LOWELL — Springfield International girls’ basketball coach Tyrone Reid was the stats assistant, at the very end of the bench, when the program made its first state championship appearance — as Sabis International Charter — in a 2012 loss to Pentucket.
Fast forward 11 years: Reid is the head coach of a first-time state champion. The second-seeded Bulldogs grinded out a 42-34 victory against top-seeded Millis for the Division 5 title at the Tsongas Center Sunday afternoon.
“Going from being the trainer to being the stat guy, to now being the head coach and being able to kind of come back here and get that championship is everything,” Reid said.
Millis flashed its defensive plan from the opening tip: Stop 6-foot-4-inch star center Alicia Mitchell. Coach Dave Fallon explained that his defense primarily went to a 3-2 zone, with the top player dropping down to help on Mitchell, while sprinkling in some box-and-1 looks.
Mitchell had to work, but the junior still finished with 14 points, plus 13 rebounds and 5 blocks.
“I had to mentally stay calm because obviously, when people are grabbing at you or playing a certain way that maybe you’re not used to, it’s something where you have to keep your calm,” she said. “So I just had to keep a level head and play my game.”
Mitchell hit the bench early in the second quarter with foul trouble. Millis’s Mia Molinari, a senior forward headed to the College of Saint Rose, responded with 9 first-half points. A late 3 from Millis guard Kyra Rice closed the half at 15-all.
Both teams started to heat up as the contest progressed, but Millis (16-9) struggled with turnovers and the Bulldogs won with defense, as they have all season. Springfield International (21-4) led 36-26 in the fourth quarter before Millis scored eight straight, but freshman Iyanna Hodge (15 points) swished six free throws to ice the win.
Reid said former Sabis coach Jim Mack, now an assistant coach for the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team, gave him important advice on weathering those runs.
“The one thing he told me going into this game is: Big games equals big runs. Be composed when you’re up 10; be composed when you’re down by 10,” Reid said. “And so we were up by 10, they made a run, we stayed composed, and we were able to get the lead back and get the win.”
The triumph might be the start of something special for the Bulldogs. Half of the roster are freshmen or younger, and they’ll only graduate one senior. Mitchell was impressed that even in the swings of a close game, her young teammates never lost their cool from mistakes or officiating.
“I was really impressed with that, and I was glad that they didn’t have any type of outbursts even though they were frustrated,” she said. “They showed a lot of maturity.”
Fallon said his offense didn’t move the ball like they needed to, but he was pleased with the defensive effort from a team making its fifth state finals appearance.
“It’s been an amazing few weeks; it’s been an amazing season with this group,” he said. “They kept getting better and better, so it was fun.”
Springfield Int’l 42, Millis 34
at Tsongas Center, Lowell
Springfield International (21-4) 8 7 11 16 — 42
Millis (16-9) 7 8 8 11 — 34
SPRINGFIELD INTERNATIONAL — Iyanna Hodge 3 6 15, Alicia Mitchell 4 6 14, Alexa Davis 2 1 7, Giavanna Mars 1 0 2, Jala Witherspoon 1 0 2, Noelani Santiago 1 0 2. Totals 12 13 42.
MILLIS — Mia Molinari 5 2 14, Kyra Rice 2 1 7, Hailey Bassett 2 0 6, Shealin Conroy 1 0 3, Lindsey Grattan 1 0 2, Izzy Jewett 1 0 2. Totals 12 3 34.
3-pt. goals: S Iyanna Hodge 3, Alexa Davis 2; M Mia Molinari 2, Kyra Rice 2, Hailey Bassett 2, Shealin Conroy.
Ethan Fuller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.