EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 23, 2012

Central girls drub Lowell; next up Andover

By Jeff Hamrick

---- — 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.”

The Raiders committed only six turnovers in the second half, seven fewer than they forced. Courtney Walsh (nine points) Caitlin Dell’Orfano (eight) and Darion Summers (seven off the bench) were part of a balanced scoring effort behind McLaughlin.

While Central and Andover might be fighting for team supremacy in the Merrimack Conference for years to come, Lowell’s 6-foot-3 freshman Alexi Schecter showed she’ll be a force for years to come by scoring 15 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking eight shots.

But for at least the next six days, talk will center on Andover.

“This is the fun and excitement of playing high school basketball,” Central Catholic coach Sue Downer said. “It’s a very good rivalry and it creates a lot of positive energy. It makes us work harder, but for us our goal is winning this tournament whether we’re playing Andover (or anyone else).”

Central Catholic 53, Lowell 28

Central Catholic (53): Courtney Walsh 3 3-6 9, Alex Nagri 1 0-0 2, Amanda Williams 0 4-6 4, Caitlin Dell’Orfano 4 0-0 8, Casey McLaughlin 5 6-11 16, Darion Summers 2 2-2 7, Madison Borelli 2 1-2 5, Toni Joy 0 0-0 0, Allie Tierney 0 0-0 0, Erica Hadad 1 0-0 2, Colleen Frey 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-27 53

Lowell (28): Sabrina Vail 0 1-2 1, Sarah Comtois 1 0-1 2, Sima Suon 1 0-2 3, Trisha Luis 1 2-4 5, Alexi Schecter 7 1-4 15, Leyshia Gonzalez 0 0-0 0, Jaymeen Gonzalez 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Tulley 0 0-0 0, Erica Torres 0 0-0 0, Stephanie Omyenecho 0 0-0 0, Kayla Lagrega 0 0-0 0, Hillary Naranjo-Mejia 1 0-0 2, Diana Onyenecho 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 4-13 28

3-pointers: CC — Summers; L — Suon, Luis

Central Catholic (4-0): 11  12  14  16 — 53

Lowell (3-1):  8  8  9  3 — 28