LOWELL — Al Pettway jumped up and down and raced to midcourt, waving his arms in chorus with the scores of cheering Worcester North fans packed in the stands of Tsongas Center.
Pettway’s nephew, junior guard Tahlan Pettway, put his head down and celebrated with teammates, while junior forward Teshaun Steele raced over to the fans, hoisting the state championship trophy high above his head.
On Sunday night, Worcester North made history by becoming the first Worcester public school to win a Division 1 boys’ basketball state title with a 73-64 win over a resilient Needham side in both program’s first state final appearance.
“It’s legendary,” said Al Pettway, the Worcester North coach. “It’s hard to put it into words. This is bigger than North High. It’s for Central Mass. Our whole community rallied behind us. It’s very special.”
FINAL: Worcester North 73, Needham 64— Matt Doherty (@m_doherty23) March 19, 2023
Worcester North captures the D1 state title and completes an undefeated season vs. in-state competition.
Tahlan Pettway led the way with 22 points.
Great fight from Needham. Henry Bickford had 20. @GlobeSchools pic.twitter.com/BIPGQqDGNA
The sixth-seeded Polar Bears (24-2) showcased their size, speed, and athleticism, completing an undefeated season against in-state competition that included a pair of wins over Newton North and a thrilling victory over Lawrence.
“I’ve been playing with this group for a long time,” said Tahlan Pettway. “To see them happy makes me happy.”
Worcester North came out energized, racing to a 15-9 lead after one quarter and a 33-20 advantage at halftime as Steele (14 points, 11 rebounds) and fellow forward Joseph Okla (12 points, 10 rebounds) controlled the glass and gave the Polar Bears second chances on offense.
But fifth-seeded Needham (22-3) never went away. Senior forward Henry Bickford (20 points) led a second-half comeback as the Rockets trimmed the deficit to single-digits four times. Each time it felt like the Rockets could get closer, Worcester North had an answer.
“We just needed more stops,” said Needham coach Paul Liner. “They hit some great threes and every time we needed that stop they scored. I think we showed resiliency tonight and we showed a great fight.”
Pettway, who transferred from Burncoat prior to the season, was the main catalyst for North’s offense, scoring a game-high 22 points. He hit consecutive 3-pointers from each wing in the third quarter, stretching the lead back to double-digits.
Worcester North iced the game late with free throwst. An Okla alley-oop slam was the dagger and Pettway and the North fans erupted as time ran down.
“This started in the summer when we played in the Lawrence summer league,” said Al Pettway. “I knew how good we were going to be. I wanted to see who else was as good in the state. After that summer league, I knew we had a chance to win the whole thing.”
Worcester North 73, Needham
at Tsongas Center, Lowell
Worcester North (24-2) 15 18 17 23 — 73
Needham (22-3) 9 11 17 27 — 64
WORCESTER NORTH — Tahlan Pettway 5 8 22, Teshuan Steele 5 4 14, Amir Jenkins 4 4 13, Joseph Okla 6 0 12, Khari Bryan 2 4 9, Amaren Minor 1 0 2, Ty Tabales 0 1 1. Totals 23 21 73.
NEEDHAM — Henry Bickford 8 2 20, Brian Cloonan 5 2 13, Jackson Shaw 5 1 11, Campbell Keyes 3 6, Peter Cohen 2 0 4, Noah Goldstein 2 0 4, Chris Camozzi 2 1 5, CJ Hutchinson 0 2 2, Devin Dellamarggio 0 1 1. Totals 27 9 66.
3-pt. goals: Tahlan Pettway 4, Amir Jenkins, Khari Bryan; Henry Bickford 2, Brian Cloonan.