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“I’m not positive (what happened). I think he (the official, who walked over to the Prep bench after the call to try to explain) said Ben might have grazed him when he went by him. It was nothing he said. I wasn’t even looking at it; I was watching the ball. We haven’t had a technical foul all year and that was the worst time to get our first one.”
 St. John’s Prep coach John Dullea
I keep reading this quote and wondering how an official could call a technical foul in the final minute of overtime in a 2-

Ben Judson on the prowl.

point game on a player that “grazed” him on the way by to play defense.
It was a tough game to call all night long and the three-man crew DID NOT HELP.
Honestly, and it hurt both teams with foul trouble, two of the officials let them play to the point where they let it all go.
The third guy was calling hand-checks at halfcourt late in the fourth, making it truly difficult for the players to adjust.
It depended on which official the action was closest to.
Anyhow, the call marred an absolute classic between Central and St. John’s Prep last night at my new favorite place, Beverly High.
Folks, this is facetious when I say this, I’d hold the Commonwealth Christmas Classic at Beverly. Yes, the place is that nice.
I’m not sure on the crowd figure. Beverly Ad James Coffey pronounced it a sellout on twitter last night. It had to be the biggest non-Lowell, non-Garden crowd I’ve seen for a high school game.
Any other thoughts on the game?
Let me see.
The two student sections were off the charts.
The venue, spectacular.
The teams brought their “A” games.
The two blue-chippers, Central’s Tyler Nelson and the Prep’s Ben Judson were priceless.
Nelson got now breaks, going to the hole. The little bumps and subtle nudges were let go both ways.
So he adjusted, became a facilitator, a winner, the champion he already is.
He could have added six or seven passes to his highlight reel last night, all for Raider layups.
It makes you think that at the next level, he’ll be more of a combination guard than just the designated bomber.
Nelson’s been such a complete player, not just a scorer, this season, it’s been an amazing trip.
Fairfield head coach Sydney Johnson and assistant Martin Bahar were in the house last night to see their prized recruit.

As for Judson, the shooting exhibition caused nothing but head shakes with is five triples. I had him for 32, but it might have been 30. Either way, that first half was flat-out awesome.
Not that they need it, last night was a great advertisement for both schools.
As for Andover and Everett, I’ll let David Willis top-level video take over from here.

Andover-Everett

]Sad, sad day today with news of the passing of Mike Rowinski, a longtime area coach in baseball and hoops.
Rowinski was 57.
I tried to think this morning of all the conversations Mike and I had over the years. I think of all those nights he called in scores.
I never remember the guy once ever saying a bad word about anyone. Not anyone.
He was such a positive guy, even when things were going wrong.
It was never an official or bad luck. When his teams got beat, they got beat. Even at Georgetown, a school that is 90 percent of the time crushed in enrollment by his opponent, mike never made an excuse.
i thought Dave Dyer, in today’s Eagle-Tribune, caught the essence of Mike perfectly.
Years ago, he went out to Michigan for a couple years.
Nobody was happy to be back in our area. He cherished the quaintness of the Cape Ann League. He loved the compete level in the Valley.
Never forget the fist time I ever met Mike in person. Now let me tell you, I had probably talked to him 100 times on the phone before that night. But here we are in a crowded gym, handful of press guys surrounding Mike after a tourney win.
And he’s ignoring me, because he has no idea who I am. Finally I asked a question, and Mike immediately recognizes my voice. “Well, you know Hector, like we talked about last night …” The guy treated me like his brother.
Again, we were never close. But it just has to be told, Mike Rowinski really was one of the nicest coaches I’ve ever met. And I certainly will miss him. 57 years young. What a shame.

Made the trip to Tufts last night to see Central Catholic and St. Anthony’s.

