boys' basketball > division 1 north semifinal
No. 4 Central Catholic 74, No. 1 Charlestown 63 (OT)
READING -- History suggested Central Catholic sophomores could make big plays in the clutch inside Hawkes Fieldhouse, so maybe it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Raiders coach Ricky Nault drew up a last-second, season-saving play to go to Carson Desrosiers Tuesday night.
With Central trailing top-seeded Charlestown by two with 2.1 seconds remaining, Desrosiers took a inbounds pass from fellow big man Adrian Gonzalez and banked home a turnaround in the lane to force overtime where the fourth-seeded Raiders motored away for a thrilling 74-63 triumph.
The Raiders advanced to Saturday's sectional final to meet the winner of Wednesday's Everett-Lowell tilt at Tsongas Arena.
One year after then-sophomore Billy Marsden threw his own coming out party by scoring the final seven points in the Raiders' upset of then-top-seeded Lexington in the same round of the tournament, Desrosiers punctuated Central's rally from a 16-point deficit with his last-second hoop.
In fact, the Raiders didn't lead all night until Adrian Gonzalez produced the first basket of overtime for a 62-60 advantage. Central scored the first 13 points of the extra frame before a trash-time 3-pointer with seven seconds to go broke a five-minute scoreless drought for Charlestown.
But none of that would have been possible without Desrosiers's heroics in regulation.
"We just drew it up," Nault said, acknowledging the inbounds play was improvised given Charlestown's foul situation. "We knew they'd just foul it we gave it to a guard. We had to go with a catch and shoot. (Desrosiers)'s 6-9 and he's got a soft touch."
In a game notable for its lack of whistles (the three-man referee crew did a phenomenal job letting the players play) , Charlestown was well under the limit when Central took over with a chance at a final shot with 12.2 seconds to play (this after Shabazz Napier missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation that might have iced the game).
Central needed more than half that time to simply get the ball over halfcourt and, even after one timeout, Charlestown fouled with 2.1 seconds to go when Central captain Wilfredo Pagan tried to accelerate towards the wing.
Nault called for another timeout and drew up the pivotal play. Rallying was the hard part, he figured. Nault never lost faith in his team.
"Two years in a row in this building," he said. "Two very similar games. I had the same feelings late in the game. I knew if we could just get a stop and hit some shots we could get back in this.
"Billy hit some big shots."
That might have been an understatement. Marsden, who wasn't directly involved in the game's most influential play (he ran traffic away from Desrosiers, freeing him up inside), poured in a game-high 30 points, 22 of which came in the second half and overtime.
The junior guard took over in the third quarter as he poured in 13 of the Raiders' 15 points in that frame and helped ignite the furious comeback.
After Desrosiers forced the extra frame, Marsden went back to work by scoring nine points in overtime, including a dagger of a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put his team on top, 69-60. He added four clutch freebies to seal it before Central emptied its bench for the final 20 seconds.
Desrosiers finished with 16 points, while Gonzalez -- still nursing that strained oblique that has bothered him all season -- chipped in 10 of his 14 points after the first half.
Greg Hackett paced Charlestown with 18 points, while Napier added 15 off the bench.
The Townies opened the game on a 10-2 run and led 25-14 after the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Charlie Haymon had the Townies out front, 30-14, early in the second quarter and threatening to make this a laugher. Central trimmed its deficit to six before the intermission (34-28) and five after three quarters (48-43).
So Mr. Nault, any thoughts about utilizing Hawkes Fieldhouse as the Raiders' home court in the future?
"We're 2-0 here and beat two top seeds," he said with a big smile. "But we were undefeated at home this year, too. I like our home court."
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