By Bill Burt and Chuck Frye
---- — LOWELL — Steve and Karen Collins had a little more at stake than almost every other person at the North Andover High boys and girls basketball games yesterday.
Their daughter, Megan, a sophomore, and their son, Derek, a senior tri-captain, were key players in the Division 2 North Sectional finals games.
So it was no surprise that the Collinses were among the first people here yesterday when the Tsongas Arena doors opened at 10 a.m. Dad and mom were in the front row at center court.
”It was a little nerve-racking going to sleep last night,” said dad, an Andover native. “Our kids are two different personalities. Megan reminds me of Kevin Millar. She’s always goofing around, having fun. Derek is a lot more serious. He’s been building at this for a long time, to get to this point.”
Dad says that while he played sports at Andover High, his wife, Karen, a former three-sport star at Acton-Boxboro, deserves credit for the athletic genes.
”When this (story) comes out, everyone will know my wife has all of the talent,” said Collins. “She really was a very good athlete and a great swimmer.”
Dad says he is proud of both of his kids. Megan made herself into a key player on a very good team this winter while Derek, an All-MVC guard, picked up his game the last few weeks after some shooting struggles.
”If Megan would work on her skills, like Derek, she could be even better,” said dad. “I’m just happy for Derek. He’s had a tough few years (after back surgery) and really stuck with it. We are very proud of him. We’re hoping he plays in college.”
North Andover star Morgan Lumb and Reading counterpart Olivia Healy couldn’t have been more complimentary of each other.
Beyond the mutual respect, they have been teammates in AAU ball.
At yesterday’s Division 2 North final game, Lumb shared her inside knowledge with teammate Mackenzie Mello.
Mello drew the tough assignment of guarding Healy as part of the Knights’ box-and-one strategy. That’s no easy task as she averages 26.8 points a game.
“I just told her to stay in front of her and watch her hips, and play her right shoulder,” said Lumb. “And she did.
“Obviously, Olivia’s an amazing player. She’s not going D1 (University of Richmond) for nothing. She can move without the ball and move with the ball. She’s big (at 5-10) so it’s hard to defend her, but I thought Mackenzie did a really great job on her.”
Mello held Healy to just eight points through three periods before North Andover had to resort to fouling. The senior went 6 for 6 from the line in the fourth and 10 for 10 overall to finish with 18 points, well below her average.
White proves he’s ready for prime time
North Andover High junior point guard Kyle White has come a long way since the summer, when it appeared he would have to fight just to make the team.
But White slowly worked his way up the depth chart and over the last month became a full-time player.
When Chris Bardwell went out with foul trouble, White was one of the Knights who stepped up, scoring all six of his points with Bardwell off the floor. His big 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter tied the score (45-45). He also nailed a short jumper to get within three (50-47).
White’s work at North Andover is not done. He is also one of the top tennis players at the school.
Bardwell: North Andover High is his home
Chris Bardwell said his three years at Central Catholic were enjoyable. But they don’t compare to the year he has had coming back to his hometown school.
“I still have a lot of friends at Central,” said Bardwell. “But this really is home for me. The guys on the team really accepted me, which made it easier. But I realized this is where I belonged.”
Bardwell’s story is an amazing one. A year ago, he barely played for Central. This winter, he is arguably one of the top five players in the state. But it isn’t over for Bardwell.
He reportedly has a fastball that has hit 90 mph on the radar gun. He only played JV baseball last spring at Central.
“I can’t wait for baseball,” said Bardwell, who will likely attend a prep school next year.