(Andover) Jaycob Morales hit a three in the 3rd quarter to put an end to an 18-point Andover run and topped that shot with a game-winner in the 4th at the buzzer to give Central Catholic (17-1) a 59-56 victory on Thursday night at Andover High School.
Jaycob’s three climaxed a game that both teams seemed to have taken control of a couple of times.
Andover’s Craig Luschenat (13 points) tied the game (56-56) with a three from the right corner with 56 seconds left. The teams then swapped missed shots setting the stage for the Raiders with 12.5 seconds to go.
You suspected that CC coach Rick Nault might set Jimmy Zenevitch (26 points) up in close for at least some foul shots or maybe have a drive to the basket from Luis Puello (13 points) or Jaycob Morales (10 points). You knew that whatever CC did, it would be done late so that Andover couldn’t respond if there was a miss.
The “late part” went as expected. The Raiders, however, stayed outside and when Jaycob’s final shot, from just to the left of the top of the circle, went through the net there wasn’t even time for Andover to get the ball inbounds.
Despite the fact that Central Catholic had already clinched the Merrimack Valley title the tone in this one was at the post-season, tournament-final level. There was plenty of vocal support from the two team’s student sections and plenty of crowd-pleasing action to watch. The teams had split the two previous meetings.
CC was by far the better team in the first half. Despite an unseemly twelve turnovers, they frequently got the ball into 6-7 Jimmy Zenevitch’s hands for high percentage shots. They shot nearly 50% in the first half.
Andover had Joe Bramanti (“The Brama Bull”) bring the ball into the frontcourt on almost every possession. He delivered twelve points but there never was an easy attempt. Having Luis Puello chasing him everywhere he went factored into his struggles early on. Andover trailed 27-20 at halftime.
It was obvious that Andover had zero chance of winning if the second half was a repeat of the first. I don’t know what was said at halftime but the Golden Warrior team played a third quarter that was remarkable under any conditions. Played against the #2 Division 1 team in the state and it was indeed something special.
Andover went from trailing 27-20 to leading 38-27 in about 6 ½ minutes. That’s a nifty eighteen unanswered points! You never saw such a turnaround. The Raiders missed two free throws, eight shots from the floor, and committed seven turnovers during this ugly (for them) segment. Joe Bramanti (8), Brian Salvesen (4), Craig Luschenat (4), and Jack Kieckhafer(2) all contributed points for the Golden Warriors.
You watched the onslaught and had to start thinking that Andover, with a 42-31 lead after three quarters, was on their way to a W. It didn’t turn out that way.
The 4th quarter started and instantly it’s CC that can’t miss and Andover begins to struggle to score. In three minutes and fifteen seconds the Golden Warriors squandered their entire eleven-point lead thanks to a 17-3 run by the Raiders. Jimmy Zenevitch came alive with two layups and two old-fashioned 3-point plays. Jaycob Morales hit his second of three 3’s in this comeback segment for Central Catholic.
With 4:44 to go and a 48-44 lead it looked as if CC was ready to roll to victory but credit Andover for fighting back. Despite missing three free throws, the team rode slashes to the basket by James Costello and Jack Kieckhafer, and the last-minute three by Craig Luschenat, to a tie score before Jaycob Morales’ last-second heroics.
Luis Puello scored thirteen points but it was his defense that was noticeable. He made Joe Bramanti work hard for his 22 points. Luis picked up his 4th foul with five minutes left but managed not to foul out and also to continue to play great defense.
Joel Berroa scored only four points for CC but he set up Jimmy Zenevitch for a number of layups with his passes.
Joe Bramanti struggled with his outside shooting and had to face shot-blockers when he drove. Still he managed 22 points. His defense was impressive to watch against Luis Puello and also Jaycob Morales.
Coaches from St.John’s Prep and Lynn English were in the house. Central Catholic plays at St. John’s on February 23rd. Lynn English is in a tournament at Central Catholic starting Sunday and could face CC in the finals.
Seniors were honored before the game.
The Raiders have now won thirteen straight.
Andover (13-4) defeated North Andover earlier this week.
The student sections created so much noise that you never heard individual voices. The cheerleaders from both teams performed stunts that looked dangerous to this reporter.
(I collect my own stats and take my own pictures. I also draw my own conclusions. Mistakes are unintentional.)