LAWRENCE — The Catholic Central girls looked anything like the state final four contenders they most certainly are while scoring only three fourth-quarter points Friday against rival Andover.
That poor finish, however, might have provided the inspiration for yesterday’s tremendous start.
Central jumped to a 24-point first-quarter lead in its Coaches vs. Cancer affair against visiting Cambridge Rindge & Latin en route to a 75-28 cakewalk.
“If you don’t learn from your experiences, then I’m not a very good coach,” Central’s Sue Downer said after her squad upped its record to 10-3 and clinched a postseason berth. “You’ve got to take what we didn’t do well in that situation (against Andover) and try to figure out how to do things better. And we did a lot of work with that (in practice Saturday).
“Obviously (yesterday’s opponent) was a different level of competition, so that made it a little easier.”
The visiting Falcons (7-4) were overmatched from the start as Central scored the game’s first nine points and led 26-2 after the first. The Raiders eventually built a 45-point advantage on a free throw by Amanda Williams that put Central ahead 55-10 with 4:45 left in the third.
The biggest lead of the night came with 1 minute remaining when Natasha Santana’s driving bucket made the score 75-26.
Central now has less than a month left before opening postseason play. And both Downer and her troops will be looking for improvements.
“One of the things we’ll have to do better is rebounding,” Downer said. “We have to do a better job on the boards. We also know we have to value the basketball better and eliminate some turnovers.
“But we also need to come together as a team. I think that’s one thing we’ve been focusing on: assessing what’s a good situation and what’s a bad situation, what is my role and what should I be doing? I think we’re in a good spot to move forward.”
And among the seven games remaining are chances to avenge each of the three losses to date. The Raiders begin Tuesday against North Andover, which took a one-point decision in the finals of the Christmas Tournament, before match ups with Billerica (a two-point victor on Jan. 11) before closing the regular season by playing host to Andover.
“We know if we all compete to the best of our abilities we can do amazing things,” said senior captain Casey McLaughlin, who scored a game-high 14 points and added 10 rebounds. “We’re just working on things like uniting as a team and playing hard.
“I’ve been wanting to go to the state tournament and wanting to win for the last four years. This is my last chance, so I’m going to go out fighting. (The Andover loss) will ultimately be motivating us to pick it up. We know we’re better than that.”
Contributing to the Raiders’ cause yesterday were Williams, who had 13 points, and Courtney Walsh, who scored 12. All five starters scored at least seven points.
Central Catholic 75, Cambridge 28
Cambridge R&L (28): Sarah Davis-Daniels 1 0-0 2, Regeat Berhe 3 1-1 9, Ibiyemisi Gbenebor 3 0-1 6, Lucy Sternbach 0 1-2 1, Thechena Theodore 0 0-0 0, Keyana West 0 0-0 0, Autumn Harrison 1 1-2 3, Lula Amanuel 1 0-0 2, Brianna Duncan 2 11-1 5. Totals 11 4-7 28
Central Catholic (75): Courtney Walsh 5 1-2 12, Alex Nagri 3 2-3 8, Amanda Williams 6 1-2 13, Caitlin Dell’Orfano 2 3-4 7, Casey McLaughlin 5 4-4 14, Darion Summers 1 6-6 8, Madison Borrelli 2 1-2 5, Toni Joy 0 0-0 0, Natasha Santana 2 0-0 4, Erica Hadad 1 1-2 3, Allie Tierney 0 0-2 0, Colleen Frey 0 1-2 1. Totals 27 20-29 75
3-pointers: CRL — Berhe 2; CC — Walsh
Cambridge (7-4): 2 6 12 8 — 28
Central Catholic (10-3): 26 18 17 14 — 75