Knights Shine in Semifinal Showdown
A 58-50 win over Greater Lawrence Tech. puts North Andover in the Christmas Tournament final against Andover.
When he was in his 30s, North Andover's head basketball coach Mike McVeigh was in his third year coaching the squad and muscled his team to a victory in the Christmas Tournament final.
The year was 1984 and the opponent was Andover.
The 2010 edition of the Christmas Tournament will feature the first ever rematch of the '84 final on Thursday night as the Scarlet Knights came away with a 58-50 victory over the Reggies of Greater Lawrence Technical High School on Tuesday night.
Behind a 23 point and 8 rebound performance from junior Zach Karalis, North Andover clinched a berth in the finals for the first time since 1998.
"I've got a bunch of kids who I absolutely feel deserve it," said McVeigh.
North Andover controlled the pace and the scoreboard throughout most of the game. Greater Lawrence surged periodically, coming to within three at the half, but each run was responded to promptly.
"I think our kids were thinking about Thursday night, and not just finishing off Tuesday night to be perfectly honest," said McVeigh.
"I think it's natural," he said.
North Andover allowed Greater Lawrence to tie the game in the fourth quarter before putting a run together and making the final minutes more comfortable for the Scarlet Knight fans in attendance at Lawrence High School.
Helping Karalis run the North Andover offense was 6-foot 2-inch sophomore Derek Collins. Collins chipped in 18 points and six rebounds and more importantly added balance and another deep threat to the Knights' attack.
Alongside Karalis and Collins for the Knights was sophomore big man Isaiah Nelsen whose seven points and two rebounds helped build the bridge to the finals.
For the Reggies it was Donald Celestin leading the way with 17 points and six rebounds on the evening. He was flanked by Joey Rivera-Falcone who contributed 14 points and five boards in the losing effort.
"They gave us a battle," McVeigh said.
After disposing of Greater Lawrence, McVeigh had his team watch Andover's thrilling 55-52 triumph over Central Catholic.
The scouting proved to be worth it as Andover needed every last page out of their playbook to conquer the defending state champion Raiders who missed a game tying three pointer at the buzzer.
Andover is 4-1 and was unsuccessful in the past two Christmas Tournament finals. The Golden Warriors will play the role of favorite in Thursday's final.
North Andover (5-0) will seek its first Christmas Tournament win since 1991 when the Knights took down Salem in a 21 point blowout.
Preparations for the final will be simple as McVeigh does not see too much time for strategy with only one day off after the semifinal victory.
"With only a day, you don't have a lot of time to do things or make adjustments," he said. "You basically try to get your kids to do the best they can," he said.
The festivities are set to begin at 8p.m. on Thursday night at Lawrence High School.
Andover's blue and gold covered students will exchange banter with North Andover's red and black clad legion. It will be The Cavalry against the Hawk's Nest. It will be Knights against Warriors; Andover against North Andover.
The Christmas Tournament trophy, precious midseason momentum, and tons of bragging rights are up for grabs on Thursday night.