LAWRENCE — Entering the postseason minus a couple front-court starters might cause most teams concern.
Not so much Central Catholic — at least not in the first round.
With a first-time starter supplying the ignition, the fourth-seeded Raiders exploded out of the gate last night, needing less than half a quarter to take a double-digit lead en route to an 84-51 rout of 13th-seeded Malden in the Division 1 North Sectional.
Forced to play the rest the postseason without senior Doug Gemmell (concussion symptoms) and junior Nick Cambio (hamstring injury suffered in the regular-season finale), Central coach Rick Nault was forced to look to his bench.
He obviously chose well as junior Aaron Hall, making his starting debut, scored the team’s first four points and added a pair of blocks — in the first 90 seconds.
“I found out earlier in the week that I’d be starting,” said the 6-foot-6 Hall, who finished with eight points and four blocks. “Coach said I’d have to step up. I was a little bit nervous, but I’ve played a lot of games, so I couldn’t let that get in the way. I was just excited and pumped up to play.”
Hall’s quick start jumpstarted the Raiders (18-5). Central took a 13-point lead less than 5 minutes into the first before a 16-2 run to open the second quarter built a 38-15 advantage with 3:06 left in the first half.
“I went with Hall because of his length, and his ability to shoot the ball a little bit,” Nault said. “He’s got nice range, and to have another big guy in there in the middle to clog things up a little was a necessity.”
After Hall’s opening salvo, Central relied on its pressure defense. The Raiders forced 23 turnovers and limited the Tornados to 1-of-15 shooting in the second quarter, to quickly remove all doubt from the outcome.