By Hector Longo
---- — LAWRENCE — “I do believe we can win (the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1). We all do,” said North Andover High senior Chris Bardwell.
After the week he and the Knights have had, would you doubt him?
North Andover, just three days after the miracle comeback from down 18 in the second half against No. 1 Central Catholic, took step two toward hoop sainthood, this time at the expense of the Lawrence Lancers.
Down six, 52-46, with 2:10 left to play, North Andover found a way again to pick itself up off the floor and will itself to win, knocking home 7 of 8 free throws in the final 93 seconds to pull out the dramatic 57-53 win and hold on to its share of the top spot in the league with Central at 10-1.
“They just executed and made plays down the stretch, we didn’t,” said Lancers’ coach Ray Nunez.
To be truthful, the Knights got a little bit of help.
Sure, a clutch drive and scoop by Isaiah Nelsen put the roof back on the place after Kevin Fabian’s 3rd three-pointer of the quarter gave the Lancers the six-point cushion.
But on the ensuing Lancer trip, with the ball in the deep left corner, Lancer Tre’von Farley was hit with an “illegal screen foul” about 35 feet away.
Farley voiced his displeasure with a loud, “Come on!” and drew a two-shot technical — his fifth personal.
Asked if he asked what Farley said to draw the ejection, Nunez noted, “It doesn’t matter. You have to know better than to talk to the referee.”
Derek Collins made both free throws then drove to the hoop and knocked in a runner to tie it at 52 with 1:13 left.
Twice, Lawrence went to the hoop and came up empty.
Twice, the Knights went to the line, knocking in 3 of 4, to grab the lead at 55-52.
The Lancers weren’t done as Bryan Morales got clocked on a 3-point try to tie with 17.7 left. He made one, but the Lancers controlled the possession after a scrum for the loose ball.
One final Lancer attack on the hoop came up empty, and Collins iced things with a two more from the line as the Knights went 12 of 15 from the stripe in the last eight minutes.
“We just never give up,” said Bardwell. “We just don’t give up. We got the stops we had to, just like the other night against Central. It’s been quite the week.”
Nothing is easy in the MVC large, though, and while the Knights can look forward to the return of Brendan Miller next week, they play at Lowell on Tuesday with a Friday night home date against rival Andover.
North Andover’s Nelsen led all scorers with 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Bardwell added 13 points and Collins 12.
Luis Torres paced a balanced Lancer attack with 13, while Fabian and Esmelin Romero chipped in nine each.
North Andover 57,
agateText:North Andover (57): Casey Walsh 1 1-2 3, Brett Daley 2 0-0 5, Derek Collins 2 7-9 12, John Enright 1 0-0 2, Chris Bardwell 3 7-9 13, Isaiah Nelsen 9 2-2 22, Totals 18 17-22 57
Lawrence (53): Esmelin Romero 4 1-5 9, Luis Torres 5 2-2 13, Bryan Morales 1 1-5 4, Tre’von Farley 2 0-0 4, Roberto Speing 3 1-1 7, Dantae Neal 2 0-0 4, Anderson Morales 1 1-2 3, Kevin Fabian 3 0-0 9, Totals 21 6-15 53
3-pointers: NA — Daley, Collins, Nelsen 2; L — Torres, B. Morales, Fabian 3
North Andover (12-2): 12 17 12 16 — 57
Lawrence (7-7): 11 14 8 20 — 53