---- — ANDOVER — No one would have given Andover much chance at a fourth straight state championship after the huge graduation losses it suffered. But the way the Golden Warriors do the little things needed to be successful, no one should be surprised if they make a strong playoff run.
Of course, improving an inconsistent offense would significantly enhance their chances. Andover opened a season-closing stretch of six games in 10 days by outlasting North Andover 36-33 in a Merrimack Valley Conference tussle last night.
“That was an ugly win,” Andover coach Jim Tildsley said after his squad converted only 24.5 percent of its 49 field-goal attempts. “But what can I say? I mean, we play so hard. We can turn it over (26 last night) with the best of them but we get to so many loose balls.”
Angelice Gonzalez was a perfect example of that defensive intensity when she made the last of Andover’s 15 steals on a North Andover inbound pass with 30.3 seconds remaining. The steal came after the Scarlet Knights had scored each of the previous five points to cut an eight-point Golden Warrior lead.
The senior guard then secured the victory by converting both ends of a one-and-one with 14.5 ticks left. Gonzalez was responsible for three of Andover’s six fourth-quarter points and ended up with 11, sharing game-high honors with teammate Devon Caveney.
The Warriors (14-3 overall, 12-2 conference) still have a chance to catch front-runner Billerica, which is undefeated but plays host to Andover Tuesday.
“Gonzalez made some big foul shots,” Tildsley said. “She played a great game.”
Hitting the boards: Although the Warriors were unable to convert on their hard work, Andover pulled down 19 offensive rebounds. The hitch was they only turned into four points.
“With Rebecca Alois (10 of her 16 rebounds were on offense) and Abby Katz (all four of hers), what can you say about our rebounding,” Tildsley said. “They just go after the ball. In her last six games, Rebecca has just been playing unbelievable.”
Lumb returns: North Andover captain Morgan Lumb returned to action for the first time since spraining her right ankle against Dracut seven games ago. The Hartford-bound guard made a pair of three pointers and showed off flashes of her dazzling passing with four assists.
“I had the chills when I walked on the court,” Lumb said. “It was an amazing feeling but it doesn’t really matter how I felt because the results weren’t what I wanted.”
Tight all night: The first half featured five lead changes and five ties. North Andover’s two-point third quarter, however, allowed Andover to take an insurmountable eight-point advantage into the final period.
Andover 38, North Andover 33
North Andover (33): Pam Coufos 3 0-0 6, Leah Chittick 3 1-2 7, Mackenzie Mello 2 2-2 6, Morgan Lumb 2 2-2 8, Michaela Mello 1 0-0 2, Christina Castaldo 1 0-0 2, Megan Collins 1 0-0 2, Abbie Karalis 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 5-6 33
Andover (36): Angelice Gonzalez 3 4-6 11, Devon Caveney 4 3-6 11, Rebecca Alois 1 0-0 2, Abby Katz 0 2-4 2, Jackie Alois 0 2-2 2, Olivia Biles 3 0-0 8, Jessica Witten 1 0-0 2, Colleen Caveney 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 11-18 38
3-pointers: NA — Lumb 2; A — Biles 2, Gonzalez
North Andover (10-7, 7-6): 8 14 2 9 — 33
Andover (14-3, 12-2): 11 11 10 6 — 38