DANVERS — The English boys basketball team is tough to beat when a third scorer steps up to compliment Alonzo Linton and Jarnel Guzman.
Wednesday night in the Division 1 North semifinal at St. John’s Memorial Gymnasium, it was Jack Rodriguez who took the role with 14 points in a 66-43 win for the No. 1 Bulldogs over No. 12 Andover.
But the game belonged to Guzman, who led all scorers with 28 points.
“It was a tough game,” Guzman said. “We played together and it was fun.”
Guzman left the game for a few minutes in the second quarter after a taking a hard hit in the post on an attempted rebound. He returned in time to dominate the second half.
“At halftime I talked to Jarnel because in the first half he was pressing,” English coach Antonio Anderson said. “I told him, ‘let the game come to you, make it easier.’ He trusted his teammates, they got him his shots. He was able to get us going. He got hot and made his three’s.”
A transfer from St. John’s, Guzman came into the game hoping to put on a show on his old home floor.
“It’s great,” Guzman said. “I used to come here. To be able to come and play at this court and get a big win was really good.”
Linton also scored in double-figures and finished with 14 points. Andover’s Kyle Rocker-Fielding led the Golden Warriors with 15 points.
The Bulldogs didn’t waste any time getting their offense moving in the opening quarter. Andover kept pace through the early minutes with three 3-pointers. Guzman and Mason Jean-Baptiste nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, putting English ahead 18-11. Rodriguez sealed the first quarter with a layup in the closing seconds and the Bulldogs carried a 20-11 lead.
“Jack’s been playing well,” Anderson said. “Ever since the Comcast Tournament, he’s stepped his game up a notch. In games like this, you need that other guy. They’re keying in on Alonzo and Jarnel, and for Jack to get in those lanes and create offense for us is huge.”
Michael Slayton ended Andover’s scoring drought with a basket to open the second quarter. English’s offense stalled for the next seven minutes, with Andover holding the Bulldogs to just five points. In fact, the Golden Warriors came to within a point of the Bulldogs before English sealed the half with a pair of buckets and led 29-24 at halftime.
“I knew Andover was going to fight,” Anderson said. “We scrimmaged them earlier in the year. They’re good. Coach (David) Fazio’s a good friend of mine. He teaches me a lot. He runs different defenses, throws different schemes at you. We just had to be prepared.”
Guzman took the game over in the second half. He scored 12 points in the third quarter, leading his Bulldogs to a 46-36 advantage heading into the fourth. When Guzman missed, on a layup attempt in the paint, Jean-Baptiste there to clean it up for an offensive rebound and a bucket.
“The coaches were telling me to stop rushing, let the shots come to me,” Guzman said. “That’s what I did and they started to fall.”
Rodriguez opened the fourth quarter with a hoop and Guzman followed with a 3-pointer, giving the Bulldogs a 51-36 lead and forcing the Golden Warriors to use a timeout. Andover couldn’t keep climb back into the game in the closing stretch and English coasted the rest of the way for the 66-43 win.
“We didn’t give up extra shots (in the second half),” Anderson said. “They like to shoot a lot of three’s. We were able to rebound. I told them to rebound and not give them second chances. That gives us opportunities in transition and we’re good in transition.”
English advances to Saturday night’s (7:45) Division 1 sectional final against No. 3 Central Catholic at Tsongas Arena. Central defeated Lowell, 67-61, Wednesday in its semifinal game.
Wednesday’s game was originally scheduled to be played at Pat Connaughton Court but was moved to Memorial Gymnasium due to a power outage in Danvers.