LYNN — In four years as boys’ basketball coach at Lynn English, Antonio Anderson dropped only one home game, to Everett High.
So Saturday’s Greater Boston League final against Everett had extra significance for the Lynn native, as he coached his final game before heading off to take over the basketball program at Springfield Commonwealth Academy, an independent school that competes in the NEPSAC.
Anderson’s Bulldogs were down for much of the contest, but fought back with a spirited 14-0 run late in the third quarter and held on for a 75-71 victory.
“I spoke to the kids about the importance of going out on top,” said Anderson, who led English to consecutive Division 1 state titles and a 74-19 record. “About going as hard as you can go. And that was a war, man, that was a good one. And those are the ones you remember because you’ve got to earn those.”
Everett jumped out to a 25-20 lead and held a 36-35 advantage at halftime. The Crimson Tide (7-2) did an excellent job denying English star center Ademide Badmus in the post and scored off turnovers to open a 50-41 lead with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
That’s when Badmus (20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks) and his teammates took control on both ends, eventually pulling ahead for a 63-53 advantage. Everett used defensive pressure to make it a 63-60 game in the waning minutes. But juniors Kanye Wavezwa (25 points, 4 steals) and Louis Rivera (15 points) put the game away, combining with senior Aaron Vizcaino to shoot 20 for 21 at the free throw line.
“I just wanted those kids to fight,” Anderson said. “If you’re going to lose, you’re going to lose, but go out swinging.”
“All those kids have my support forever. I tell them all the time it’s a family here. Me and my coaches always try to stay involved, checking on their grades, checking what they’re doing on the weekend, especially during the pandemic. We understand basketball is basketball, but you want to have good relationships and these kids will be in my life forever.”
Beyond the state titles, the 35-year-old Anderson put together a program that achieved an unparalleled level of dominance with 35 consecutive wins against in-state competition. His work with student-athletes off the court helped send several former players to the collegiate level and set up English for success beyond his departure.
“He’s from Lynn and he’s shown kids you can succeed coming out of Lynn, that you can come out of an urban public high school and do well,” English athletic director Dick Newton said. “We wish him luck and we hope to hire someone from within to continue what he’s started.”
After his players were done mobbing him in celebration, Anderson summed it up succinctly.
“It’s tough,” Anderson said. “This is my last time being here on the sideline. But we made our mark.”