NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover dug itself a hole last night in the Cape Ann League boys race.
Or maybe it was Wilmington which dug it for the Knights.
Either way, North Andover fell victim to some cold shooting and some aggressive drives to the basket by the Wildcats and dropped a 62-56 decision in front of a nice crowd of over 600 fans on Senior Night.
The loss makes both the Knights (14-3) and Wildcats (13-3) 9-2 in CAL play, two games behind Masconomet. Both teams face Masco next week, so a shared title is about all either one can expect.
"Stranger things have happened," said Wilmington coach Joe Maiella. "I feel this was our best defensive game of the year and, if we keep it up, I like our chances."
Maiella knows about strangeness in the CAL. Just three days before last night, his Wildcats were stunned by last-place Ipswich, something he feels had a bearing on last night's game.
"We should have never lost that game (to Ipswich)," said Maiella. "It woke us up. I told the kids that, with North Andover and Masco in our next two games, it was like having a mini-Christmas tournament, and they played like it was."
The Knights did move out to a 12-7 lead in the first quarter, however, buoyed by seven points and five rebounds from Zach Karalis. But Wilmington started to take control in the second quarter.
With relentless drives to the basket by Vinny Scifo (20 points) and Nick Godzyk (14 points), and with North Andover guard Derek Collins on the bench in foul trouble, Wilmington surged to a 29-25 halftime lead and, except for two brief lead changes, led the rest of the way.
The Knights had some good lucks at the basket early in the third quarter, but three missed layups and five turnovers in the period kept Wilmington in control.
Trailing 46-40 at the start of the fourth quarter, Karalis (22 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists) led North Andover went on a 7-0 run to take a 47-46 lead. But the Knights couldn't sustain their surge and Wilmington continued to attack the basket with vigor while holding the Knights to one field goal the rest of the way.
"Spacing is everything," said North Andover coach Mike McVeigh. "I thought we made them take tough (outside shots), but their quickness to the basket and spacing hurt us."
The Knights also shot a sub-par 23 percent from the floor in the second half and no Knight could join Karalis in double figures.
Referring to games Monday at Andover, Tuesday at Masco and the following week at Hamilton-Wenham, McVeigh said: "Our road is very tough, but we have to take what happened and get better. The kids have to play better and we have to coach better."
Wilmington 62, North Andover 56
Wilmington (62): Chris Frissore 3-0-6, Nick Godzyk 6-1-14, Vinny Scifo 9-0-20, Cole Peffer 3-0-6, Tim McCarthy 2-6-10, John Parsons 0-0-0, Kyle Albanese 3-0-6. Totals 26-7-62
North Andover (59): Colby Smith 0-3-3, Collin Hubbell 2-0-5, Sean Erb 0-0-0, Derek Collins 3-0-8, Zach Karalis 7-6-22, James Warden 0-1-1, Isaiah Nelson 2-5-9, Michael Moroney 4-0-8. Totals 18-15-56
3-pointers: W — Godzyk, Scifo 2; NA — Hubbell , Collins 2, Karalis 2
Wilmington (13-3, 9-2): 7 18 19 18 — 62
North Andover (14-3, 9-2):12 17 11 16 — 56