Boston High School: Tre'von Farley

Recap: No. 1 Central Catholic 77, Lawrence 59

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
9:18
AM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Three games, three days, no problem.

After being narrowly edged out by national power St. Anthony (N.J.) on Friday, and surviving a furious Andover squad on Thursday, Central Catholic won the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament Final Saturday in convincing fashion with a 77-59 victory over Lawrence, at Lawrence High School.

While some wondered whether Central (6-1) would have its legs under them after playing two highly physical and emotional games, it exploded with 27 points in the first quarter and immediately put Lawrence back on its heels.

What lethargy?

“I said to them, ‘Tonight’s not a physical challenge tonight, it’s not an emotional challenge, it’s a mental challenge,” said Central coach Rick Nault. “Can you get over the mindset of being tired, being emotionally drained, and they came out right from the start and they scored 27 points in the first quarter. They were ready to go.”

Central was paced by the ever-energetic Doug Gemmell (17 points, eight rebounds) down low. If there was a Raider player who you could understand would be gassed, after having to deal with Andover’s Sam Dowden and the workhorses of St. Anthony’s, it would be Gemmell. But there he was, challenging for every rebound and contesting shots against Lawrence’s (5-1) Roberto Speing (14 points, nine rebounds) and Tre’von Farley (11 points, six rebounds).

“I just want to make sure that we come out every night ready, and we’re ready to get a win,” said Gemmell. “Every night we just have to come out and play as hard as we can. I don’t think the games effected us really. Practice is harder than the games for me.”

Central started the second quarter on an 8-0 run and there was no looking back from there. Its lead was never less than double digits for the rest of the game.

Brief downshift: For the first half of the third quarter, it appeared that Central lost its energy. Lawrence’s ball pressure and transition game picked up and it slowly chipped away at the lead. Was this the point when Central’s schedule would catch up with them? Would the change in momentum, the extra energy of the cross-town rivalry, and hostility in the building be too much for Central to hold back?

It was not. The team closed out the third quarter back up 20 points, but that didn’t mean that Nault wasn’t concerned.

“I absolutely thought we lost our legs,” he said. “Until the end of the third quarter, we outscored them by one. I said to my assistant, ‘We played terrible that quarter, and we won the quarter by one. I felt the game was slipping away and then I look up when the quarter sounds and the lead went from 19 to 20 and I thought, ‘Well okay, we’re in pretty good shape right now.”

Defensive woes: Lawrence’s biggest obstacle is not a lack of talent, but a lack of defensive consistency. Saturday, the team would show up in spurts, like in that early charge in the third quarter, where it could create havoc for the opponent.

Then, there were other times where the defense would be so concerned with stopping the ball that it would over-rotate and allow a Central player to cut to the weak side low block for an easy basket. Also, the ball handler consistently drove to the basket, then kicked it back out to a wide open shooter in the corner.

If Central has an abundance of anything, it is an abundance of quality jump shooters. With those types of defensive breakdowns, Lawrence will have a difficult time beating tough competition.

Nelson on his mark: Tyler Nelson, one of Central’s dangerous jump shooters, went off for 22 points Saturday, including four three-pointers. After going 4-for-11 from the field against St. Anthony and underperforming (by his standards) the last few games, he came into Saturday with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.

“I struggled against Andover, struggled early on in this tournament, shots weren’t falling,” he said. “I was kind of in a mini-slump. Last night (against St. Anthony) I played a lot better and tonight I really stepped up so hopefully I’ll be back to normal.”

For Central to accomplish what it wants to this season, having a locked-in Nelson will be crucial.

“Tyler felt like he had something to prove tonight,” said Nault. “He played OK last night, terrible against Andover two nights ago, and then really struggled against Haverhill last week. He had a chip on his shoulder tonight. He wanted to play real well, and he came out playing real strong.”

Recap: Lawrence 69, Methuen 58

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
12:00
AM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- It took three quarters, but Lawrence found the right mix of effort and execution needed to put away Methuen tonight, 69-58, in the opening round of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament.

