By Hector Longo
---- — ANDOVER — Andover left no doubt who the better team was on this night, pasting rival North Andover, 64-52, before a packed, spirited crowd at Dunn Gymnasium.
If Golden Warriors coach David Fazio puts together a highlight DVD, he’ll get plenty of footage from that fateful third in which the Warriors turned a potential nail-biter into a blowout by outscoring the visitors 24-13.
Energy and effort were the difference there, with the Warriors quick to every loose ball while coming hard at the Knights in the full-court defense.
“I’m just so proud of this effort,” said Fazio. “We were razor sharp, and we had to be. These kids get it. They’re so selfless.”
Of course, the Warriors were riding a wave of emotion from the final play of the first half, a three-pointer banked in from about 30 feet by Chris Dunn that beat the buzzer ... albeit controversially.
It appeared the teams would go to break at 24-19 when a Warrior miss landed in Derek Collins’ hands in the final seconds. Collins and the other nine players started to walk off, but he had the ball, and as the buzzer sounded, he was called for traveling.
The teams kept walking off, but Fazio protested and got 0.5 seconds put on the clock.
“We preach to the kids about 32 minutes, I just wanted to make sure we play the whole thing,” said Fazio.
Andover got the ball, and Dunn caught and fired, arcing in the banker to push the margin to 27-19.
“Of course, you’re always working at a quick release but (catch and shoot) in 0.5 seconds, I’m not so sure,” said Dunn.
Added Fazio, “We were lucky, lucky. But sometimes it pays to be lucky. He’s pretty quick, let me tell you, because he takes a lot of them.”
“(That shot) shouldn’t be so big, but it was,” said Knights coach Mike McVeigh, whose club is ranked No. 7 overall in EMass., one spot behind Andover.
“It was tough. When Derek got that ball, everybody stops, and 99 times out of 100 when everyone stops, the half is over. But that by no means is why Andover beat us tonight. They execute and they were disciplined, and that’s something we have to do a better job on.”
To the Warriors’ credit, they seized that momentum and ran with it, making life miserable for the Knights, who just couldn’t get the ball upcourt. When they did, big men Chris Bardwell (23 points) and Isaiah Nelsen (10) were imposing their wills.
Dunn knocked down five of Andover’s 10 triples in a 19-point night. Sam Dowden added 14 points, and David Giribaldi chipped in nine.
Both teams are 9-2 overall with one conference loss, trailing Central Catholic in the MVC Large by one game.
Both clubs will be even more dangerous with the return of 6-4 sophomore center Connor Merinder for Andover (wrist) and 6-2 junior swingman Brendan Miller for North Andover (mono).
Andover 64, North Andover 52
North Andover (52): Kyle White 1 0-0 2, Casey Walsh 0 0-1 0, Brett Daley 0 0-1 0, Derek Collins 5 2-4 13, John Enright 1 0-0 2, Alex Gorgoni 1 0-0 2, Chris Bardwell 7 9-13 23, Isaiah Nelsen 4 2-2 10, Totals 19 13-21 52
Andover (64): Jack Konevich 1 2-3 5, Jack Pisacreta 2 1-2 5, Max Silveira 2 1-2 6, Tyler Verrette 1 0-0 2, David Giribaldi 4 0-2 9, Chris Dunn 6 2-3 19, Greg Dreyfus 1 1-2 4, Sam Dowden 5 3-5 14, Totals 22 10-19 64
3-pointers: A — Konevich, Silveira, Giribaldi, Dunn 5, Dreyfus, Dowden; NA — Collins
North Andover (9-2): 8 11 13 20 — 52
Andover (9-2): 0 17 24 13 — 64