Photo courtesy of Henry Isselbacher
By Henry Isselbacher
BOSTON – Every fire, no matter how strong, eventually dies – and red-hot the boys’ varsity basketball squad who had outpaced the entire South Division are no exception. The Tigers lost a heartbreaker by a score of 76-62 to the Lynn English Bulldogs in the state semi-final at the TD Garden on Tuesday, March 12.
The Bulldogs got going early with a physical offense and aggressive defense that the Tigers were not ready for, and at the end of the first quarter the Bulldogs held a 22-10 lead that would get no smaller than 11 points the rest of the game.
Every time the Tigers seemed to gear up for one of their signature runs, the Bulldogs had an answer. Paul Connolly, who just finished his 18th season as the varsity head coach, said “it was one of those things where the team we faced played as well as they could play – I don’t know if they could have played much better.”
Despite the wide margin on the scoreboard, both players and coaches carried a positive mentality into the second half of the contest. “I’ve never gone into a game thinking we couldn’t win. We were pretty confident that we had a good game plan,” said Tom Donnellan, Connolly’s long-time assistant coach. Talking about the experience of playing at the most venerable arena in New England, Donnellan added, “we kept telling the kids they deserved to be there. They worked hard, put the time in, accomplished a lot. Enjoy it and embrace it.”
Though many of the regular starters could warm up to their regular selves, several young reserve players showcased their grit and ability – something that should bode well for the years to come. Juniors Tyson Duncan and Grayson Hargens led the Tigers in scoring and freshman Kyle Bovell made significant contributions throughout the game. Senior Liam Scanlon talked about the team’s depth, saying “everyone knew they were going to get an opportunity to play and everyone knew how hard we had to play to keep ourselves in the game because we didn’t have a star player.”
Though the final score does not reflect it, the boys’ varsity team had an incredibly successful season and to have gotten this far was a major accomplishment in and of itself. The Tigers were a scrappy, defensive minded team that relied on strong leadership from its seniors and a strong bond among the players. At the end of the day, high school athletics is so much more than simply competing for championships, and the coaches and players of this team realized that when the final buzzer sounded. Though the road to Worcester is over, they have memories and bonds that few teams have ever managed to attain.