ANDOVER, Mass. –- An instant classic.
Friday night’s Division 1 North quarterfinal game between host No. 3 Andover and No. 6 Lynn English featured two teams that simply did not want to go home, scratching and clawing, doing everything they could not to have their seasons end, but eventually it was Andover coming out in top, 86-81 in overtime before a sold out crowd at Dunn Gymnasium.
“Craziest game I’ve ever been involved in,” Andover coach Dave Fazio said. “That team (Lynn English) has the heart of a lion. It was one of those games where the coaches say whoever has the ball last wins. That’s what it was. We never quit. I thought we had them and they would hit a three, hit another three, they made plays, that’s just a heck of a team right there. In my 25 years of coaching we deserve a break. We’ve had some hard aches over the last 25 years, this is maybe the God’s giving us some luck.”
The overtime featured up-and-down action with the teams matching basket for basket before Andover's David Giribaldi’s hoop and the foul following a steal gave the Warriors an 82-79 lead with 42.5 seconds left. The Bulldogs wouldn’t go down quietly as on their next possession Fred Hogan nailed a three, making the score 82-81 with 23.7 seconds remaining.
Connor Merinder was then fouled and he made both free throws increasing Andover’s lead to three, 84-81. English had one last chance, but they air balled a three before Giribaldi was fouled with less then five seconds remaining with the game all but in doubt.
“It’s the most fearless team I’ve ever had,” Fazio said. “In 25 years we had one team that went to the Tsongas Center, but this is the most fearless team I’ve ever had. We do some crazy things. We throw the ball away, we kick it out of bounds, we foul, the kids do the craziest things, but the one thing they are not afraid of is to win. It just says an awful lot about these kids, I’m just so proud of them.”
It was a fantastic end to regulation as Lynn English found themselves down 68-60 with just over four minutes to go, but went on a 7-0 run in just over a minute’s span to get right back in it.
Hogan’s layup with 42.1 seconds left tied the score at 73 and then Andover turned the ball over on their ensuing possession, setting up the Bulldogs with the ball and 15 seconds, but Hogan’s runner was swatted away by Merinder forcing overtime.
Lynn English was led by Danny Lukanda, who had 25 points, while Hogan added 20 and Erick Rosario contributed 19 in a losing effort.
Giribaldi had a game-high 28 points, 21 of them coming in the first half to lead the Warriors. Freshman E.J. Perry had a tremendous game finishing with 28 points, including two huge, back-to-back three-pointers in the third quarter. Despite battling foul trouble Merinder had a solid game as well finishing with 11 points and had a major presence on the glass.
“We have a killer in Giabarldi, but these kids are stepping up and that is a tribute to their hard work," said Fazio.
Andover will now take on Everett in one of the Division 1 North semi final games to be played next week.
REFUSING TO GO DOWN
It’s been a wild two tournament games for the Warriors as they barely beat No. 14 seed Billerica, 54-52 in their opening round game and then found themselves down 24-12 and 24-14 after the opening quarter Friday. But they have remained calm at all times.
“These kids don’t panic, they just don’t panic, man,” Fazio said. “Sometimes I don’t even think they know the score. I say to them ‘we’re up three’ and they just say ‘OK, let’s go’. They just play. They play for the love of the game. It’s crazy but it’s working. Let’s just hope it works for a few more games.”