Had to see if Baby Face Nelson was actually 100 percent, or if the wrist was an issue. Then he pumped in a the first 10 points of the game against the 2012 Maxpreps national champs from Jersey City.
Yeah, he’s OK.
Nelson finished with 24, slowed only by the fact that Hall of Famer Bob Hurley chose to double him on every touch, anywhere on the floor.
Talk about the ultimate in flattery.
Yeah, he’s fine.
Kept thinking to myself all night that if Central could have kept the ball in Nelson’s or Nick Cambio’s hands they had a chance.
Aaron Hall did great work on the boards, per usual, but they coiuldn’t locate Cambio, and it was a night where his offense was needed.
No Alex Santos for the Raiders, and that hurt. The starting point guard was dressed but didn’t play.
The Raiders simply turned it over too much.
Talked a bit with Dave Fazio. Asked him if that pressure is something he’ll attempt tonight in the tourney final.
You’re just talking a different level of athletes applying the heat with the SA kids, though.
Nelson got his in the state tourney win over the Warriors last year, killing the Warriors with a drive and pullup.
He’ll be a handful again tonight. Nelson is longer. The release on the jumper is quicker. He’s added savvy and guile. He’ll be a handful.
Now, you just wonder how the Warriors match up with the two Raider bigs inside. Right now, there is no proven answer as a second Warrior big. Connor Merinder is one answer, but Aaron Hall is hitting the glass hard, too. Is there an answer there?
It does make for a great final, anytime CC and Andover get together. It will be a sellout for sure. Talked to folks who are going, and they’re talking 5:30 or so to get there for the boys final.
You have to like Central, because of recent history and because Nelson is the best player on the floor. But it surely will be a war.
If I didn’t go, is it on the radio/internet? I thought for sure Frank Benjamin and WCCM were involved. If anyone has the answer, for me and my readers, please drop it on the comments.
Thanks.

HL

Grabbed this from my man Danny V’s blog, it’s the Friday schedule for the Shooting Touch shootout at Tufts tomorrow.
Note, Central Catholic and St. Anthony’s hook up at 5:30. This is after Dematha of Maryland plays for the hoop junkie. Might as well get your $12 worth, right. No MIAA passes accepted.
Again, the game is at Tufts, Cousens Gym, 161 College Ave in Medford.

Day 1 – December 27

12:15 – Cardinal Spellman vs. Franklin

2:00 – Mansfield vs. Springfield Cathedral

3:45 – CBA vs. DeMatha

5:30 – Central Catholic vs. St. Anthony’s

7:15 – St. Joe’s vs. Archbishop Wood

Just what is in on my mind as I wonder if my Eagle-Tribune press pass will be accepted at the Christmas Tournament this weekend.
Don’t forget, this first round ahead of the holiday kind of sneaks up on you:
Here are my thoughts on the Saturday boys games at Merrimack college:

Whittier at Methuen, 2 p.m. … After hanging around in a 12 point loss to Central, the Rangers righted the ship by putting a hurting on Chelmsford. Joe Boland’s Wildcats — Man, it sounds weird to say that with snow still on the ground — got their first win over North Shore this week, but I’m just not sure what to make of them.
Have to figure the Rangers cruise comfortable on returners alone.

Pinkerton at Central Catholic, 3:45 p.m. The old day game after a night game scenario doesn’t bode well for Pinkerton. Just what all Pete Rosinki’s giants need after a night in Nashua, wake up to have Nault’s pesky Raiders nipping at them every step of the 94 feet. 8 teams, 4 teams, seed the teams, pick out of a cap, it hardly matters. Pinkerton always draws Central in the opener, and we’ve seen how that’s gone over the years. Expect more of the same.

North Andover at Salem, 5:30 p.m. The “I have no clue” game in the bunch. Salem played tough in the opener to BG. The Blue Devils should be better, and many have them pencilled in as the small division favorite. The Knights are totally rebuilding, but they’ve got a win already and had Lawrence on the ropes through 3. If I had to be pushed, I say its Salem, but again get your coin out.

Andover at Lawrence, 7:15 p.m. … Can you hear Faz now, begging his kids to realize what a “Trap game” this really is? If Andover was a pre-Belichick Pats team, you could put the win on the board for Lawrence already. But it’s not. You have to figure Andover comes ready to play.

Can some one of my friends from Tewks please illuminate when the last Redmen win over Lawrence was on the hardwood?
Thursday’s game has to go down as a shocker, although Tewksbury isn’t your usually Tewksbury entity.
They played tough in the summer and have to be considered at least a co-choice in the MVC small with the defending champ Hillies.
Bottom line, Andover is the pick.