For the first three quarters, no Lawrence (4-0) lead was greater than six points. Going into the fourth up 46-42, the team ratcheted up its defensive pressure and overall tenacity to outscore Methuen (0-4) 23-16 to pull away and show what it is capable of when clicking on all cylinders.

“I thought the kids were playing hard, and that’s one of the things I’m stressing to the team, that we need to be the hardest working team when we go out there,” said Lawrence coach Raymond Nunez. “In regards to executing, we have a long way to go, especially on the defensive end.”

Methuen was kept in the game in large part because of its outside shooting. When Lawrence went up by four or six points early and appeared to be set to pull away, someone would hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit back down.

Lawrence did most of its damage around the basket, where Tre’von Farley and Roberto Speing each had a double-double. Speing was more active on the boards (16 points, 14 rebounds) while Farley (14 points, 10 rebounds) filled up his stat line in the latter half of the game.

“We really didn’t play together as a team,” said Farley. “We didn’t really play as one. This is a team that we should really be up against and if we play defense, that we should be able to put away. We were really slacking on the defensive end. We have to get better defensively.”

Lawrence will play in the semi-finals of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27 against the winner of the Pinkerton Academy-Greater Lawrence game, which will take place Friday.

Double Trouble: Not to say that any player is more important than another, but Lawrence’s success will depend on how Speing and Farley perform in games. When they are being fed the ball in the post or attacking the rim off the dribble, that is when the team has its most success. As the season rolls on, and with the team lacking a consistent long-range shooting threat, their consistency in the paint will be imperative if the team wants to make noise in the Merrimack Valley Conference.

That creates open space for teammates elsewhere if the defense collapses on them, they can draw fouls on the opposing big men, or they can make the most of second chance opportunities on the offensive glass.

“I think we need to do a better job of getting it to them in the post,” said Nunez. “We work our big guys day in and day out and the way you reward them is feed them in the post. I think we had an advantage down low, but we just struggled feeding them in the post. It’s going to come with time though.”

Putting either on the free throw line is also not a winning strategy for the opposition. Both Speing and Farley are above average free throw shooters for players their size. Tonight, they went a combined 8-of-11 from the line.

“We work off each other,” said Farley. “If Roberto’s on one side, we know just to box out and if the ball is going up, we just try to get hungry and go for the rebound. That’s just our main goal: to rebound. That’s our job.”

Trying to Find a Balance: Like most teams early in the season, Lawrence has had difficulty finding consistency on both ends of the floor. That was most evident Thursday, when coaches were yelling for the players to communicate on defense. For three quarters, there were breakdowns in the interior, which allowed players like Tim Galloway-Burke (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Jamal Rene (4 points, 8 rebounds) to occasionally muscle and maneuver their way around the paint.

That changed in the fourth, when the Lawrence players started showing up in hustle plays, where they were not in the first three quarters. Players were diving for balls on the ground, chasing balls and preventing them from going out of bounds, and attacking defensively, whereas earlier in the game, players were shying away from those.

Putting it all together: When a team’s biggest issue is effort, how can it become less of a problem? Is it something that can be taken care of in practice? Does the coaching staff have to pick up its demands on its players? Or is it just a matter of a team growing together and developing chemistry to make it easier to play together?

That is something a team like Lawrence will have to find out soon. There is no doubt the talent is there to be a dangerous team, but can it manifest that talent into a cohesive unit that can compete as it gets deeper into the season?

“It’s going to be a matter of us stressing it in practice,” said Nunez. “We have to get back into practice and just work at it. Then we have to rely on our three seniors coming back (Farley, Denny Gonzalez, and Esmelin Romero). I think those three guys can make a big impact on the defensive end, and also just in a leadership aspect. Just having that experience, I think they can help our young guys that are inexperienced with that.”

Div. 1 Boys: Lawrence 80, St. John's Prep 69

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
11:47
PM ET



LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Paul Neal slouched on a bench outside the Lawrence High gymnasium, the Lancers head coach exhaling deeply after a hard-fought Division 1 North First Round battle with St. John's Prep that took on a frenetic pace. Then his wide-eyed, unsung sophomore walked by, and Neal extended his left hand for a low-five.

"Great charge, brother," Neal said softly, but with authority. "That sealed the game."

