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Fri, Mar 11, 2011 TBA @ Andover
Team 1 2 3 4 Final
Acton-Boxboro 12 10 10 19 51
Andover 13 20 16 8 57

Andover shakes struggles, earns North title

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Friday, March, 11 By David Willis
Staff writer

BOSTON — It may not have been a work of art, but Andover High still walked off the TD Garden court hoisting the Division 1 North trophy.

“It sure wasn‘t easy,” said point guard Natalie Gomez-Martinez. “But we pulled together, hit a few shots and finished them off. In the end, that’s all that matters. And it feels awesome to win here again.”

Despite battling foul trouble and cold shooting, the No. 2 Golden Warriors kept their composure and closed out No. 5 Acton-Boxboro 57-51 in the Division 1 North title game last night on the Boston Celtics’ home court in front of a crowd of approximately 2,000 fans.

It was the Warriors’ second straight Division 1 North crown, and third in four years.

“We had our highs and lows,” said center Jackie Alois. “But we won at the Garden and that is a great achievement. It is so exciting.”

Andover moves on to face South champion New Bedford in the Division 1 state semifinals on Monday, back at the TD Garden.

“It is such a great feeling to win here,” said guard Ally Fazio. “We just had to keep shooting. Our shots weren’t falling, but it was the championship game and we told ourselves to keep shooting. It’s feels awesome.”

Andover trailed by a point after the first (13-12), then managed to turn that into a 33-22 advantage by halftime.

But, leading 49-32 after three quarters, the Golden Warriors saw Acton-Boxboro cut the lead to just six before a pair of defensive stands clinched the victory and set off a wild celebration at half court.

“We had problems but still earned the win,” said Nicole Boudreau. “I think this is a wakeup call for us. We had won every tournament game by 20 points or more. This shows us we can be out. it’s good to have a close one, and a win’s a win.”

The Golden Warriors battled foul trouble throughout, with Alois fouling out in the fourth quarter and Gomez-Martinez forced to the bench in the third with four fouls. Boudreau also picked up her fourth foul late.

But that wasn’t about to change the team’s approach.

“We’re an aggressive team,” said Alois. “We’re going to play aggressive. We’re not going to back down. My sister (last year’s starting center Alex Alois) fouled out last year, so I think it was destined to happen.”

That aggressiveness proved valuable in the final moments. Boudreau tallied a steal and defensive pressure forced an air ball to close out the win despite some shaky free throw shooting for Andover (15 of 27).

Boudreau was again the hero with 34 points while Devon Caveney added 11 and Gomez-Martinez chipped in with eight.

While Gomez-Martinez ended up with a rare extended stay on the bench, she wasn’t about to sit with a towel over her head. The senior tri-captain kept a smile on her face, leading the cheers and jumping into the air when Boudreau hit a 3-pointer, made a steal and turned it into a 3-point play.

“We don’t like winning by single digits,” said Gomez-Martinez. “But I told the girls that we had the game all along. We had it from the start. We just had to pick out heads up when something went bad and keep playing.”

The Warriors admitted that Wednesday’s big win over archrival Central Catholic may have had a negative effect.

“I think we were a little hung over from the Central game,” said Caveney. “But we didn’t play out best game and still beat (Acton-Boxboro) by six points. If we played like we can, it could have been a lot different.”

It may not have been perfect, but Andover still had the chance celebrate with the trophy and kiss the Boston Celtics logo — which is becoming something of a tradition for the Golden Warriors, who on Monday will play for their third trip to the title game in four seasons.

“To come in and win here in three of my four seasons in unbelievable,” said Gomez-Martinez, who started as a freshman when the Warriors advanced to the state title game. “Coming out and playing here is so much fun. It is very memorable.”

The Golden Warriors also do not expect to see a slow start against New Bedford (19-4), which edged top-seeded Mansfield 47-46 in the Division 1 South title game on the Garden floor following Andover’s win.

“We’ll watch the game and work on a few things,” said Caveney. “But we will come back Monday just fine. I feel like we’re going to play great.”

Game Statistics:

Acton-Boxborough (51): Lily Barnard 1-0-2, Abby O'Brien 2-0-4, Elizabeth Belanger 9-7-25, Jackie Watts 4-1-9, Hannah Foley 4-2-11. Totals: 20-10-51

Andover (57): Ally Fazio 1-2-4, Natalie Gomez-Martinez 2-4-8, Devon Caveney 3-3-11, Mollie Maturah 0-0-0, Olivia Biles 0-0-0, Nicole Boudreau 11-6-34, Jackie Alois 0-0-0. Totals: 17-15-57 

3-pointers: A-B — Foley; A — Boudreau 6, Caveney 2  

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