Even without Aaron Hall and Tyler Nelson, Central found a way to keep Haverhill at arms’ length last night. The Hillies hung around, kind of like Methuen did, but just couldn’t find that one game-changing run.
Part of that has to do with Central’s defense. The Raiders still get after it.
By the way, have to give yet another shout out to my favorite freshman, Kevin Fernandez.

Consider the fact that he once played on an AAU team with one Ollie Longo.

You can go the “Six degrees with Kevin Bacon” route and ultimately link Ollie to Kevin to Tyler Nelson to Carson Desrosiers to … potentially someone in the NBA from Providence.

You go, Big K. Seriously, Fernandez is a tough, son of a gun in the backcourt and he’s fearless on the drive. Suddenly, the backcourt tandem of he and Alex santos is a viable entity, that has to help free up Tyler Nelson when he’s back.

The Central camp reports Aaron Hall’s absence as a pulled hamstring, and his is day to day.

Haven’t spoken at all on the Whittier Tech coaching situation. It’s a bit dicey. Nobody likes Kevin Bradley more than me. And nobody respects the job he’s done at Whittier, building a once dormant athletic program over there.

NOTE: THE PHOTO ABOVE IS OF THE WHITTIER TECH PLAYERS SPORTING T-SHIRTS THAT SPELL OUT “WE LOVE SIPSEY” DURING THE ANTHEM BEFORE LAST NIGHT’S GAME.
I just have to put the blame on the school. Look, I coached there. I know all the rules. If one of your kids is still on the premises, you had better be watching them.
Is that fair? I don’t know.
That said, my opinion is that Tom was asked, not so nicely to resign. Nobody told me that. I see the show of support from his kids like last night and I feel it in my heart.
To force a guy with a 67-23 record, who has helped kids put their lives together while coaching there, is probably wrong.
He deserved a second or possibly third chance. And I’m sure that this decision was made well above the AD’s office.
Too bad.

Ahh, I have a little time as I patiently await my invitation to the Christmas tourney luncheon…

So I figured why not crank up the blog?
It’s a hoop driven thing. Let’s face it. The passion just isn’t there for football to keep the blog going on a regular basis, nor for baseball.
But hoops? Let’s just say, that was a 4-16 Methuen team a year ago coming into Central’s house on Friday night and getting the winter season blood flowing in the opener.
That one should tell you enough.
The emotion is back. I do love winter.

Did we learn anything from the opening Friday night?
First thing that leaped off my Trib sports page was the fourth quarter Lawrence threw together to knock off North Andover.
The Knights were up 13 and the Lancers ran off your basic 31-3.

You have to think that the MVC large is again Andover and/or Central.
Lawrence remains a mystery. We all know that Weezie (Kevin Fabian) can fire.
The big fella is back in the fold after a trip to the Mid-Atlantic. And I know Dantae Neal can play.
There are legit pieces. But will they fit together?
In case you were looking and hadn’t seen it, here’s the new Christmas tourney schedule.

Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic
(At Merrimack College)
BOYS DIVISIONS
(A) Bob Licare Division: Central Catholic, Andover, Lawrence, Pinkerton
(B) Will Hixon Division: Methuen, North Andover, Salem, Whittier
GIRLS DIVISIONS

(A) Jack Stephenson Division: Central Catholic, Westford, North Andover, Pinkerton

(B) Mimi Hyde Division: Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, Salem

Tourney Schedule
December 21 – Boys
Whittier vs. Methuen, 2
Pinkerton vs. Central Catholic, 3:45
North Andover vs. Salem, 5:30
Andover vs. Lawrence, 7:15

December 23 – Girls
Lawrence vs. Methuen, 2
Salem vs. Andover, 3:45
North Andover vs. Westford, 5:30
Pinkerton vs. Central Catholic, 7:15
Consolations Dec. 27, Title games Dec. 28.
I’ve been told I shouldn’t speak much on this, so I won’t.
But I can’t believe my man, EJ Perry will be in the small division on the girls side for too long though with Andover.

