Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Sports

January 2, 2014

Sweet rival victory

AHS fends off Central for Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic title

The Andover High boys basketball team beat Central Catholic.

Sounds so simple. But after losing 22 of 23 since 2005, it has been anything but simple for Andover High coach David Fazio and his respected boys basketball program.

Andover won the Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic, 72-68, on Saturday night, which was a cause for celebration.

“It’s an amazing feeling to come out here and play with so much energy and beat them,” said forward Ben Brown, one of only three seniors to see action Saturday night for the Warriors. “It’s like no other feeling.”

Central, which lost to perennial national power St. Anthony’s the previous night, appeared ready to continue its dominance over its border rival, jumping to an 8-0 start before hitting the two-minute mark.

“When you get down like that, we have to look at what we’re doing,” said Brown, who finished with 12 points. “We just had to get into the flow of the game. We were rushing too much. Once we got comfortable, we just kind of took it from there.”

A well-placed early time-out obviously settled the Warriors, who did not have a turnover in the final 6:40 and finished the period on a 12-0 run that provided the lead for good.

“These kids want to win,” Fazio said. “They know it’s a long season and they’re going to get better, but they want to win. I told them the tougher team is going to win.”

The Warriors continued to surge in the second period, scoring six of the quarter’s first nine points, including five by Connor Merinder to open a 28-15 lead. Then a strong start to the third turned a 10-point halftime advantage into a 49-33 lead with 3:38 remaining in the frame.

Andover (4-0) not only responded offensively, converting nine of its 18 threes and 25 of its 52 shots, but muscled up defensively against Raider threat Tyler Nelson, who had scored 45 points his previous two games. With Brown and John Pisacreta leading the way, the Warriors used multiple tactics to hold the returning Eagle-Tribune MVP to 11 points and nine field-goal attempts. He took only four shots after intermission.

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