Anyone who's watched Lawrence this year is familiar with the Lancers' affinity for the run-and-gun, and against set plays. So it shouldn't come as a whole heck of a surprise that the kid driving the stake into this 80-69 win over Prep was 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Roberto Speing's crunch-time work on the glass.

Speing had four defensive boards in the fourth quarter, all of them coming in the final two minutes as the Eagles (13-8) tried to rally with a number of attempts from deep. The icing on the cake, though, was taking his third charge of the game with 1:01 left and the Lancers (15-5) leading 75-65, sliding in front of Prep's Tyler Dooley as he crashed into the lane from his right.

"I had to take it," Speing laughed. "Coach Raymond [assistant Raymond Nunez] told me I had to take three charges today, and that's what I did. That was my third one."

Neal recalled a late-night conversation with Speing earlier this season, urging him to continue working hard on the glass -- continue to "dominate the last four or five minutes with rebounding," as he put it -- in spite of the lack of attention from the public. Eventually, Neal told him, people will take notice.

Tonight might have been an eye-opener for some. On the big stage, in front of an enthusiastic capacity home crowd, Speing finished with 10 rebounds -- six in the final frame.

"I think he's finally starting to understand that," Neal said. "He's starting to get recognized. I said, 'Listen, you're the Dennis Rodman of this team. You're the guy that can put a stop on people, and seal the defense'. Tonight, I think he was the man. He rebounded when we needed rebounds."

On the offensive end, meanwhile, it was senior guard Yadoris Arias (31 points, seven rebounds) leading the way with an explosive outburst, which included a 4-of-7 effort from three-point range.

But his most crucial possession was a heady one late in the game. Charging upcourt on a fast break off a long rebound, Arias drifted to the left corner, took a kick-out pass, hesitated for a moment and then pump-faked his defender. Arias drove baseline, took a foul on his way up to a reverse layup, and hit the free throw to complete a three-point play and go up 75-65 with 1:25 left.

"It gave us a lot of momentum, it felt great," Arias said. "Bunch of young guys on the court, they're hyped, they're bringing me up. So it's just a good play."

Stumbling, he continued, "I dunno, it just feels good right now, man. I'm speechless right now. It feels good."

Seniors Franklin Martinez (nine rebounds) and Leonny Burgos both added 14 points, and senior Tre'Von Farley 11, in the winning effort for Lawrence. Prep senior Steve Haladyna finished his stellar career on a good note, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Need for Speed: Lawrence pushed up the tempo significantly in the second quarter, leading to an 11-2 run to open, and overall it yielded some pretty favorable results. Defenders up top began strafing upcourt as soon as Prep shot went up, leading to long outlet passes. After baskets, the ballcarrier either took a long outlet on the run or brought the ball over halfcourt quickly.

That led to a number of good looks from the perimeter. Lawrence was 5-for-5 from three-point range for the quarter, three of them coming from Arias. But when Neal motioned for the troops to slow it down a bit with under three to go in the first half, the Eagles quickly mounted themselves right back into the game. Haladyna took an entry pass from freshman Marcos Echevarria and kissed a hook shot off the glass; that was followed by a tip-in and backdoor layup from Owen Marchetti.

Prep cut the lead to 41-37 at the half, but Lawrence turned up the speed again in the second half, leading 61-54 after three and never relinquishing control.

"We're not an offensive set team," Neal said. "We've got athletes, and we want to make guys keep up with us. I think execution-wise, [in the] halfcourt St. John's Prep is a much better team -- and most teams we're going to play, you know what I mean? But if we can get guys that we know can run and jump and get the game up and down, I think it favors us."

Playin' Like Jaylen: Folks around Lawrence are still talking about the Lancers' run to last year's Division 1 North final at TD Garden, after entering the tournament a No. 15 seed. Fueling that run was Jaylen Alicea, who played his way into an ESPN Boston All-State nod after averaging 30 points in five tournament games.

Arias considers Alicea a close friend, and displays many of the same characteristics -- same haircut, same chin-strap beard that's long in the chin area, similar-looking tattoos. Arias wore No. 12 last season, but has switched to Alicea's number.

