TAUNTON, Mass. -- The decibel levels from the crowd rose with each dribble, until finally Ryan Roach heeded the screams and looked up court to see his Cardinal Spellman teammate Joey Crane wide open, arms outstretched, begging for the ball emphatically like a wide receiver that had slipped behind broken coverage.
With a pump fake and kiss of the glass, Crane completed a stunning rally for Spellman in this Division 3 South semifinal at Taunton High School -- down 10 points to Martha's Vineyard, with five minutes to go in regulation. But that was just for starters
The Cardinals outlasted the Vineyarders 64-63 after one of the more dramatic overtime periods of MIAA's state tournament, a stanza that featured a puke and rally (literally), an acrobatic lob play, homages to a gone-too-soon Spellman legend, and one of the more unusual methods of attempting to get three points late.
"We did not want this to be our last game at all," said Crane, who led the Cards with 19 points, all but three coming after halftime. "We did not want it to end in that kind of fashion, so we knew we had to dig deep."
Said Roach of the rally, "We didn't have heart in the first quarter through third quarter, but in the fourth we brought it."
Spellman advances to the D3 South Final at UMass-Boston's Clark Athletic Center for the second time in four seasons, where they'll face Westport, which beat Old Rochester in the other Wednesday semifinal in Taunton.
After put-backs by Tim Roberts (22 points, 13 rebounds) and Alex Gordon-Beck (10 points) put the Vineyarders up 49-39 with 5:02 to go, Spellman coach Mike Perry called a quick timeout. Out of the break, the Cardinals emerged with a new fire on the defensive end, clogging passing lanes and wrestling down defensive rebounds underneath the basket.
Crane started the rally with a sweet dish to Brian Donohoe across the paint, followed by a two-handed putback slam from senior forward Rory Donovan, a University of New Hampshire football commit. That was followed by an Austin Joseph crossover pull-up, then a Crane banker to complete an 8-0 run with 1:39 to go.
Roberts put the Cardinals up one last time, 51-49, with a lay-in with just under a minute to go. On the Vineyarders' next trip down, Donovan came down with the board of a DeShawn James front-iron, then handed it to Roach. The heady point guard had to dribble out of trouble coming up the left sideline before launching a cross-court pass to a wide-open Crane, who completed the rally with eight seconds to go.
"I heard everyone screaming, and I saw Joe," Roach recalled with a laugh, mimicking Crane's cries for added effect. "So I passed it to him."
Out of a timeout, James ran the length of the court but, dogged by Roach, couldn't get a shot off in time for the buzzer.
Crane wasted no time putting Spellman ahead to start the overtime, draining a three-pointer from the right wing after winning the tip. A minute and half later, Roach gave the Cards the lead again with a backdoor lob play to Donovan, for a 56-54 lead, but Crane hit the floor hard clutching his stomach.
Having fought a stomach virus since Monday, Crane vomited into a trash can on the bench then checked back into the game just in time to give the Cardinals the lead for good, hitting two free throws for a 58-56 advantage.
Kane Araujo (nine points) cut the Spellman lead to 62-61 with a three-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and after a timeout Crane was fouled again and sank two free throws.
Down three with 10 seconds to go, Vineyard coach Mike Joyce opted not to attempt a shot from behind the arc, but instead put the ball in the hands of his most bullish dribble-driver and try to ring up an old-fashioned three-point play. James got the layup, extending his forearm as he went underhand driving to the hole, but was unable to draw enough contact for a foul as the clock ran out.
"They didn't want to die. They want to keep playing," Spellman coach Mike Perry said. "It was their effort."
Gone, but never too far: Taunton High was the venue of the last high school game of Joey Glynn, a 2012 Spellman grad and All-State forward who is considered one of the school's all-time greats. Glynn, a serviceable freshman last season for Bentley University, died suddenly last June after collapsing during a pickup basketball game, and has been heavy on the hearts of the Spellman community, as well as his hometown of Abington, ever since.
Glynn's father, Joe, was in the stands for the first time this season. Donovan pointed to him during warmups and Joe, arms crossed, nodded back in acknowledgement.
"The last time me and Toasty [Roach] played with Joey Glynn, it was on this court," Donovan said. "So we wanted to do this for Joey."
Said Roach, "We looked up to him so much. He was such a big influence on our life that, ever since the start of the year, we had to play for him."
Commemorations of Glynn and his No. 21, which has been retired by the school, have flooded the Spellman community this winter. His No. 21 is on the back of each Cardinal player's yellow warm-up shirt. Last summer, a former classmate of Glynn's got together with the school and sold hundreds of replica Spellman jerseys with Glynn's number, which can often be seen worn by numerous fans in the student section. During warmups tonight, two players wore white t-shirts with a graphic on the front of Glynn dunking.
"It's special for the kids," Perry said. "That's been their motto, 21 is on their backs, even now the kids say they want to play 32 [minutes] for 21. That's their thing. We don't go around talking a lot about it, but in our minds that's what we like to do."
Crunch Time Crane: Affected by a stomach bug that left him dehydrated, Crane spent a long part of Monday night at South Shore Hospital hooked up to an I.V., and has yet to practice this week. When he hit the deck hard in the overtime period, having to be helped off the court, he already knew what was about to come.
"He [the Vineyard ballhandler] was driving across the middle and I came the play him, and he kneed me right in the stomach," Crane explained. "I said, 'Aw, this is coming up'."
Not to be deterred, Crane made a quick trip to the sideline, emptied what was left in his upset stomach into a nearby trash bin, and returned to the game a few moments later. He led all overtime scorers with seven points.
"He was sick as a dog. That's the first time he's been on a court in three days," Perry said of Crane. "That's the first time I've seen him since the week started. You could tell, you've seen him play, rebounds he normally gets were falling on the floor...It takes a lot out of you when you're throwing up, things like that.
"But the kids ground it out. They deserve all the credit."
Slowing down Roberts: In the first half, Roberts willed his way around the rim, going a perfect 6-for-6 from the field without attempting a shot outside of six feet. The second half and overtime were tougher for the senior forward, going 4-for-7 to finish with 22 points.
One critical adjustment the Cards made was how they defended Vineyard's pick-and-roll. Perry didn't feel like his team had to switch on those plays, instead just working through them.
"Rory was going out and he had mismatches, he just had to fight over the screen a little better, or go under the screen depending upon who had the ball," Perry said. "I thought we did a little better job with that, and Rory did a better job coming back and recovering, and they weren't able to throw the ball up to him [Roberts].
"You see that coming, and you get a little better weak-side help also. They see bodies running towards him, they weren't throwing the ball to him as much."