LAWRENCE — The wounded dog won’t budge.
And with every state tournament breath Central Catholic takes without all-conference big men Doug Gemmell and Nick Cambio, the Raiders grow meaner, nastier and more dangerous.
With a lot more bark and plenty of bite, Central ripped through Andover in a 26-10 first half and ousted the Golden Warriors here before about 3,000 fans last night in the Division 1 North semifinals, 61-48.
“They totally took us out of everything we tried to do offensively,” said Warrior coach David Fazio, whose club has now lost eight straight to Central and 19 of the last 20. “We couldn’t turn the corner. We didn’t make shots. Just a tough, tough night at the gym. They locked us down.”
Central Catholic will now make its first trip to the North title game since 2010. Saturday night, the No. 4 Raiders will face No. 6 Lynn English at Tsongas Arena for the title.
“We’re fighting and clawing with every possession,” said Raider coach Rick Nault, noting his club’s newfound sense of urgency with both Gemmell and Cambio shelved for the season. “I think we showed that in the first half. That’s why I say, this is one of the best wins I’ve had.”
With Andover riding the crest of its quarterfinal overtime shocker over No. 1 St. John’s Prep, the Raiders led 11-7 through one quarter.
Raider junior guard Tyler Nelson rose from the defensive mudfight and assumed charge.
Known for his dead-eye three-point shooting, Nelson toasted Andover off the dribble, adding an unstoppable fadeway pullup to his arsenal that rendered the defense helpless.
“To be honest, I’m not sure where the shot came from,” said Nelson, who led all scorers with 31 points, hitting 13 of 27 shots from the floor. “It just felt right in the flow of the game. As long as I make them, that’s all that matters.”
Meanwhile, the Raiders shut out Andover over the final seven minutes of the second quarter.
And every time the Warriors even remotely threatened, it was Nelson there to drain another tear-dropper.
“I remembered the ‘overrated’ chants from the Christmas Tournament,” said Nelson, who after only scoring five points vs. the Warriors in the holiday matchup, put up 18, 27 and now 31 against them. “I definitely remembered that as motivation.”
Nelson wasn’t alone hitting big shots. Mike Barry was 4 for 4, scoring 10 points. Joel Berroa, whose most lethal work came on the defensive end, added 10 points, and Aaron Hall chipped in seven big points.
For Andover, sophomore David Girbaldi continued his fine stretch run with a team-high 15 points, and Sam Dowden, who didn’t hit the scorebook until the final two minutes of the third quarter, finished with 12.
The Central-Lynn English matchup is a repeat of the 2009 title game, in which English upset the Raiders in a classic.
agateHed:Central 61, Andover 48
agateText:Division 1 North Semifinals
agateText:Andover (48):@zzAgate:agateText: Alex Brickman 1 0-0 2, Tyler Verrette 3 0-0 7, David Giribaldi 6 1-2 15, Chris Dunn 2 3-4 8, Sam Dowden 2 8-8 12, John Pisacreta 0 1-2 1, Jack Konevich 1 0-0 2, Connor Merinder 0 1-2 1, Totals 15 14-18 48
agateText:Central (61):@zzAgate:agateText: Tyler Nelson 13 4-7 31, Mike Barry 4 0-0 10, Joel Berroa 5 1-3 11, Aaron Hall 3 1-2 7, Jamahl Lopez 1 0-1 2, Lucas Hammel 0 0-0 0, Totals 26 6-13 61
agateText:3-pointers:@zzAgate:agateText: A — Verrette, Giribaldi 2, Dunn; CC — Nelson, Barry 2
agateText:Central Catholic (20-5):@zzAgate:agateText:14 12 16 19 — 61
agateText:Andover (16-7):@zzAgate:agateText: 7 3 16 22 — 48
agateText:Next game@zzAgate:agateText:: vs. Lynn English at Tsongas, @zzAgate:agateText:Saturday, time TBA, Division 1 North final