Remember, there is another tourney of local import, and that’s the Spinners/Lowell Refs Board tourney, being held this year at Lowell Catholic.
The Lowell tourney is a four-day, 12 team bonanza, with an 8-team large and a four-team small boys division.
On Friday, December 27, the Large quarters are played:
Game 1 – 3:15 PM –Chelmsford vs. Londonderry
Game 2 – 5:00 PM – Dracut vs. Pelham
Game 3 – 6:45 PM – Haverhill vs. A/B
Game 4 – 8:30 PM – Lowell vs. Westford
Saturday, along with the large consolations, you’ve got the small Semis
Game 7 – 6:15 PM –
Greater Lowell vs. Tyngsboro
Game 8 – 8:00 PM – Lowell Catholic vs. Pentucket
Sunday, Dec. 29, you’re talking …
Finish the small with the Consolations and Final at 1 and 2:45
Then go with the Semis and finals of the large that night.
Monday, it’s you’re talking typical large: 7th place, 5th place, 3rd place and Championship games.
The Spinner Cup final is slated for 8:15

Looking to the immediate future, Thursday night, it’s the Hillies hosting Central, most likely without Baby Face Nelson, in the Mansfield pressure cooker.
That’s the debut for Haverhill.
And with all this holiday madness, don’t forget the marquee game of the holiday season when Central travels to Tufts to take on St. Anthony’s of Jersey City.
That one taps on Dec. 27 is the Raiders beat Pinkerton Saturday, Dec. 21.
If they don’t beat the Astros, Central and St. Anthony’s will be played at Tufts on Dec. 28.

Check out the celebratory fist pump by CC hoop coach Rick Nault in the lower right corner after Cody Demers' game-winning TD!

I’m told that all the time. “You’re a Central guy.”
“You love Central.”
Central, Central, Central …
I never believed it. Yes, I graduated from CC, but it was a different school then (no girls).
Dick Licare was a young, inspirational English teacher/coach, a guy to look up to, a guy to run to Li’l Peach for SuzyQs for. The school has changed in epic fashion over the last 30 years (yes, I am blowing off the reunion coming up, too. i just don’t do them.).
After writing so much about one football game, CC’s win over Everett on Saturday, I just started to wonder.
I enjoyed Saturday’s win … a lot. As far as a non-basketball event goes, I put the game right there with another classic, just not the one Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos brought up.
That game’s only competition in my eyes was the 1992 Super Bowl win for Methuen with Cerami, Danella and Co.
Yesterday, with a little down time, I thought about that time when those kids caught Methuen’s attention and imagination … How mystical a day that was.
How crazy the town went. Hell, it was both towns, Reading and Methuen.
Chuck was right about Saturday, it was like a trip back in time, to a time when kids actually cared about their teams and schools.
i credit the Everett folks for that. That was a fandom that was young and energetic and knew the game.
Central’s crowd was great in numbers, but there were so many adults in it. The kids were so spread out, it was almost like they weren’t there … for a while.
The kids from Everett taught the CC kids a little something. They were into it from the opening snap. And by halftime, CC organized and was ready for battle. This went back to the days of Carson Desrosiers and the bowling strike at the hoop games. The Central kids stepped up, because they felt something special going on out on the field.
Yes, the parking stunk in Everett. I had to laugh when one of the other reporters was walking with a GPS to find where he had parked.
But everything else was incredible Saturday. I just wish I had the video or AD Ernie Difiore and assistant John Sexton’s jump/hug as the final seconds expired. Neither has ever gotten that much air before.
So no, I don’t consider myself a Central guy. By now, I’m an event guy. And if I could take in events like that every week, it would make my job a lot easier.

Ok, far be it from me to ever give the MIAA folks any credit.
But I have to admit as the final week of the 2013 football regular season approaches, I’m truly digging the upcoming playoff system.
In seven games, the MIAA has jammed in important league titles and huge league games (check out Thursday’s Chelmsford at Central game for an example. It doesn’t get any bigger.
League integrity has not been compromised. Yet, a real postseason tournament, not a couple mini-games jammed into a 5-day process, is ready to open up as November approaches.
Who could ask for more?
Now, I’ve read, studied and re-read the MIAA rules on the playoffs.
And honestly, I would take none of this as official. Might
But as I can read it, I would say here are your area playoff teams.

Lock city
Division 1
Central … plenty of points. More importantly, Thursday night is to lock down a league title at home against Chelmsford.

