Playing in front of a raucous crowd of supporters, the Whitman-Hanson boys’ basketball team took down fifth-seeded O’Bryant, 68-56, in the Division 2 South final on Saturday afternoon to earn a second straight sectional title.
Whitman-Hanson (19-3) will play Brighton Monday (7:30 p.m.) at TD Garden.
Nikko Raftes provided an early spark for Whitman-Hanson with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, over the first 10 minutes. Fellow seniors Luke Tamulevich and Lucas Franklin also hit from deep as the Panthers shot 5 of 9 from beyond the arc on their way to a 36-20 halftime lead.
“The key was how we came out early and hit some shots to show that we could play with [O’Bryant],” Whitman-Hanson coach Bob Rodgers said. “When we were able to get some momentum it made believers of everybody on that bench.”
Raftes, who netted a game-high 18 points, sat out most of the third quarter because of foul trouble, but Tamulevich (12 points, 10 rebounds) and skilled big men Sean Leahy and Bryan Tyrie helped maintain the Panthers’ double-digit advantage.
O’Bryant (18-7) went on a late 10-3 run to make it a 57-47 game midway through the fourth quarter, but the Tigers would get no closer.
As senior captains, Tamulevich and Raftes are the only Panthers who played in last year’s state semifinals.
“This particular team doesn’t have a lot of experience in big games,” Rodgers said.
“But there’s something to be said for when your school experiences [a sectional title]. Once you realize the dream can happen, guys start to believe that it’s possible.”
Division 3 South final
Hanover 57, Norwell 50 — For the first time in school history, Hanover is moving on to the Division 3 state semifinals.
After outlasting top-seeded Norwell at Taunton High, the third-seeded Indians will get the trip to TD Garden they’ve coveted for years. Hanover will play Watertown on Monday at 4 p.m.
“It’s an amazing feeling to keep winning with these guys and get to go to the Garden,” junior forward Matt Delahunt said. “I can’t really describe it. I’m just excited.”
Junior guard J.P. Landry — whom head Nick Hannigan called the best ball-handler he’s ever coached — electrified the crowd in the first half with a series of spins and scoops, scoring 15 points before the break. He finished with 18, and the sharp-shooting Delahunt — who was cold to start — dropped in 12 of his 14 points in the second half to cement the win.
The Indians led, 28-16, at the half and 49-29 with 5:28 remaining, but the Clippers clawed back to make it close in the final minutes. Norwell junior Ethan Robbins, who scored a game-high 19 points, highlighted a 16-5 run with a steal and breakaway dunk.
Hanover led, 56-45, with 1:12 to go, and it rotated well to get one final key stop and seal the win. The starters for both teams left to huge ovations with 39 seconds remaining, and the Indians celebrated as the final seconds ticked off the clock.