|Central Catholic junior Bret Edwards scored the final 6 points for his team to down Everett in the D1 North semis|
By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – For the fifth consecutive year, the Everett boys’ basketball team treated fans to an incredibly competitive Division 1 North semifinals game, yet for the fifth straight year, they were outplayed down the stretch in a losing effort.
This time, third-seeded Central Catholic served as Everett’s tormentor, as the Raiders emerged from a back-and-forth dogfight with a 68-65 victory thanks to a balanced team effort and gutsy play from junior point guard Bret Edwards.
Everett (19-4) and Central Catholic (20-5) traded leads 15 times in this contest, while the score was tied five different times as well.
The second-seeded Crimson Tide appeared to be in control with a 55-50 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but the Raiders came back with a steady 9-0 run to take a 59-55 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
Over the final few minutes, Central’s quarterback exacted some revenge for his teams’ loss to Everett in the D1 North football semifinals by scoring the final six points to put the Raiders up 68-65 and send them on to the sectional finals, where they will face undefeated Cambridge (21-0) Saturday at 6 p.m. at North Andover High.
“That kid's got a lot of moxie,” Central Catholic head coach Rick Nault said about Edwards. “He hasn’t forgotten about the pounding [Everett] gave to them a couple of months ago. So he had a real edge to him tonight and he made a lot of big plays including the biggest play of the game while going right at them. He’s a money player.”
In the first half, Everett’s quarterback did most of the damage, as Jordan McAfee dropped 15 of his 17 points over the first two quarters. Theo Zidor (10 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks) controlled the paint defensively, but the Raiders hung tough with their big man Colin Bradanese (20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) battling down low.
A clutch three from Dom Keegan (15 points), who shot 5-for-5 from downtown, gave the Raiders a narrow 35-34 lead heading into the break.
In the third quarter, Everett’s star guard Ghared Boyce (21 points, 4 assists) came alive for 11 points to pace the Crimson Tide to a four-point lead, 51-47, heading into the fourth.
With his relatively inexperienced team trailing in the biggest game of their basketball careers, Nault reinforced an important pregame message.
“We talked about looking [Everett] in the eyes and not having any sense of fear or hesitancy and I thought from beginning to end, we battled just about every possession,” said Nault. “When they took a five-point lead, we didn’t flinch and that’s impressive from a group that doesn’t have a lot of seniors.”
Led by juniors Edwards (10 points, 3 assists) and Bradanese, the Raiders scored nine unanswered points to regain the lead for good.
Yet the play of sophomore Kevin Constant (9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) that personified Central’s never-say-die attitude and showcased the toughness that Nault asked for from his players.
“Kevin Constant was huge in the second half and made a lot of great plays for us, and defensively we just clamped down,” effused Nault.
The 6-foot-2 guard grabbed three key offensive rebounds to earn free throws and he produced all nine of his points at the charity stripe. When an Edwards and-1 put Central up 66-62, it was Constant who intercepted a pass to end Everett’s next possession and preserve the lead.
Boyce would respond with a huge three to make it 66-65 with just under thirty seconds to play, but Edwards (against his coaches’ exhortations) drove for a tough floater to make it 68-65 with eight seconds remaining, and Constant did the rest by forcing Boyce into a 35-foot prayer that went begging as the final buzzer sounded.
“I’m not really a big shooter, but when they give me a lane I try to go and make a bucket,” Edwards explained about his play down the stretch. “To be honest, I thought they were going to foul, but they didn’t so I just tried to go to the basket and it went in, so we were able to get the W. We’re going to keep going on this run and see what we can do.”
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Boyce to McAfee for 3 off PnR. Central starts 6-0 but Everett responds with 7 str8 and its 7-6 mid Q1 pic.twitter.com/22BcaQB4L0— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Strong take from Colin Bradenese puts Central up 13-12 1 min left Q1 pic.twitter.com/bN3gal3YMV— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
End Q1: Everett 15, Central Catholic 13. Mcafee w/10 after draining another corner 3 @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/kiZ6LKPJmn— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Sixth lead change already, Everett goes up 32-31 1:10 left Q2 pic.twitter.com/qDmHZQzU5X— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Halftime: Central Catholic 35, Everett 34. Dom Keegan 4-4 from 3 to give us 7th lead change of first half. @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/MoVGc3nLLv— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Bradanese 3 and were tied at 42-42. 4:46 left in Q3 @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/O1bMkXvEKx— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Isaiah Likely C2C for 2 and Everett leads 55-50 w/6:06 to play pic.twitter.com/qdPphaCQxj— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Nifty take from Bret Edwards. Everett 55, Central 54 5 min to play pic.twitter.com/W1FCUjCKhN— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Boyce scores off Raiders TO and were tied again, 59-59 with 3:26 remaining pic.twitter.com/NvXXbhbo5I— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
Ghared Boyce keeps Everett alive with huge 3. Cc still up 66-65 with 27.2 remaining @HerewegoJoe @masspreps @mattyfeld612 pic.twitter.com/n9FBNVGFEQ— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017
D1 North semifinal: Central Catholic 68, Everett 65. Fantastic back and forth game, Bret Edwards the hero late @HerewegoJoe @masspreps pic.twitter.com/eXUT7B5Kwp— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) March 9, 2017