By Dave Dyer
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — As the seconds ticked down to the final buzzer of the Greater Lawrence girls tournament, sophomore Megan Collins never doubted that she would get the ball.
After all, senior standout Morgan Lumb was in control of the ball for the Knights, dribbling upcourt after getting it at the far end with eight seconds left.
“Morgan makes things work,” said Collins. “If someone gets open, she’ll deliver the ball.”
And that’s exactly what happened as Lumb brought the ball downcourt under furious pressure from Central Catholic, finally passing to a wide-open Collins, who put in a head-on layup with one second left to give North Andover a stunning 45-44 victory.
The Raiders are consensus No. 2 in all of Eastern Mass. while North Andover is No. 19.
It was the first tourney championship for the Knights (6-0) and kept the talented Raiders (5-1) still looking for their first crown. It was also the first win over Central for North Andover coach Sue Breen.
“What a great game,” gushed Breen. “I’m so happy for the kids. This is a game they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”
It’ll definitely be a game to remember for Lumb. Despite constant pressure from the Central guards, she led all scorers with 19 points and was named the tournament MVP.
For much of the game, Lumb was the only offensive option for the Knights, but she wasn’t thinking about shooting on that final drive down the court.
“I knew before the game that they’d probably be all over me and I needed to get the ball to my teammates,” said Lumb. “I was looking for whoever was open. She called for the ball, I could see she was open and I got it to her.”
Lumb scored North Andover’s only field goal in a sloppy first quarter in which Central led 8-4, but other Knights gradually got involved. Collins finished with nine points, which included a 3-pointer to close out the first half, and both Leah Chittick and Michaela Mello scored six points apiece.
“I think we were nervous early, but we settled down in the second half,” said Breen.
Central did hold a slight lead much of the game, however, relying on its defense, which forced 17 turnovers in the first half. The Raiders took a 20-15 lead at halftime.
Casey McLaughlin came on strong late and led the Raiders with 17 points while Walsh drove relentlessly for 14 points, hitting 6 of 6 from the free throw line. Alex Nagri and Darion Summers led the defensive charge for Central.
Deadlocked at 32-32, the final quarter was a wild one with five lead changes. It seemed to come down to who would have the ball last and that turned out to be the Knights.
“This is a dream come true,” said Lumb. “We all believed in ourselves and thought we could win this game.”
North Andover 45,
Central Catholic 44
agateText:Central Catholic (44): Courtney Walsh 4 6-6 14, Alex Nagri 1 1-2 3, Amanda Williams 0 0-0 0, Madison Borrelli 0 0-0 0, Caitlin Dell’Orfano 2 6-7 10, McLaughlin 8 1-1 17. Totals 15 14-18 44.
North Andover (45): Pam Coufos 0 0-0 0, Leah Chittick 2 2-2 6, Mackenzie Mello 1 0-0 3, Christina Castaldo 1 0-0 2, Morgan Lumb 4 9-10 19, Megan Collins 4 0-0 9, Michaela Mello 3 0-0 6. Totals 15 11-12 45
3-pointers: NA — Mackenzie Mello, Lumb 2, Collins
Central Catholic (5-1): 8 12 12 12 — 44
North Andover (6-0): 4 11 17 13 — 45