SPRINGFIELD – To simply say the Maynard boys’ basketball team was demonstrative in its celebration of its first state title in program history might not do it enough justice.
With fans blasting air horns around Blake Arena and others crowding towards the court, Tigers coach Paul Howes grabbed the public address microphone and channeled his inner Tom Brady, yelling to the faithful, “Let’s get that parade route ready, because we’re taking this sucker home!”
To Howes, this Division 4 boys’ state championship — won in convincing fashion over St. Mary’s, 62-42, in a rematch of last year’s final — wasn’t so much about him as it was about the pride in the small, tight-knit town where he resides.
“It’s obviously about the team, but this community is so passionate about sports that I just wanted the community to be state champs,” Howes said. “Goal fulfilled.
“I said to my wife last night, ‘If we can pull this off, then I can die with a smile on.’
“I’ve got the leagues, I’ve got the districts, I’ve got the Clarks, now this, I’ve got nothing else to get. So, I’m going with a smile on when it comes.”
After spotting St. Mary’s an early lead, the Tigers (24-4) blitzed the Spartans (19-6) to build a double-digit halftime lead, 28-14, paced by a pair of 3-pointers from Matt Geiger in the opening quarter, then two more from sharp-shooter Tim Lawton late in the second for a 14-point advantage at the break.
Meanwhile at the other end, St. Mary’s couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half, shooting just 19 percent from the floor (5 for 26) and hitting more threes (three) than twos (two).
At the crux of it all was Maynard senior Eric Kiley (21 points, 12 rebounds), who brought his football physicality to the interior and threw his weight around, going 5-for-5 in the third quarter to build a near-insurmountable 46-19 lead late in the frame.
“Corey [Olivier] is certainly the offensive leader, but Eric is the heart and soul of this team,” Howes said. “We play a lot of good teams. There’s nobody tougher, nobody we’ve seen this year tougher. You wouldn’t believe the ice in his veins.”
Said Kiley, “This was my last game, and I wanted to go out with a bang.”
Olivier, routinely the Tigers’ offensive catalyst, went scoreless in the first half but finished with 11 points and turned in stellar on-ball defense to force a slew of Spartan turnovers.
Using its frontcourt length, Maynard held a 40-26 advantage on the boards, led by Kiley and junior center Chris Bastien (10 rebounds), and held St. Mary’s to just 31 percent shooting, 25 percent from 3-point range.
Jonathan Mercado led St. Mary’s with 13 points, including three 3-pointers.
“I told the kids there’s no reason to hang our head,” said St. Mary’s coach Dave Brown. “We’re one of the best teams in the state, and to be playing on the last Saturday of the season is amazing considering what we had going into the season.”
Maynard 62, St. Mary’s 42
at Springfield College, Springfield
MAYNARD (22-4) — Eric Kiley 10 1 21, Corey Olivier 3 3 11, Tommy Smith 4 1 10, Chris Bastien 3 2 8, Matt Geiger 3 0 6, Timmy Lawton 2 0 6, Michael Ford 0 0 0, Ryan MacCormack 0 0 0. Totals 25 7 62.
ST. MARY’S (19-5) — Jonathan Mercado 5 0 13, Jalen Echevarria 4 1 11, Stephen Fama 3 0 6, Mike Cerulli 2 0 5, Jonathan Mola 2 0 5, Josh Perez 1 0 2. Totals 17 1 42.
Halftime: Maynard, 28-14. 3-pt. goals: MAY Corey Olivier 2, Tommy Smith, Timmy Lawton 2; STM Jonathan Mercado 3, Jalen Echevarria 2, Mike Cerulli, Jonathan Mola.