"He was like a brother to me," Arias said. "When we were younger, he always had 12 and I always had 15. He left last year...so I just wanted to keep the number going and represent it well."

With 31 points tonight, Arias is off to a good start in following the momentum Alicea built in last year's tournament.

"He's playing on a mission, because I think he was in the shadows of Jaylen for years," Neal said. "They're different kinds of players, but some things are similar and they're good buddies. So I think it's his time to show he can play without those guys and still accomplish stuff as a team. There's some drive in him from that era, too."

Up Next: The No. 7 seed Lancers await the winner of Thursday night's contest between No. 2 Acton-Boxborough and No. 15 Methuen, with the game likely to be played over the weekend. A-B is the heavy favorite, but Neal said for preparation purposes "I spend a lot of time focusing on us, and then do a few simple changes."

"We want to run, and everybody knows that," Neal said. "And if you can stop that, well, good luck. We're going to try to come at you, no matter who we're playing."

Recap: No. 17 Lawrence 54, Andover 38

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
11:33
PM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- With just under six minutes to go and his team up by 8 points Friday against Andover, Lawrence’s Tre’von Farley stole the ball around the Andover three-point line and sent a long pass ahead to a sprinting Franklin Martinez.

Seeing no one in front of him, he already knew what he was going to do. He skied to the rim and threw down a one-handed drunk, bringing the home crowd to it’s feet. That put a charge into his team, which stretched its lead to double-digits in the remaining minutes, eventually leaving the gym with a 54-38 victory.

“Once I saw Tre’ get the ball, I ran,” said Martinez, who finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. “I wanted it. It was there. I didn’t see anybody on me but I did see someone out of the corner of my eye, but then I was like, ‘Who cares?’ and threw it down.”

With the crowd behind it and a new-found energy, the Lancers (10-3) went into attack mode. On the very next Andover (8-5) possession, Yadoris Arias took the ball away from an Andover player and passed it ahead to Roberto Speing in transition. As he brought the ball into his offensive zone, he passed it to a cutting Farley, who got fouled going up for a layup.

Martinez even kicked up his aggressiveness. For a player perhaps more known for his jump shooting, he started taking the ball strong to the hoop, sometimes taking on as many as three Andover defenders to do it.

“I started taking it to the basket to be aggressive, because I knew that they are too slow, so I started attacking more,” he said. “I was getting hit, and wasn’t always getting calls (from the referees) but it’s okay because at the end of the day, we won.”

It was a productive game for the senior, who is making the most of his playing time this year after failing to see the floor much last season.

“You know what he does well? Not only is he a good shooter, but he gets to the hole and he finishes,” said Lawrence coach Paul Neal. “He has a nice little mid-range game so it’s really hard to cover him. He’s smart enough to know when he’s not hitting those shots, that he can find other ways to score.”

Complete game effort still needed: Although they ended up winning by 16, there’s a feeling within the Lawrence team that it hasn’t put a full game together yet. It puts quarters of good play together, but there hasn’t been a full 32 minutes of quality basketball played yet this season.

For example, Friday it held Andover to 13 points in the entire first half. That was with one player, Sam Dowden, scoring 10 of those 13. He finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Then late in the third, its lead was cut to 6 points, only to have it go back over double-digits in the fourth.

As the season rolls along, there are positive signs, but still a lot of team growth necessary, especially as the season begins to wind down.

“We always have one good half, but we haven’t put together a full game yet,” said Martinez. “From the first quarter to the fourth quarter, we haven’t done it yet. But in the fourth quarter, we always seem to come together and we seem to end up good. In the third quarter every team comes back so in the fourth quarter we just push and play more defense. Tonight in the third quarter we didn’t really play defense. It’s like we get the lead so we just slack off. In the fourth quarter, we always end up picking it up.”

Even sheet: One of the encouraging signs for Lawrence is there was no one standout scorer. Multiple players contributed to what Neal felt was a team effort. Farley lead the way with 13 points, but Martinez was right behind him with 11, while Arias had 10, and Argenis Reinoso had 6.

