BURLINGTON – After Thursday’s thrilling Division 2 North semifinal at Burlington High, Woburn boys’ basketball coach Tom Sullivan stood by his bench, drenched in sweat and ostensibly exhausted.
His eighth-seeded Tanners had just pulled off its third consecutive comeback win, downing No. 4 seed Belmont, 60-58, to advance to Saturday’s sectional final at Tsongas Center in Lowell.
With Woburn trailing 58-57 and under 10 seconds remaining, senior guard Isaiah Cashwell-Doe (game-high 25 points) grabbed a defensive rebound and sprinted the length of the court to draw a foul.
The first free throw hit only nylon, but Cashwell-Doe missed the second and Belmont secured the rebound.
In a packed gym with decibel levels going through the roof, the Marauders made a critical mistake of calling for a timeout when they had none, and were hit with a technical foul.
Junior Ryan Ludwig (15 points) sank both free throws with 0.2 seconds left on the clock to send Woburn into the D2 North final against the winner of Friday’s matchup between North Andover and defending state champion Brighton.
“We’ve come from behind three times in a row against three great teams,” said a breathless Sullivan, also referencing wins over Somerville (66-62) and Beverly (64-62).
“These kids compete. Nobody quit on either side. This was a great high school basketball game.”
Belmont (17-6) led 38-31 at the half, but Woburn came out blazing with a 13-1 run to take a 44-39 lead midway through the third quarter.
There were two ties and two lead changes in the fourth quarter before Belmont took a 58-53 lead on a basket by senior Tomas Donoyan (14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists).
But Cashwell-Doe continued to force the issue with strong drives to the basket and was able to lead his squad back.
“Isaiah stepped up big-time and made big plays. He wanted the ball,” said Sullivan.
“There’s not a lot of control in a game like this, so you need kids like that who want to make plays.”
Woburn, which fell to Middlesex League rival Belmont twice during the regular season, is clicking at the right time.
“Belmont-Woburn is a great rivalry,” said Sullivan. “They’ve gotten us the last couple times, but they didn’t get us here.”Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.