EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2012

Central dominates Christmas final

MVP Gemmell powers Raiders to repeat

By Hector Longo

---- — LAWRENCE — Any prayers of empty tanks or thoughts of a letdown were washed away almost immediately.

With a second straight Christmas Tournament title in their sights, the Central Catholic boys ran the home team off the floor with a near-perfect opening quarter and left no doubt in a 77- 59 championship victory before about 700 fans here last night.

“This team, in terms of mental toughness, is the best group we’ve ever had,” said Raider coach Rick Nault, who now has five Christmas titles in seven years at the helm. “They’ve been through a lot of emotion the last three days, and they’ve handled it brilliantly.”

Tournament Most Valuable Player Doug Gemmell rang the alarm for the Raiders, pumping in their first six points to erase Lawrence’s only lead of the night (2-0).

The senior forward netted 12 first-quarter points and Tyler Nelson hit all four of his first quarter shots — three bombs and a driving runner — helping the Raiders build a 27-13 lead on 10-of-15 shooting. “We played a lot harder (Friday night vs. St. Anthony’s of N.J.) than we did on Thursday and it carried over into this one,” said “Baby Face” Nelson, an all-tourney selection who led all scorers with 22.

“We executed well on offense and had great ball movement, and that created good shots.”

Nelson played a little bit angry last night, having struggled in Thursday night’s 2-point semifinal win over Andover.

“I guess you could say I was in a bit of a mini-slump,” said Nelson, something we hadn’t seen from him in two amazing seasons with the Raiders. “Some days they fall. Some days they don’t. I just got in the gym and put up a bunch of shots. I found my rhythm again, and I started to get much better looks.”

The lead bumped to 19 at the half, 42-23, and the Lancers never got closer than 13 after the break.

“Central’s record in big games speaks for itself. They’ve won many of these (18th overall) and have won two state titles under (Coach Rick Nault),” said Lancer coach Raymond Nunez. “My job now is to go ahead and find solutions to beat them. Those solutions are going to be found on defense.”

Lawrence brought the lunch pails as the Lancers typically do, with undersized Tre’Von Farley (11 points, 9 rebounds)and Roberto Speing (14 points, 12 boards) winning more than their share of the battles.

But too many turnovers led to easy hoops the other way, and some woeful work on the foul line (14-of-29) didn’t help matters.

“This was a big test for us, and whether it’s by two or 50, it’s still a loss,” said Nunez, whose club makes the New Year’s turn at 5-1. “All we can do is keep working at it.”

Nick Cambio added a dozen points for Central, and Nault was forced to the Central bench early and often as starters Lucas Hammel and Joel Berroa were buried by foul problems. Sixth and seventh men Jamahl Lopez and Mike Barry continued to prove they fit right into the rotation nicely with eight points apiece.

“I think we’ve shown and I’m very comfortable with our top seven,” said Nault. “Austin Perry and Aaron Hall might be moving in at 8 and 9, but we’ll still have to see.”

Central Catholic 77, Lawrence 59

Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney final

Central Catholic (77): Lucas Hammel 1 0-0 2, Tyler Nelson 8 2-2 22, Jamahl Lopez 4 0-0 8, Anthony Crespo 0 0-0 0, Nick Cambio 6 0-0 12, Neil Sheehan 0 0-0 0, Joel Berroa 0 2-2 2, Aaron Hall 1 1-1 3, Alex Santos 0 0-0 0, Nick Boes 0 0-0 0, Austin Perry 0 1-2 1, Mike Barry 3 0-0 8, Doug Gemmell 6 4-5 17, Ryan Barry 0 0-0 0, Andrew Hamel 1 0-0 2, Totals 30 10-12 77

Lawrence (59): Esmelin Romero 0 0-0 0, Luis Torres 4 4-8 12, Roberto Speing 6 2-6 14, D.J. Gonzalez 0 0-2 0, Dantae Neal 2 2-4 6, Johnathan Paulino 3 1-3 7, Kevin Fabian 2 0-0 6, Julius Martinez 1 0-0 3, Tre’Von Farley 3 5-6 11, Totals 21 14-29 59

3-pointers: CC — Nelson 4, Gemmell, M. Barry 2; L — Martinez, Fabian 2

Central Catholic (6-1): 27 15 17 18 — 77

Lawrence (5-1): 13 10 16 20 — 59