“It was a balanced night offensively,” said Neal. “When you have a balanced team, people can’t scout and prepare for you. Who are you going to prepare for? Who’s the big scorer? Who are you going to stop? If they all have around the same amount of points, you can’t. I like that better. I like when we score with balance and no one guy dominates. We certainly have the potential for some guys to take over on any night, but I think tonight if we did that, we might not have won the game.”

Fueled by loss: Rarely ever will a coach admit that a loss is a good thing, but in Lawrence’s case, it might have just been one. Coming into it’s Sunday matchup against Boston Cathedral, Lawrence was 8-2 and riding high in the Merrimack Valley Conference Large behind only Central Catholic. The Lancers lost 73-69 that day, showing the team that their record may not have been indicative of where they were as a team.

“A loss is never good, but I think it really shifted their mindset,” said Neal. “I think they were starting to believe that we were really good, and we’re not good. We’re a team that has to work hard to be good. For us to win, we need hard work, and I couldn’t get them to practice hard. Even going into the Lowell game (a 62-57 win on Jan. 20) we went in really frustrated.”

“The practice after that Cathedral game was terrific. We played defense. In the game after that we held Tewksbury to 24 points (in a 63-24 victory). I don’t care who you’re playing against, if you can hold them to 24 points, you must have played well defensively.”

Recap: No. 20 Lawrence 62, No. 23 Lowell 57

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
11:29
PM ET
LOWELL, Mass. -- After Lowell pulled within 3 points of Lawrence after a Corey Brown steal and layup, the Lancers were set to inbound the ball with under half a minute to go Friday.

Coming out of a timeout, Lowell coach Scott Boyle wanted his team to disguise their press as man-to-man when it really was more of a trap zone.

As the ball was inbounded to Yadoris Arias, two Lowell defenders converged on him, trapping him in the corner. He made what some would call a risky decision and sent a cross-court pass to a teammate. The pass was successful, and it was quickly pushed ahead to Tre’von Farley, who was fouled under the basket.

With the entire gym anxiously watching, knowing the outcome of the game could potentially hinge on his ability to hit one of the two free throws, Farley converted them both. Lawrence left the gym with a 62-57 victory in a crucial Merrimack Valley Conference tilt.

“I’ve been in the gym shooting free throws since our last game (a 69-67 loss against Central Catholic),” said Farley. “I was just thinking about the free throw. I was thinking, ‘Nothing’s gonna stop me from hitting these free throws,’ so I was really confident and just focused on hitting those free throws.”

Farley had 28 points and eight rebounds to lead the Lancers. He was 8-of-10 on free throws. His presence underneath was important for Lawrence (8-2) since his frontcourt mate, Roberto Speing, picked up his 4th foul early in the third quarter, forcing him to the bench.

“He played well, he was one of the only guys that played well offensively,” said Lawrence coach Paul Neal. “He was also big rebounding. He was a guy that just did a lot. He scored when we needed a big score and he got his hands on the ball.”

Lowell had no answer down low for the 6-foot-3 senior, who played with a tenacity and aggressiveness of someone bigger than his size.

“For me, I look to score and be aggressive, if not I look to pass,” Farley said. “Being aggressive tonight was successful, so every chance I got I went to the hoop and looked to score. It ended up being a good game.”

Jonathan Perez was the leading scorer for Lowell (8-3) with 23 points, including 8-of-10 from the free throw line, and 5 rebounds.

“We didn’t play well, but I think it’s also a good sign for a team,” said Neal. “It’s a road game against a very scrappy team, so to be able to get a league win, you’ve got to feel good about it.”

Going Green: Earlier in the season, Neal referenced his team’s lack of game experience as a potential pitfall for his team as the season wore on. While there are eight seniors on the team, some of them are players that did not see the floor much last season, if at all.

Although they hung on for the victory, their youthful aggression was evident early in the contest. In the first quarter, his team was called for at least four charging fouls as they were driving to the basket. It became a point of emphasis for Lowell, believing it could get an offensive foul called on most Lawrence offensive possessions if players were in position.

For every mental lapse and youthful mistake his team can make at times, Neal still likes the direction his team is headed as the focus starts to shift towards the postseason.

