Playing its third game in as many nights against quality competition, Central Catholic basketball coach Rick Nault had a question for his players on Saturday in Lawrence.
“I said to them, ‘Tonight is not a physical challenge, it’s not an emotional challenge, it’s a mental challenge. Can you get over the mind-set of being tired and being emotionally drained?’ ” he said.
The Raiders answered with a resounding yes, toppling previously undefeated Lawrence, 77-59, to win the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament for the fifth time in six years.
Junior guard Tyler Nelson led the way for Central (6-1) with 22 points and six assists, while senior Doug Gemmell added 17 points and eight rebounds.
Junior Nick Cambio was the third Raider in double figures, scoring 12 points.
The Raiders immediately dispelled any notion of fatigue by jumping out to a 27-13 lead after the first quarter, delighting their coach.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Nault said. “You go to war with Andover two nights ago, a game with tremendous energy and a ton of emotion. And then to go against a national power [St. Anthony’s of New Jersey] that we went toe-to-toe with. To go against the three teams we went against and play the way we did is a really tough thing to do.”
Central jumped to a 42-17 lead with 2:18 remaining in the second quarter, the largest advantage of the game.
Lawrence (5-1) mounted a comeback, using a 15-3 run to make it 45-32 midway through the third quarter. The Raiders finished the quarter on a 10-4 run to maintain control.
Malden Catholic 69, Salem 60 — Just five games into the season, the Lancers punched their ticket to the Division 2 state tournament with a victory in the semifinals of the IAABO Board 27 tournament at Malden Catholic.
Because Malden Catholic (4-1) is the only Division 2 team in the Catholic Conference, it only plays six divisional opponents and has already beaten three of them.
Behind a 30-point performance from senior guard Kyle Sangster, the Lancers were able to knock off previously undefeated Salem (3-1).
“He can beat you off the dribble and can shoot off the dribble,” Malden Catholic coach Jim McCune said of Sangster, who was averaging 21.5 points going into the contest. “If you leave him open, he’s pretty deadly.”
Lancers 6-foot-3-inch sophomore Karlens Joas recorded a career-high 20 points, while contributing nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Lancers will play Brookline in the tournament final Sunday at 4:30 p.m.Globe correspondent Anthony Gulizia contributed to this report.