Division 2
Haverhill … Piled up points in the 4-2 start. The battle with the Knights on Friday night is for an automatic bid, but Haverhill coach Tim O’Connor says the Hillies have done enough. Considering the 9th seed is a 2-4 Newton South team that is 0-4 in the DCL.

North Andover … Only 3-3 with the Hillies left Friday night. Right now, they are the 6 seed. To me, it’s all be academic … but a win Friday night takes away all the worries.

Division 4
Pentucket … Win at North Reading Friday night and lock up the No. 1 seed in Division 1 North.

Division 5
Whittier … Coach Kevin Bradley says a win over Shawsheen could vault the Wildcats into a home date in the playoffs. I say the Wildcats could need the victory, just to get in. The winner picks up the CAC large automatic bid for 2nd place. There’s a logjam from 5-10, but I’m 99.999999 percent sure the Cats are in win.

In the hunt
Division 1
Methuen … At 4-3 in the clubhouse, Coach Tom Ryan says a Lowell win over Andover or a Central win over Chelmsford would send the Rangers to the postseason. The sad fact looms that if Andover and Chelmsford post upsets, Methuen could be the odd man out with Malden, a team the Rangers beat, sneaking in as the No. 2 team in the GBL.

Andover … Currently, the sixth seed, ahead of Lowell, the Warriors need to beat the Raiders to be in for sure. Plain and simple. If not, it’s Novena time.
Division 4
North Reading … An upset over Pentucket would pack a ton of points … enough to propel the Hornets up the Division 4 ranks into the top 8??? … I’m just not sure.

On life support
Division 5
Greater Lawrence Tech … First the Reggies have to shock unbeaten Northeast then hope the stars align and Mercury enters retrograde at just the right time.

Out
Georgetown, Lawrence

As for the Granite State, remember that’s a nine-game sprint up there.

Division 1
East

Three-way tie at top with Exeter ,Dover and Winnacunnet … Warriors have to face unbeaten South, could be the odd team out.
North
Unbeaten Concord is basically in. The regular-season finale between Bedford and Central will leave one pretty darn good football team on the outside looking in.
West
If unbeaten South beats 5-2 Keene this week, it will be the Panthers and Cardinals of B.G. advancing.
South
Pinkerton is clearly the pick, at 5-2. Londonderry has no excuses. In a 3-way tie at 3-4, the Lancers have memorial and Salem left plus it owns the tie-breakers over Goffstown and Merrimack.

Division 2
Highlighting just the local interests, if Sanborn can beat 1-6 Kingswood this week, it’s in. That’s the good news. The reward is a playoff date at unbeaten Monadnock. That’s the bad news.
Windham, at 6-1, is in, thanks to the tie-breaker advantage over 4-3 Milford.
The Jags will face Trinity this week for what will decide the top seed in the south division.

Division 3

Beat 5-1 Campbell or 0-6 Farmington-Nute and the unbeaten Pelham Pythons will be playoff bound.

Remember, a great slate of games — starting on Thursday — lies ahead this week.

The best of the best this week!!!

Thursday, 7p.m.
Chelmsford at Central … For the MVC large title
Friday, 7 p.m.
Andover at Lowell … For the Warriors’ playoff life?
N.A. at Haverhill … For 2nd in the MVC large
Pentucket at North Reading … For Pentucket to claim sole possession of the CAL large title
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Kingswood at Sanborn, 1 p.m. for the surprising Indians to lock down a playoff spot
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Trinity at Windham for the top seed in the Division 2 South playoffs

I did the work and Tim O’Connor stepped up for his 11 players on the Haverhill High defense, but we just couldn’t cram my “Meet the Haverhill Defense” graphic into the paper.
Still, I went out and shot the photos and put the info together, so here it is:

The Haverhill High defense has been nothing short of sensational in its previous three games against Merrimack Valley Conference Small Division 2 competition. In the three straight victories, Haverhill has allowed a total of 18 points, an average of only 6.0 a game.

Tonight, the Hillies face the stiffest of challenges as they travel to 5-0 Tewksbury, the 10th rated team in the state. Each team is 3-0 in the league. If Haverhill needs any extra motivation, other than playing for the league title, it need only look to last year where in Week 2, they fell to the Redmen in a war. Haverhill spent the rest of the year playing great football and chasing the Redmen. But Tewksbury never slipped up and ran the table, claiming sole possession of the league title.