“I like where the team is at because I think we can improve,” he said. “Even in this game, I don’t see anything that I can look at and say we did that well. We found a way to win, which is good, but as far as execution, even defensively, we had a lot of mistakes. This team has a lot of potential to get better, so hopefully we can get it out of them.”

Streak snapped: The win snapped a five-game winning streak for Lowell and put Lawrence in second place in the MVC Large, behind cross-town rival Central Catholic. The Lancers’ only two losses on the season have come at the hands of Central. There will be another meeting on February 7. That is not lost on Lawrence, who came into the game stinging from the 2-point loss from last weekend.

“I don’t think this was a statement win,” said Farley. “I think we just came in and did what we had to do. There’s bigger teams than them. We know they’re a good team, but we’re still looking to make our statement.”

When asked if he was referencing a particular team, he simply replied, “Central Catholic.”

Recap: No. 1 Central Cath. 75, Lawrence 65

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
12:58
AM ET




LAWRENCE, Mass. --- It was only fitting that the championship game of the Greater Lawrence Boys Christmas Tournament involved Merrimack Valley Conference cross city rival high schools Central Catholic and Lawrence.

In a back and forth, defensively charged game it was Central Catholic guard Tyler Nelson who settled the contest for the Raiders and took charge in the fourth quarter. The poised sophomore stepped up when it mattered most to lead Central Catholic (5-0) to the 75-65 victory over Lawrence (4-1).

Nelson took home tournament MVP honors as he scored 24 points and dished out five assists, with none prettier than two precise backdoor conversions in the fourth quarter to help seal the win for Central.

“He is the smartest player I have ever had with the ball in hands,” said Central Catholic Head Coach Rick Nault of Nelson. “He makes such good decisions.”

Central Catholic was playing without senior starting point guard Luis Puello, who suffered a sprained left ankle in Wednesday's semifinal victory over Pinkerton Academy (N.H.). Despite the loss of one of the state’s premier perimeter defenders Central matched Lawrence’s defensive intensity in the first half as both teams applied perimeter pressure that forced numerous rushed shots, turnovers and a myriad of free throw attempts.

With Central Catholic leading 30-26 at the half Lawrence came out of the break and applied intense full court pressure that resulted in a momentum shift that saw the Lancers go on a 9-0 run to earn a four point lead with 2:39 remaining in the quarter.

Each time Lawrence gained momentum, however, it was the steadying play of Nelson that squelched any run. The sophomore hit two big 3-pointers in the third quarter and also had a key steal on the defensive end to give the Raiders a 47-45 lead heading into the final quarter.

In the fourth quarter it was the heady play and perfect free throw shooting of Nelson, the post offense from Doug Gemmell and the three critical steals by Mike Barry that keyed Central Catholic’s 10-point victory.

“This was our first goal of the season to win this tournament and that is what we did,” said Nelson. “It was a team effort and everyone stepped up without our best player.”

Second Half Surge: Nelson scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and went 14-for- 14 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter alone.

Nelson was perfect on the night from the free throw stripe shooting 16-for-16.

Gemmell also had a large presence in the second half as he established the post for the first time in the game and scored 14 of his 16 points after the break.

Lawrence senior guard Yadoris Arias scored all 15 of his points in the second half and provided lock down defensive pressure throughout the game.

X-Factors: Lawrence seniors Tre’von Farley and Franklin Martinez were all over the court for the Lancers on the night. The seniors impressed with their numerous hustle plays, aggressive defense and timely rebounding.

The 6-foot-3 Farley scored 15 points on the evening to go along with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. The 5-foot-11 Martinez chipped in with 12 points including two third quarter 3-pointers that helped propel Lawrence’s run.

All-Tournament: Nelson was named tournament MVP with Gemmell, Farley, Martinez and North Andover’s Zach Karalis rounding out the starting five. Arias was named the tournament’s 6th man award winner and Lawrence’s Roberto Speing and Central Catholic’s Shawn McCoy were named the Coaches Award’s recipients.

Recap: Central Catholic 56, Pinkerton (N.H.) 39

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
12:41
AM ET
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Aside from being down by a point at the end of the first quarter, not much went wrong for No. 1 Central Catholic Wednesday against Pinkerton.

