St. Mary’s punched its ticket to the Division 4 state championship game with a 62-39 victory over Pope John in the North final at Emmanuel College in Boston Friday night.
The Spartans lost the North title to Winthrop last season.
After defeating defending champion Winthrop, 68-51, in the quarterfinals and slamming the door on top-seeded Manchester-Essex, 81-49, in the semifinals, the Spartans have found their stride.
“I’m so happy to see these guys play at TD Garden after all their hard work,’’ said St. Mary’s coach Kevin Moran. “The whole focus of our game was to try and contain them and that’s what we did.’’
St. Mary’s will face South winner Cathedral Monday afternoon at TD Garden at 2:30 for the state championship.
The Spartans came out strong, holding Pope John scoreless for the first three minutes and limiting the Lions to 5 points in the first quarter.
“It’s a testament to these kids and Nick [Gagliolo] and Devin [Thompson’s] leadership has been tremendous,’’ said Moran. “Those guys have been driving us offensively for a long time and their effort came a long way in getting us here tonight.’’
Heading into the half, St. Mary’s held Pope John standout Malcolm Brown to 4 points on eight shots as the Spartans forged a 30-18 lead.
“He’s one of the best players around clearly and we did a pretty good job focusing on him,’’ said Moran. “It’s a testament to our guys and he’s a tremendous athlete so it big for us tonight.’’
St. Mary’s held Pope John to 9 points in the third and 12 in the fourth, limiting Brown to 13 points, 6 below his average.
Gagliolo scored 20 points and sharp-shooting Thompson finished with 18.
“Getting to the hoop was our biggest thing tonight, especially in gyms we’re not used to,’’ said Gagliolo. “We knew where [Brown] was at every second of the game and you could tell he was getting frustrated, so that was a huge part of tonight.’’
The Spartans have a chance to win their first state title since the 2001-02 back-to-back championship teams, and Moran believes this team has what it takes to get the job done.
“[Cathedral is] an unbelievable team and we have two days but that’s what they pay us coaches the big money to do, is to figure it out,’’ said Moran.
St. Mary’s will play Cathedral for the third time this season. Each team has won a game.