HAVERHILL, Mass. --- Merrimack Valley Conference Large rivals Andover and Central Catholic met again for the fourth time this season in the D1 North sectional semi-finals on Tuesday night. With Andover winning the prior three contests, Andover Coach Jim Tildsley knew this game would present a big challenge.
“We were concerned with them coming in as the No. 12 seed and playing so well, beating two very good teams in Billerica and Westford on the road,” said Tildsley.
Andover did not look concerned on the court, however, as they would come out and take immediate control of the game early and often on their way to a 56-36 victory.
“I am really proud of my kids,” said Tildsley. “There is so much pressure on these kids with everyone talking three-peat, three-peat. They are just taking it a game at a time and coming to every game focused and ready to play.”
Andover (24-0) set the tempo early as they extended their full court pressure defense right off the opening tip. The pressure and aggressive ball denial was effective as Andover held Central Catholic (14-9) scoreless until the two minute mark in the first quarter. Andover led 11-2 until the first quarter buzzer sounded when Central Catholic guard Courtney Walsh drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 11-5 after one quarter of play.
“We came out and stymied them with our defensive pressure,” said Tildsley. “That was the whole key to that game. We had to come out during those first four minutes of the game and really play and we did.”
The offensive star on the night was Andover junior guard Devon Caveney, who scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half.
“It is all about confidence,” said Tildsley of his junior guard.
Andover’s Nicole Boudreau saw constant double teams on the evening as Central aggressively tried to take her out of the game with varying gimmick defenses and aggressive ball pressure.
“They were triple-teaming Nicole so one of us had to be open,” said Caveney. “I knew I had to hit those shots if we wanted to get the lead going and I did.”
Caveney converted three separate three-point play opportunities, with the most impressive being a baseline 3-pointer to start the second half that she drained while hitting the floor after contact. She made the free throw, completing the four-point play, which continued the second half momentum for the Golden Warriors and put the game well in hand.
Central Catholic received strong efforts on the night from junior center Casey McLaughlin (10 points, 13 rebounds), sophomore forward Amanda Williams (seven points, 11 rebounds) and sophomore guard Walsh (nine points).
Miss Stat Sheet: Boudreau definitely knows how to fill up a stat sheet as the reigning ESPN Boston Miss Basketball found ways to dominate the game without having one of her typical high scoring evenings.
Boudreau scored a game-high 17 points, pulled down 12 rebounds, dished out five assists to go along with six steals and five blocked shots on the evening.
“Nicole made some great passes tonight.” said Tildsley.
Two of her best passes came in pressure situations with three Central defenders draped all over her. She had the presence of mind and strength to thread the ball, both times, through the entire defense to open teammates under the basket on the opposite side of the court.
Central’s Youth: Central Catholic will only be better when the ball is thrown up for the 2012-2013 season opener. They return all but two seniors and the future looks as bright as the past has for the Raiders.
McLaughlin is only a junior and has been playing regularly since her freshman year. Walsh and Williams are both sophomores. They also return sophomore defensive specialist Alex Nagri, junior sixth-woman Darion Summers and five other underclassmen who all saw playing time at various points in the season.
Another Title Run: The elephant in the room for the Andover girl’s basketball program is their impressive late season undefeated record and their prior two seasons Massachusetts State Championships.
The road to their third consecutive state championship does not get any easier as they will face the winner of Thursday’s other D1 North semi-final match-up between Lincoln-Sudbury and Masconomet. The sectional finals will be played at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass. on Saturday as a part of a big day of sectional finals for the North sectional girl’s and boy’s basketball championships.