After three quarters of the Division 4 state championship game at TD Garden Tuesday, Lynnfield held a 37-36 lead over Bishop Connolly. But a balanced scoring attack led by senior guard Thomas Keyes’s 14 fourth-quarter points and ferocious defense allowed the Cougars to break away and bring home the title with a 65-62 win over the Pioneers.
It was the first boys’ basketball state championship in program history and it appeared the entire student body of the Fall River school showed up to cheer their team on.
Lynnfield cut the lead to 4 points twice at 55-51 with 52.8 seconds to play and again at 63-59 with 6.3 to play, but Keyes’s free throws and Connolly’s defensive rebounding ensured the victory.
Connolly controlled most of the first half, seizing leads of 13-10 after the first quarter and 29-18 late the second quarter. A Lynnfield run right before intermission cut the deficit to 29-24.
“The game plan was to be physical and aggressive man-to-man, but [Lynnfield’s] Pat Kearney singlehandedly got us out of it — that kid can play,” said Connolly coach Matt Coute. “We wanted to go man-to-man . . . we had to switch to a 3-2 zone. We stepped up, we kind of took away their shooters and we were able to contain Kearney a little better.”
After the break, Lynnfield came out firing, going on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 29 and force Connolly to take a timeout just 1:04 into the quarter. The third period remained back and forth and finished with Lynnfield holding the lead.
“I said if we win this fourth quarter, we’re going to be the state champs,” said Coute. “You can’t play the clock. We went on that run and I told them we had to keep pushing and don’t settle. Tommy [Keyes] pushed it up the floor and attacked and they had to foul us.”
Connolly took control right away in the final quarter, forcing several bad Lynnfield shots and turnovers. With just over four minutes remaining, Connolly led, 49-41. The defensive intensity was highlighted by a Lynnfield inbound attempt, in which Connolly knocked the ball away twice, the second time the ball going off a Lynnfield player for the turnover with 3:37 remaining.
When it came down to crunch time, Keyes took control.
“I told my teammates I wanted the ball,” Keyes said. “I’ve lived for that moment. My teammates put their faith in me, they gave me the ball, and when I went up there I knew. They put their faith in me and I wanted to give back to them what they gave me.”
Keyes would finish with a game-high 26 points. Lynnfield was paced by 19 from freshman forward Adam Buchanan. Kearney finished with 15.
“The last minute when they fouled him I knew it was over,” said Coute, a 2002 Connolly graduate and the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,460 points. “The amount of confidence and pride that he showed, he’s put his stamp into Connolly history.”