'Cloud nine' moment for Newton's Durkin

BOSTON -- As the final seconds ticked off the clock at the 2014 Good Sports Invitational, Newton North’s Brendan Durkin raced through the paint at TD Garden, took a pass from a Tiger teammate and sank a buzzer beating jump shot to cap off a win.

The Tiger fan base erupted in the stands behind the basket and his Newton North teammates all huddled around to celebrate their team manager turned hero.

“This was my first time doing this. I’ve never been on the court before. I’ve been managing for about seven years now, and this feels really nice,” Durkin said. “I haven’t played much really. Playing tonight, here at the Celtics, this was really a lot of fun. Playing for my first coach, coach Connolly, he’s so supportive of me. He looks up to me, my team looks up to me.”

Durkin, a special needs student with Down Syndrome, might only stand about 5-foot tall, but he looked like a giant knocking down that shot to cap off Newton North’s win over crosstown rival Newton South.

“It was awesome,” said Tigers teammate Tommy Mobley. “Brendan comes to practice every day and suits up with with us. He’s got a practice jersey just like the rest of us. It says ‘play hard’ on the back. He’s one of the guys. He gets some shots up sometimes in practice, and today he had the opportunity and he seized it.”

Added Newton North coach Paul Connolly: “I asked him if he was ready and he immediately took the lanyard off and got ready to go in. Hitting a shot like that today, at the Garden, just really topped it for us. That was terrific.What a great way to end it.”

Durkin was already well-known at school before making his big basket. He received a certificate from the school two years ago, and is currently part of Mass. Bay Community College’s transitional program, as well as North’s Connections Program. A friend to everyone at North better known as "B-Wonder", he’s been known to perform his own rap songs at halftime of home games, and has always served as someone who knew how to fire up the Tigers’ crowd during a contest.

“The kids in our school love him,” said Connolly. “They see him in the hallway every day, and he loves being a part of the school. He loves going up to the cafe every day and getting his chicken wrap.”

He leads the Tigers on the floor for lay-up lines before the game, and takes part in their taking charge drills at practice, his wide smile never fading from his face. Teammate Brett Stanton picks him up each day and drives him home when practice ends -- Durkin truly is just one of the guys. He never ceases to support hit Tigers’ teammates, and after his big night they’re returning the favor.

“He’s on cloud nine. His family -- his mom and dad are pretty proud right now,” said Connolly. “My kids all embrace him -- did you see how fast those guys raced down to the press room when they found out he was speaking after the game?”

And it was there in his postgame press conference that Durkin, fueled by the success found on the parquet at TD Garden, sent a message to the rest of his team, knowing the Eastern Mass. Finals would be at the Garden, and a possible state championship game would be played at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“We’re 11-1 now, but it’s starting to get hard,” Durkin said. “We just have to play hard and get back to the Garden and then to DCU. Let’s get that championship trophy, and let’s go home.”