LAWRENCE — If we learned anything after 32 minutes of championship basketball here at Memorial Gym last night, it’s that the Central Catholic boys are not impervious to pain.
The agony of defeat at the hands of North Andover High two weeks ago still throbbed in the Raider veins.
“We knew we couldn’t let what happened then, happen to us again,” said Raider junior Nick Cambio of Central coughing up a nine-point fourth quarter lead to the Knights. “They out-toughed us, and that was not acceptable.”
Up 11 to open the fourth last night, Cambio and the Raiders finished the job with authority, closing out North Andover, 70-60, to pull one game ahead in the MVC Division 1 title race. Central, 12-1 in the MVC, now can claim full possession of the title if it can take care of Andover Friday night and Lowell on the vacation week. Both of those games are on the road. The 12-2 Knights must beat Methuen Friday and hope for a little help.
On a night where as many as five different potential conference MVPs hit the Raider hardwood, it was the 6-foot-5 Cambio, who shined brightest, tossing in a game-high 22 points with 14 rebounds.
Tyler Nelson chipped in 17 points, including a couple late coffin-closing 3-pointers. Joel Berroa tossed in 16 points with 11 boards, and point man Lucas Hammel finished a sensational night on the floor with 11 huge points.
Still, there had to be tremors on the Central bench to start the fourth quarter after a frenzied finish to the third.
In the waning seconds, Hammel knocked home a 3, only to have Derek Collins race up the floor for the Knights and bury a jumper of his own at the buzzer, seizing momentum.
Talk about deja vu. Collins heaved a 60-footer at the end of the third to ignite the Knights last time around.