TEWKSBURY — This was not a typical post-game celebration following a big blowout.
The Central Catholic High girls, immediately following their 62-31 thrashing last night in Tewksbury, were jumping up and down after the final buzzer as if somebody hit a game-winning 3-pointer.
But it was understandable. This win was over Andover.
“Until this year, I never beat Andover,” said Central senior star Casey McLaughlin. “It means a lot. They’ve got all those state championships. They just owned us — mentally. This year was different.”
It sure was. Andover no longer had Nicole Boudreau, who recently was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Rookie team as a member of the Boston College Eagles.
But Central, which improved to 19-5, also had experience, with its top six players all having three years of varsity experience this winter.
“They’re tough. They’re physical. But what is most important, at least in my eyes, is their experience,” said Andover coach Jim Tildsley. “All of their key players have played in a lot of big games. (Last night) they took Devon (Caveney) out of the game and we didn’t have any answers.”
Central led 7-6 midway through the first quarter when it imposed its all-out defensive pressure on Caveney & Co. Central went on a 14-0 run while keeping Andover scoreless over nearly seven minutes of play.
It was never a game after that.
Central led 14-6 after one quarter and 33-11 at the half with junior Amanda Williams scoring all 10 of her points. Caitlin Dell’Orfano also had three steals in the half, two leading to layups. And the Raiders also got eight first half points from Alex Nagri.
“The thing was Casey (McLaughlin) got two quick fouls and had to sit on the bench,” said Central coach Sue Downer.
“But we kept the pressure on and didn’t miss a beat. It was really nice to see. It wasn’t one player. It was all of them.”
McLaughlin, though, didn’t go down quietly. Entering the game needing seven points to get to the 1,000th of her career, she needed four in the second half.
She got 21, nullifying any hope of an offensive flurry by Andover getting it back into the game.
Caveney led Andover with 11 points, but it was an off day for her.
Fellow seniors Abby Katz and Olivia Biles, both of whom hardly played on the varsity the last two years, ended their careers with seven and five points respectively.
“A lot of people buried us this year,” said coach Tildsley. “We finished 18-7. That’s a very good record. Sure, I’m disappointed we didn’t play better, but I’m very proud.”
Central will play the winner of tonight’s No. 2 and No. 3 seed showdown between Billerica (20-2) and Westford (19-4), to be played at Whittier Regional in Haverhill. Central lost both games against Billerica, 57-55 and 56-47.
“We are so excited to be in this position,” said Downer.
“(Last night) was a very good test for us. We played a very good game. Every game is harder. It’s a lot fun.”
Andover stars finish careers with standing ovations
With Nicole Boudreau graduating after leading Andover High to three straight state titles, two players were greatly affected by her exodus — incoming seniors Devon Caveney and Jackie Alois.
Their roles changed from facilitators to, well, go-to stars.
Caveney became the No. 1 scorer and Alois, who was the shortest center in the state at 5-6, became, well, a scorer.
Both were four-year varsity players, each playing some time on the three straight state champs.
“Those two gave us so much for so long,” said Andover coach Jim Tildsley.
“Devon started as our third (scoring option). Then became our second option last year. And this year she was No. 1. We needed Jackie to handle the ball, cover the opposing point guard, and score more. Both were incredible in their new roles.”
The duo each received a standing ovation when leaving the game in the final minute.
Both were in tears by the time they got to the bench.
“It means so much to me being on this team because Devon and I became best friends because of basketball,” said Alois.
Caveney concurred. “She’s going to Brown to play soccer. I’m going to Williams. But we will always be friends. I so glad I was able to share this with Jackie.”