NORTH ANDOVER — It might still be early-season basketball, but the Central Catholic girls are more than ready to heave out the opening salvo.
A veteran group of Raiders are optimistic this season will be different, and they’ll find out if that change is for the good before the week is out.
Central Catholic showed glimpses of a very bright future yesterday afternoon, routing previously undefeated Lowell 53-28 in the first round of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament.
“We want to win this tournament,” said senior captain Casey McLaughlin, who scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down a whopping 20 rebounds. “Central has never won this, so it’s a big deal for us. We want to come out strong every game.”
Next up for the Raiders (4-0) is archrival Andover in Friday’s 5:30 p.m. semifinal. The Warriors have held a stranglehold on this tournament while also winning each of the past three state titles. In that span, Andover has won 10 of the 12 games the two have squared off, including each of the past five.
With five starters back this year, Central obviously thinks it’s time to rectify the recent skid. The Raiders are ranked No. 2 in the Boston Herald EMass. poll (Braintree is No. 1) and Andover is No. 9.
“It’s very important to let them know right off the bat,” said McLaughlin. “We want to set the tone for the rest of the season with this tournament and show them how good we’ve become. I’m looking forward to it very much.”
Yesterday began a little rough for the Raiders, who led 23-16 at the half. Central shot a woeful 23.5 percent from the floor (8 for 34) and made nine turnovers the first two quarters.
“We didn’t know how to react in the beginning,” Central Catholic coach Sue Downer said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime. We really want to make things happen this year.”