LAWRENCE — Andover coach David Fazio passed Central Catholic coach Rick Nault in the hallway after their Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney semifinal game.
Nault gave him a quick hug and said just two words:
It was a memorable one indeed as the defending champion Raiders had to rally from a 61-58 deficit in the final 3:20 to beat the Golden Warriors, 65-63. Central will play Lawrence, which downed Pinkerton, in the title game on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
It wasn’t decided until a Jack Konevich 3-pointer from the wing bounced off the rim as time expired.
Central was on fire, outscoring Andover 28-10 in the second quarter to take a 39-26 lead into the break. Despite its 4-0 record, Andover’s odds of a comeback seemed slim against the vaunted Raiders.
But rally it did, eventually taking the lead on a Max Silveira free throw with 3:30 left to cap an 8-0 run.
Then the Raiders did something they rarely if ever do. Went to a zone defense.
Assistant Kevin McCarthy suggested it, head coach Rick Nault agreed to it and it paid huge dividends.
“We went to the 2-3, which is something we never do,” said Nault, whose club gets no rest, playing defending national champ St. Anthony’s of Jersey City tonight at 7 at Emmanuel College before playing the Christmas Tourney championship game tomorrow.
“It was just to change the tempo and momentum.”
After an offensive rebound, Doug Gemmell (10 points) converted two free throws. Joel Berroa (game-high 20 points) scored on a drive (but missed the free throw) and the unbeaten Raiders (5-0) led 62-60.
Andover forced a tough 3-pointer and Gemmell, who took over late, scored a lay-up with 1:04 left. Andover forced another tough 3 but then with 24 seconds left the Raiders had a brain cramp and fouled Andover’s Chris Dunn on a trey. He made two of three.