LAWRENCE — Desperate for some help, Rick Nault dared someone on his bench to step up and assuage the pain of Doug Gemmell’s loss.
A pair of juniors, Aaron Hall and Austin Perry, answered the call — at least for one night — helping Nault’s Central Catholic Raiders to a dominating 60-43 win over intra-city rival Lawrence High.
Central now keeps pace with North Andover at 11-1 in the conference with three games left. Lawrence tumbles to 7-8 – after a 5-0 start – and will need a 3-2 closing kick to sniff the Division 1 North Tournament.
“It’s no secret, with Dougie out, we need some help,” said Nault, who hinted that Gemmell most likely isn’t coming back this year. “To play our way and do what we like to do on the court over the long haul, you just can’t do it with six guys.
“Both guys have worked so hard, and they offer different, valuable talents for us. With his length, Aaron can play with the bigger guys, and Austin is an athlete. He’s an excellent defender, and can really hurt teams with his athleticism. They did a very nice job tonight.”
More importantly, they offered Nault a chance to rest his top five early without a precipitous drop.
Ironically, both athletes had their chances earlier in the year, but they were left out of the rotation when Nault carved things down to seven.
Neither junior was slowed by the snub.
“You keep playing hard, you’re going to get your minutes. That’s how I looked at it,” said Hall. “I’m just trying to up my game to help try and fill in for one of the great players in our league.”
That great player Gemmell wouldn’t allow either guy to grow soft as the year rolled on either.