LAWRENCE — Things were going so well for the Central Catholic girls last night that coach Sue Downer needed a mere 2 minutes for her halftime talk.
The situation, however, turned much more serious after intermission.
In a matchup between a pair of top-10 teams, visiting Billerica rebounded from a nine-point deficit with fewer than 5 minutes remaining and eked out a 57-55 victory over the Raiders.
The Indians (6-1 overall, 6-0 MVC) scored seven of the game’s final nine points. A putback by Shannon Hayes with 17 seconds left put Billerica up 56-55, its first lead since Central jumped ahead 7-6 early in the first. After a Casey McLaughlin miss, the Indians capped the scoring with a Brittany Lomanno free throw with 2.5 seconds remaining.
“When you’re playing a real good team, I don’t know if you ever feel 100 percent confident,” Downer said. “I didn’t do anything differently at halftime that I normally do, but the bottom line is we gave up way too many second chances tonight and that’s what killed us.
“It was two good teams playing, but I’d like to think we play (the Indians) multiple times, we’re going to win most times but it’s going to be a battle.”
Billerica’s rally negated a monster final stanza by McLaughlin, who finished with a game-high 23 points and 15 rebounds. The senior scored 10 of the Raiders’ 12 points in the fourth while pulling down five rebounds, blocking three of her four shots and making a steal.
“She’s very determined this season,” Downer said of her captain. “She does everything she can to win, and she’s truly upset in (the postgame locker room) and emotional with the loss. I can’t say enough about how hard she works and the leadership she gives us.”
Caitlin Dell’Orfano helped the Central cause in the first half by scoring all 11 of her points while Amanda Williams and Courtney Walsh each put up six of their eight.