Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Perry Leads Andover Boys Hoops Past Methuen in Christmas Classic

By Mike Abelson (@ABELS0N)

METHUEN, Mass. - E.J. Perry IV on a basketball court is like watching an oil painting in real time. Every shot with purpose. Every rebound with force. Every steal with skill. The star guard for Andover doesn’t have much time left in the blue and gold and made one of his final big games worth it.

Perry filled the stat line with 29 points, eight rebounds, four steals, two assists, and a massie block to pilot the Golden Warriors past top-seeded Methuen 66-63 in a thrilling semifinal of the Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic.

Perry has just five more games in his basketball career before enrolling early to Boston College, where he will play quarterback.

“He’s got one more and then he’ll have won three out of four Christmas championships,” Andover coach Dave Fazio said of Perry. “That will add to his legend. I told him at the end ‘you’re a closer. You have to close.’”

Close Perry did, with a hard rebound with seven seconds left and two free throws to give Andover the final edge.

“That’s the best type of basketball ever, especially when you’re playing such a great team,” Perry said.

Andover started the game like a house afire, running out to a 19-7 lead late in the first quarter after being down 4-0 in the opening minute. Perry scored Andover’s first six points.

Brendan Witton chipped in with 14 points for the Warriors and Emmett Kim had eight points off the bench. Andover rotated early and often against the Rangers.

“My freshman year I think we had six guys play the whole year, and now we have [eight] guys playing meaningful minutes,” Perry said. “Especially with the sophomores, Michael Makiej and Emmitt, stepping up and scoring and playing defense. They’re bringing a new energy level. It’s just awesome.”

Methuen kept chipping away at the lead, got it down to seven by halftime, and took a 46-45 lead on a bucket by Kevin Fernandez late in the third. A pair of free throws by Fernandez put Methuen up 62-60 with 1:49 left.

Fernandez led a dynamic backcourt with 22 points for Methuen. Dante Rivera ran point for the Rangers and put in six points but also grabbed eight rebounds and dished a game-high seven assists.

“[Kevin] can score with the best of them,” Methuen coach Anthony Faradie said. “He made some big shots, but I probably have to watch the film more, but in terms of execution I don’t know if it was one of his better games. Dante comes to play. He’s been solid.”

Uriel Cirineo had 13 points and five rebounds for Methuen, and Evan Hardy had 13 points, all in the second half.

Andover will meet Central Catholic for the tournament title in a renewal of one of the state’s best rivalries. Central beat North Andover 65-55 in the other semifinal. The game will happen Thursday night at Methuen High at 8 p.m.

“I think this is my seven millionth time playing Central sports,” Perry said. “It’s always a great game when you play Central, and there’s always great moments to be had against Central.”

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