The undefeated Lowell boys’ basketball team has not been challenged very often this season.
When Cambridge tested the Red Raiders in Tuesday’s Division 1 North semifinal, it seemed to send Lowell into overdrive and precipitate the defining run in a 61-48 victory for the top seed at Woburn High.
Lowell (22-0) will face defending state champion Lynn English (21-2) in the sectional final Saturday at Tsongas Center (TBA).
“They’ve been waiting to get over this hump,” Lowell coach Bob Michalczyk said of senior guards Nate Siow and Carlos Nunez (13 points), who have fallen to Cambridge in the state tournament three straight years.
“The last few years we’ve talked about one day [we’ll beat Cambridge]. I’m happy for them.”
Lowell opened in a defensive zone that initially baffled Cambridge (18-5). The Falcons eventually awoke by feeding center Khai Smith (21 points, 15 rebounds), and used an 11-0 run in the second quarter to tie the game, 24-24, shortly before halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Solomon Hearn hit a pair of free throws to give the fifth-seeded Falcons their first lead, 34-32, and it would prove to be their only lead.
Lowell moved to a full-court press and forced turnovers on six straight possessions to spark an 11-0 run to take a 43-32 lead.
“We were able to get one turnover, two turnovers, then [Cambridge] started backpedaling a bit and it just kind of snowballed for us,” Michalczyk said.
“Our guys are as fast as your guys if not faster, so we try and position them in certain spots to take away passing angles.”
Siow (15 points, 4 steals) showcased his speed with a couple of blazing finishes and when Ritchie Etienne banked in a 3-pointer from nearly halfcourt to beat the shot clock, it appeared Lowell was destined to advance. The Red Raiders put a bow on their performance by holding Cambridge to five points in the final quarter to pull away.
“We knew it was going to be an up-and-down game,” Siow said. “We’ve been playing defense like that all season, so teams that haven’t played us yet won’t expect it.”
On the prospect of facing a powerhouse Lynn English team, Siow said, “It’s the best two teams in the state. It’s going to be a good one.”
Lynn English 110, Waltham 57 — Building off a 28-point win in the quarterfinals over Lawrence, the defending champs continued their dominance of the D1 North bracket as many thought they might — and they it did with authority at Lawrence High.
English (21-2) got off to a 17-0 start against the Hawks (18-5), led 63-20 at the half and didn’t break much of a sweat in punching another ticket to the D1 North final. Mason Jean-Baptiste led the way with 19 points, including four 3-pointers in a 14-point first half. Jean-Baptiste Mukeba added 16 points with 10 boards, while Ademide Badmus had 14 points with 10 rebounds as six players reached double figures for the Bulldogs.
Ryan Power led all scorers with 22 points for Waltham.
‘‘We’re playing well. We had it going,’’ English coach Antonio Anderson said. ‘‘I think as the rounds keep going on we keep getting better. That’s the one thing I've been giving the group a lot of credit for. We’re just trying to keep these guys going.’’
Division 2 North
Beverly 67, Burlington 60 — Damian Bouras wanted to redeem himself after a few of his turnovers contributed to Burlington’s frantic 11-point comeback in the final three minutes to force overtime.
Bouras began the extra session by splashing a 3-pointer from the left wing. He followed it up with a driving layup, before icing the game with four free throws. The senior captain’s crucial nine-point OT performance helped Beverly regroup and defeat Burlington, 67-60, in a Division 2 North semifinal at Tewksbury High.
Bouras and freshman Gabe Copeland each finished with 18 points for the top-seeded Panthers (20-2), who will play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Belmont and Latin Academy in the program’s first ever sectional final on Saturday at Tsongas Arena.
“We never give up, we know we are capable to be at this point so we just wanted to keep focus,” Bouras said. “We’re a special group.”
Beverly led 53-42 with 3:33 left in the game, before Burlington completed a wild comeback to force overtime.
Kyle Inglis and Shane Mahoney (12 points) drained back-to-back to 3-pointers to make it 53-51 with 50 seconds left. After Bouras put Beverly back ahead, 56-51, Inglis (23 points) made a pair of free throws and then converted a layup off a steal to tie the game with 12 seconds left.
Ducan Moreland (12 points, 10 rebounds) had a chance to win it in regulation for Beverly, but his jumper from the free throw line was no good at the buzzer.
“A game like tonight means so much going forward,” Beverly coach Matt Karakoudas said. “To see a team be able to come back and see my team lower their heads. To fight all the way back and win that game is huge.”
Division 4 North
Snowden 73, Cristo Rey 70 — After appearing to have lost control of the game midway through the fourth quarter, the Cristo Rey boys’ basketball team unleashed a flurry of scoring to give them a 70-67 lead with just 1:20 left on the clock.
That’s when Snowden’s Jeremiah Ismeus, a sophomore, came up with a huge offensive rebound, and completed a three-point play on his putback layup to tie the game at 70. He blocked Cristo Rey’s attempt at an equalizer on the following possession, and sank the winning layup with under 30 seconds left to help Snowden earn a 73-70 victory in the Division 4 North semifinal on Tuesday night at Madison Park.
“Our guys, to their credit, they’ve been stepping up all year, and it hasn’t always been the top guys,” said Snowden coach Paul Rogers. “There’s always been one guy that steps up off the bench that gets something done, and that’s what happened today.”
Ismeus, who finished with 10 points, started the game on the bench but was thrust into action when senior Javier Ellis (15 points, 13 rebounds) fouled out in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter.
Snowden (17-4) advances to play Austin Prep in the D4 North final on Friday at Tewksbury at 7:45 p.m.
Division 3 South
Burke 85, Wareham 50 — Joshua Roseboro (22 points), Juwan Dawes (19 points), Jamari Foy (18 points), and Ethan Daleba (14 points, 14 rebounds) all put up double-figure scoring performances as the No. 6 Bulldogs (14-7) pushed their way into the D3 South final.
Division 4 South
Cape Cod Academy 66, Southeastern 62 — In a tough back-and-forth battle, sophomore Jaeden Greenleaf poured in 31 points to power the Seahawks (13-8) to the semifinal win at Bridgewater-Raynham. Junior Andrew James contributed 18 points.
Matt Doherty reported from Tewksbury, Seamus McAvoy from Madison Park, and Michael McMahon from Lawrence.