In the semi-finals of the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament, the Raiders cruised to a 56-39 victory over the visiting team from New Hampshire.

The win sets up a meeting with town rival Lawrence Friday for the tournament’s championship.

The Raiders found out early on that they could control the boards against the noticeably smaller Pinkerton team, which lead to many second-chance opportunities, while denying their opponents the opportunity at others.

Central out-rebounded Pinkerton 48-23, which included only one Pinkerton offensive rebound.

“If it wasn’t for the offensive rebounds, the outcome of the game might have been a little different if we didn’t rebound the way we did,” said Central Catholic coach Rick Nault. “I didn’t think we played all that well, especially defensively. I wasn’t happy with our performance, I think we can play a lot better.”

Central lost a large piece of its puzzle very early in the game when guard Luis Puello went down with an ankle injury when he was going after a ball. He tried to come back into the game at the start of the second half, but asked out of the game shortly thereafter.

He had a noticeable limp and struggled moving laterally with the basketball. The initial prognosis from the trainers was a high ankle sprain, which is likely to keep him out of the tournament finals Friday.

With the injury occurring so early in the game, the team knew other players would have to step up and carry the load, and Tyler Nelson helped to do just that.

After going cold on a handful of 3-pointers in the first half, the sophomore guard kept shooting. Like any streaky jump shooter, he knew all he had to do was hit one, and then a lot more could follow. That he did, hitting five 3-pointers in a row, helping to build the lead for his team. He ended the game with 17 points and 6 rebounds.

“I knew someone was going to have to come off the bench and it was probably going to be either Lucas (Hammel) or Henry (Rodriguez) to play the guard, so I kind of established myself on the wing,” said Nelson. “Luckily, they left me open a few times. My shot was off early and then I started knocking down two or three in a row, and it just picked up from there. They were leaving me open, so I just let it fly.”

It was just what the team needed on offense.

“Without Luis, we tend to struggle offensively,” said Nault. “If we can get Tyler open looks, he’s going to eventually start knocking them down. He missed his first few but eventually started knocking them down. He’s a shooter. We tell him to take the shots when he’s open, it’s just sometimes he’s too unselfish, so we need to get him going a little bit.”

Chris Light lead the way for Pinkerton with 13 points and 8 rebounds.

Not satisfied: Leave it to a coach to find flaws in his or her team’s big victory. Nault felt his team could have performed better, even though it came away with a 17-point victory.

“I think we have to take care of the basketball better, finish around the rim,” he said. “I think our halfcourt defense, something that we pride ourselves on, is usually something we’re very good at. I thought we stunk tonight.”

Cross-city rivals on tap: The victory sets up a matchup between two teams that know each other all too well. With the way his team played Wednesday combined with the confidence of Lawrence coming off its last-minute victory the game before, Central knows it is in for a tough task Friday if it wants to win the Tournament and remain atop the Merrimack Valley Conference.

“They’re a scary matchup for us Friday night,” said Nault. “It’s good for the city. It’s good for the kids on both teams. While it’s a rivalry, I think it’s a friendly rivalry. I think it will be a great atmosphere.

“They’re just tenacious defensively, they have two great players in the post in Roberto Speing and Tre’von Farley, who are two very, very active kids. Then you’ve got Yadoris Arias on the point, who is very good with the basketball. They have a lot of good pieces, including a bench that can go up-and-down. They’re a tough, tough matchup. We’re going to have our hands full.”

Nelson agreed.

“They’re going to come out and they’re gonna play tough,” he said. “They’re going to want to win and we’re going to do the same thing so it’s going to be a battle. The place is going to be crazy, it’s going to come down to who wants it more.

Nault turns 40: Wednesday was Nault’s 40th birthday. As a present, the student fans serenaded him by singing "Happy Birthday" in the final few minutes of the game. With that, even the normally straight-faced Nault cracked a smile and gave a shy wave to the crowd in acknowledgement.

“I’ve never had the kids sing on my birthday,” he said. “Last year, was the first time we ever lost to Andover in five years, so it was not a pleasant birthday. This year, it’s nice to get a W.”

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