EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 10, 2013

Central boys trample English

Hector Longo

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LOWELL — Somebody said something, did something or promised the Central Catholic boys basketball team harm.

Since having half its conference title ripped away by Lowell and its honor torn from them by St. John’s in the opening round of the Board 130 Classic, the Raiders have hit the floor angry.

Last night in the Division 1 North title game here at the Tsongas Center, Central did exactly what it did to Andover in the North semis on Tuesday, smothering Lynn English with defense and attitude.

Call it payback for 2009. Call it setting its own state title agenda, but call the Raiders Garden bound Tuesday night and just two victories from that Division 1 state championship.

That’s thanks to a thorough 83-58 pasting of the Bulldogs.

“We are brothers in this locker-room, and with our two big guys (Doug Gemmell and Nick Cambio) down, we’ve developed an us-against-the-world mentality,” said point guard, head pest and pre-eminent charge-taker Lucas Hammel. “I think we are playing a little bit desperate right now, and we’re playing out best basketball because of it.”

A Lynn English team that knocked off St. John’s in the Board 130 title game and lit up Everett for 94 points in their semifinal was brought to its knees by Central pressure.

“We’re taking one at a time, but this one was pretty special,” said Central coach Rick Nault. “I keep thinking of 2009, when we came in here with a pretty established team, and they came in and took us out. Tonight, our guys had something to prove.

By the intermission, this one was over at 42-23.

Hammel shredded the vaunted English press, turning Lowell into “layup city.”

With Hammel in charge and English focused on Joel Berroa and Tyler Nelson, it was unsung junior Aaron Hall cashing in on the other end.

Over and over again.

Hall, who had 71 points for the season with a game-high of eight in his career, netted 21, most of the cupcake variety.

If Central missed, the Raiders pounded the glass, where Berroa (18 points, 12 boards) gave his club opportunity after opportunity.

When the Raiders got stuck in a halfcourt set, they had the answer for that, too, in Nelson.

Baby Face continued his torrid postseason with 26 points, coming off a 31-point night against Andover.

“He and Joel are our go-to guys left on offense, and he’s really answering the call for us,” said Raider coach Rick Nault.

Meanwhile, the Raiders refused to allow English any good looks and kept it one shot and done at the other end.

Central will face South champion Mansfield (23-2) in the final game on Tuesday night at the TD Garden, most likely at 7:45.

Of course, the Raiders can use Monday night as a test run with the Central girls taking the parquet floor.

But don’t expect any attitude change yet.

“We’re a team on a mission,” said Hammel.

agateHed:Central Catholic 83, Lynn English 58

agateText:Division 1 North Final

at Tsongas Center, Lowell

agateText:Lynn English (58): Danny Lukanda 4 4-5 12, Steve Collins 3 5-7 11, Fred Hogan 5 2-3 12, Johnny Hilaire 1 0-0 2, Erick Rosario 2 1-2 5, Brian Redondo 0 4-4 4, Billy Phang 2 0-0 5, Cam Burke 2 1-2 5, Totals 19 17-23 58

agateText:Central Catholic (83): Tyler Nelson 10 5-6 26, Lucas Hammel 4 1-2 9, Joel Berroa 5 8-10 18, Aaron Hall 10 1-2 21, Jamahl Lopez 1 0-0 2, Austin Perry 1 0-0 3, Andrew Hamel 2 0-0 4, Totals 33 15-20 83

agateText:3-pointers: LE — Phang; CC — Nelson, Perry

agateText:Lynn English (18-6): 10 13 19 16 — 58

agateText:Central Catholic (21-5): 18 24 19 22 — 83

agateText:Next Game: Tuesday, Division 1 state semifinal, at TD Garden vs. Mansfield, time TBA