Here’s a look at the Hillies, by year, position, height and weight and with a quote from head coach Tim O’Connor on the athlete:

Matt Burns

Sr. – DE

6-2, 200

“Long, athletic, leads us in pass deflections.”

Adam Mondello

Sr. – DT

6-0, 240

“Senior leader, great size, toughness.”

Samie Al-Ziab

Jr. – DT

6-0, 225

“Great with hands, physical in tight space.”

Taylor Gonzalez

Sr. – DE

6-2, 215

“Physical presence on the edge, great closing speed.”

Michael Attah

Sr. – OLB

6-1, 215

“Versatile, great speed. Tough on run, solid cover guy.”

Phil Panici

Jr. – MLB

5-10, 240

“Instinctive middle linebacker. Plays tackle to tackle. Keep your head up when he’s around.”

Stephane Bristol

Sr. – OLB

6-1, 190

“Strong in space and in coverage. Can rush the QB from anywhere.”

Patrick Yale

Jr. – CB

5-10, 165

“Excellent intelligence, pure cover corner.”

Matt Burns and Josh Dion

Josh Dion

Sr. – S

5-9, 155

“3-year starter, emotional leader, heart and soul of the defense.”

Samie Al-Ziab, Adam Mondello, Mike Attah


Chiedozie Onwuka

Jr. – S

5-10, 160

“Ball-hawk, excels in run support.”

Tommy Maguire, Stephane Bristol, Pat Yale


Tommy Maguire

Sr. – CB

5-11, 185

“Mr. Everything. He’s our best athlete on the field.”

Chiedozie Onwuka, Phil Panici, Taylor Gonzalez

In case you missed it, colleague Mike Muldoon does a nice job in the Sunday Eagle-Tribune breaking down all the changes to the boys and girls Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournaments. Go to eagletribune.com for the specifics.
My initial thoughts now that it’s done.
Big ups to the Daher’s at Commonwealth Motors, assuring that the athletes get what they deserve, that is $1,000 scholarship for a senior on each team.
This is the kind of community move that fans of area sports should celebrate and take to heart.
If I ever make enough money to by a real car … something that may never happen … I will definitely go to Commonwealth. Talk about a businessman stepping up.
Speaking about businessmen stepping up, the Holland’s from Stachey’s Old-Time pizza (can’t go wrong with the tuna pocket there, by the way) and Reliefs In have ensured the banquet is back for the kids.
Mike’s story seemed to indicate that those were both donations, so please step up to the plate for those folks, too.
With all that in order, we turn to the tourney, which is headed to that lyrical little bandbox, known as the Volpe Center on the campus of Merrimack College.
Those of you who know me or read me understand my reservations there.
Lawrence High or North Andover High are much more spacious and comfortable. Contrary to public opinion, there is no electricity attached to playing at Merrimack.
As for the split divisions, I’ll voice my angst about that. Again, if I’m a Methuen player or coach, a Methuen team loaded with legit talent in the junior class now, don’t I really want to try and beat Central Catholic, my most hated and feared arch-rival?
Or am I satisfied with the “B” title?
You guys tell me.
I’ll also never be a fan of the semifinals before Christmas and the finals after.
The spread from those games is too long. It loses steam. With only two rounds, they both should be after christmas.
Like the boy-girl, boy-girl finals format. I think.
Do the additions of the Whittier boys and the Westford girls excite me? Should they?
As for seeding the teams, nobody was a bigger proponent, although it matters much less and could get a bit more controversial with just four teams.
My only other thought is the money, and where is it going? Luckily, there are a handful of credible guys involved, McVeigh,
Faz, etc.
Love to see them dump some of that into halftime contests, entertainment and attempts to involve the students from these schools in the fun.
That will liven up the event and add energy.

Other than this commentary, I am truly immersed in what has been a great high school football season to date. Huge games and a new playoff system lie ahead.
Folks in Haverhill and Methuen should be excited about their teams right now. And we no the Central Catholic express is gaining speed.
The sleeper of all sleepers? Slow-starting and hard-charging North Andover.

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