SPRINGFIELD — Matt Delahunt drained his fifth 3-pointer of the morning, looked up at the scoreboard at the MassMutual Center. He saw Hanover was comfortably ahead, 41-31, with one minute left in the third quarter of Saturday’s Division 3 boys’ basketball final against Palmer.
“At that moment, I knew we had the confidence and momentum to win,” said the 6-foot-1-inch junior forward, who finished with a game-high 24 points in the Indians’ 58-43 victory for the program’s first state championship.
When the final buzzer sounded and the Indians charged onto the court to celebrate, index fingers raised high, the starting five of Delahunt, senior center Patrick Flynn, senior guard Zachary Chase, senior guard Fredrick Damon, and junior guard JP Landry shared tears of joy.
“This win is for everyone in the Hanover community,” said Hanover fifth-year coach Nick Hannigan.
“The student section was our sixth man during the postseason and we couldn’t have won this without them.”
The Indians (23-3) certainly could not have won without the sharp shooting of Delahunt (six 3-pointers), who also hauled in nine rebounds.
He hit one trey in the first quarter as Hanover held a 10-9 lead.
But between quarters, Hannigan told his players to keep shooting and the Indians led by 5 (25-20) at halftime.
With Delahunt burying four treys in the third, Hanover took control, opening the 41-31 margin.
Palmer tried a full-court press to start the fourth quarter, unsettling the Indians for a couple of minutes. But after a timeout, in which Hannigan instructed his players to “play your game,” the Indians pulled away, with Landry (11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal) connecting on two 3-pointers.
“We got a little out of rhythm when the full-court press happened,” Landry said. “We made sure to stay calm and keep focused on that championship title.”
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Hanover crowd, student section, and the players on the bench started to anticipate that the Indians were on their way to making history.
“It was a hard-fought game from both ends and no one gave up until that final buzzer went off,” Delahunt said. “Palmer is a great basketball team.”
Flynn, headed to the University of New Hampshire to play football, put his burly 6-3, 245-pound frame to work with 14 rebounds.
“It’s kind of fun because we’re treated like celebrities,” Flynn said jokingly. “But in all honesty, no words can describe how much this title means to this team and this community.”
Palmer (23-2) was also making its first appearance in the state final. Coach Ryan Minns credited Hanover’s “dominant defense” for not allowing his squad to get off to as fast a start as he had hoped.
Junior guard Matthew Niemczura paced Palmer with 18 points and four rebounds and senior guard Ryan McCarthy had 9 points and nine rebounds.