LOWELL — Defending Division 1 state champion Lynn English got all it could handle from previously undefeated Lowell in Saturday’s North final at Tsongas Center, but the Bulldogs were equal to the task.
The second-seeded Bulldogs received clutch contributions from across the starting lineup, including nine overtime points from Jack Rodriguez, to outlast Lowell, 73-63, in a sectional final with the atmosphere of a state final.
Lynn English (22-2) will face Mansfield (22-3) in a state semifinal Tuesday (7:15 p.m.) at TD Garden.
“That’s a hell of a team,” English coach Antonio Anderson said of the top-seeded Red Raiders, who finished 22-1. “They were everything as advertised. I told my guys, they’re playing at home, they’re not going to lay down.”
Led by senior 1,000-point scorers Carlos Nunez (21 points, 3 blocks) and Nate Siow (7 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists), the Red Raiders did not go down quietly in front of 3,000-plus fans.
Those guards combined for five of Lowell's nine blocks and frequently frustrated English's sizable frontcourt.
“We’ve been waiting for this game since the summer,” Siow said. “We were ready. We just wanted to show heart. We knew it was going to be a dogfight, but someone had to lose.”
After missing their first eight 3-point attempts, Lowell connected on four momentum-swinging treys to take a 31-27 halftime lead.
English tied the game three different times during the third quarter and jumped ahead, 53-47, in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Leading 60-55 with Mason Jean-Baptiste at the free throw line and 1:18 remaining, the Bulldogs seemed ready to wrap things up, but Jean-Baptiste missed both free throws, Ritchie Etienne (17 points) hit one of his five tough 3-pointers and Siow stole the inbounds pass before finding a cutting Nunez to tie the game, 60-60.
Lowell got a defensive stop, but Etienne was unable to get off a clean look as time expired, forcing overtime.
“I know we put ourselves in that position,” said English point guard Jarnel Guzman, who had 20 points. “But we figured a way out.”
Guzman sparked the Bulldogs in the third quarter, then helped feed twin towers Jean-Baptiste Mukeba (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Ademide Badmus (16 points, 16 rebounds) to create that separation in the fourth.
But it was Rodriguez, who had just two points to go along with five assists in regulation, stepping up to dominate the extra frame and keep the Bulldogs’ title defense alive.
“All game, we made a run, [Lowell] made a run. We made a big shot, they made a big shot. The atmosphere was bananas. ” Anderson said. “I’m so happy for my guys, we’ve had some blowouts all year and to win a close one like this shows our grit and our toughness.”