caps historic run

Michael Muldoon
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — LAWRENCE — So you thought Central Catholic would come out flat?

I could make an inappropriate Kate Upton comment here, but suffice it to say the Raiders were anything but flat. They flattened Lawrence, 77-59, last night to capture the 38th annual Greater Lawrence Boys Christmas Basketball Tourney.

It capped an unforgettable three-day rollercoaster ride that a group of 17-year-olds and all those who bleed Central Red, White and Blue will never forget.

Raider coach Rick Nault said, “It was a war vs. Andover (a 2-point win Thursday in the Christmas Tourney semis) with tons of intensity and emotion. Then to go up vs. a national power (a near Do You Believe in Miracles? upset of Chaminadian proportions before falling 54-50 to defending national champ St. Anthony’s on Friday).

“We went toe to toe with them and had a shot to win.”

Then, of course, their birthright, winning the Christmas Tourney. Dick Licare, who was in the house, got the dynasty rolling and the seventh-year head coach Nault has filled those Shaq-sized shoes and, if possible, kicked it up a notch.

“It’s impressive. I don’t know if many others could do it,” said Nault proudly of a trifecta which would make you a fabulously wealthy man at Rockingham Park.

Lawrence’s best chance was to punch Central in the mouth early and have the Raiders realize these three wins in three nights is too much even for their stratospheric standards.

Being an ignorant sportswriter, pardon the redundancy, I asked Nault what they’d be doing today.

He rightly looked at me like I had two heads.

“They’ll get a couple days off,” he said. “What they did is amazing.”

Apologies to our president, but this was the Audacity of Hoop.

Let’s face it, you have to be a little arrogant to schedule a national power between the semis and finals of the Christmas Tourney. But when you’ve now won the 8-team tourney 13 times in the last 17 years, well you can do stuff like that.

It felt like Larry Bird woofing he’d win the 3-point title, battling to the bitter end, then, just as he released the money shot extending his index finger to tell the world who is No. 1.

Lawrence left it all on the floor but realistically they have to play a near perfect game to beat a team with four legitimate All-Scholastic candidates in MVP Doug Gemmell (17 points), last year’s MVP and 2012 All-Star junior Tyler Nelson (game-high 22 points), 6-4 All-Star Joel Berroa and 6-5 junior Nick Cambio.

That’s three scholarship players (Nelson and Berroa already have offers from UMass Lowell) and a player in Gemmell who is going to make a Division 3 coach happier than a long-term contract.

Talent and tradition are cornerstones of Central basketball, but you have to do it on the hardwood. Like so many other Central hoop teams, the 2012-13 version rarely disappoints.

Injuries, illness, academics, tough draws ... there are no excuses just sustained excellence.

Central historians like Mike Morris, Paul Theberge and Bobby Sheehan might disagree, but I still rank the loss to St. Anthony’s as one of the great athletic achievements in school history.

A loss isn’t a loss when we are talking the St. Anthony’s Friars of Jersey City. Geez, they’ve had a nationally acclaimed documentary done on them. I don’t think Central has, but that YouTube video of Moses Parting the Red was pretty cool.

Lawrence seemed to be making a run in the third quarter. Tre’Von Farley and Roberto Speing had the Lancers playing inspired ball. But the strange thing was, Central, which seemed to be playing poorly, actually increased the lead from 19 to 20 points.

It was like the last three days for Raider Nation ... giddily beyond description and beyond belief.