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.”