WOBURN — The elephant in the gymnasium wasn’t so much the result, a 55-49 win by Newton North, advancing to the Division 1 state final against BC High.
The elephant here at Woburn High was who this game was about, most of all — Andover High coach David Fazio.
Everybody that knows anything about basketball in the Merrimack Valley knew what was going on in Andover this year.
Andover, the favorite, rolled this winter. Other than a limp into the final two games of the regular season, not coincidentally to the two teams that will play for the D1 state title on Saturday, BC High and Newton North, it was a perfect season.
Returning Eagle-Tribune MVP Aidan Cammann not only decided to come back to Andover, fighting off the trend of prep school-jumping, but he came back with a vengeance as one of the state’s top five players.
“It was for Faz,” said the tearful Cammann, who was a giant among giants in defeat with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
“Honestly, we wanted it for him. We wanted to win this for us and school, but in reality we wanted it for him. That’s going to stick with me. We didn’t do it.”
Cammann and the Andover players had to get in line. They were by no means alone.
A town was trying to get Fazio a championship, as in a state championship. The 300 roaring students, nicknamed “The Jungle,” wanted it for Fazio. The 20 or so alums here, all that played for Fazio, including all-time great Chris Vetrano, were there for Fazio.
Unlike other coaches, Fazio’s postgame entails hugs, kisses and thank yous. and that’s every game.
Last night was epic. As several alums walked by behind the bench, he shook hands will all of them. There were some fellow teachers from Andover High, one of them crying like she lost the game.
And then there was Fazio’s wife, Colleen, who has been there every step of the way, all 33 years and more than 500 wins in Andover, including putting three kids through the Andover school system.
She was crying afterward as she hugged her husband.
“It stinks because I feel like I let a lot of people down,” said Fazio. “I got so many text messages, emails, phone calls from former players, friends that moved away. It was overwhelming. I just wish I could’ve got it done for them.”
Get it done for them?
First off, this season was far from the failure it felt like last night. Andover won another MVC title, which means something in our area, and they did it without losing a league game.
Fazio always wanted to get to the Boston Garden/TD Garden, and this game, the state semis, used to always be played at “the Garden.”
Andover didn’t have it last night, almost from the opening tap. It had chances to go ahead early, but missed everything.
Cammann was superb, maybe one of the best games of his career, but he didn’t get enough support, particularly on offense. But Newton North, 21-3, had something to do with that.
“We had chances early and missed them all, it seemed,” said Fazio. “In the second half we weren’t ourselves. We weren’t fluid at all on offense, sort of getting the ball and driving to the hoop. That’s not our game.”
Fazio had his moments after the game, sighing, raising his hands as he left the gym, but there were no regrets.
“I love this team. Everyone of them added something,” said Fazio, turning to some of his productive seniors. “Richie Shahtanian never got the ink he deserved. He hit big shots all year for us. Logan Satlow always gives me everything he has. He’s been that way for three years. and Aidan Cammann? Shoot. He’s one of the greats. All heart. A big-time winner.”
Fazio might as well be talking to about himself, a big-time winner.
At least that’s the way Cammann put it.
“I’ve never been around a coach like him. Never,” said Cammann. “He has created a family here. This team is my family. The coaches are my family. I love the game. and he has taught me so much about the game.”
The elephant in the room is out. Fazio is a winner. Always has been.
Just ask all of the people there rooting for him. Warning, though. It will take some time. There’s a lot of people to count.
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected]