DANVERS – The Central Catholic boys basketball team enters the first full week of February, truly in unchartered territory.
Losers of two games, including yesterday’s 55-52 defeat at St. John’s Prep, and without their returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star forward Doug Gemmell in the last six days, an air of uneasiness has the Raider faithful in collective head-shake.
“It’s definitely a position we’re not used to being in,” said Raider coach Rick Nault. “Having three regular-season losses is something that’s new to us.”
On the floor yesterday here at the Prep, Nault had to be proud of his charges, who fought off fatigue and willed their way back into the game after trailing by as many as 14 in the third quarter.
“We knew up 10, 12 and 14, there was no way the game was over,” said Prep coach Sean Connolly. “It was only a matter of time for Central to come back at us. But we’ve got a little toughness here too you know.”
Twice, the Raiders had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead – down 53-52 and 54-52. Both times the Prep forced Central turnovers.
It was in those two possessions where the loss of Gemmell, who suffered a head injury in Tuesday night’s loss at North Andover, was felt most.
The Raiders clearly appeared a bit rattled without their senior leader.
“We’re still not sure if (Gemmell) is going to be back this year,” said Nault. “He does so much for us. He’s our emotional leader.
“But we’re a tough group. We were down seven (53-46) with 1:45 left, and we got ourselves in a position to win the football game.”
Moral victory or not for the Raiders, who basically went six deep all day, it was the Prep that dictated terms in this non-leaguer.