D4 EMass Boys Final: St. Clement 56, Bp. Connolly 44

BOSTON –- At 5-foot-6, St. Clement point guard Brandon Williams might be the smallest guy listed on the team’s roster, but on Monday afternoon he was the biggest player on the floor for the Anchormen, leading them to a 56-44 win over Bishop Connolly in the Division 4 EMass. Finals at TD Garden.

Using a blend of athleticism, quickness and a non-stop motor, Williams torched Connolly for 22 points, four assists and four rebounds to pace the offensive attack for the Anchormen (23-1), despite giving up six inches to the defender covering him all night.

“He’s fearless,” said St. Clement coach Leo Boucher. “We’re talking about a kid that never played football in his life and came to St. Clement and rushed for 800 yards and nine touchdowns. Just an incredible athlete whose aggressive and doesn’t know he’s 5-6. He has no idea he’s 5-6.”

Added Williams: “My whole life, I’ve been shorter than everybody else so I just kind of adapted. Some people say I’m just too short to play against big guys, and I want to prove them wrong every time out there. A lot of teams see me as a mismatch at 5-6, but if I go out there and player harder than the person in front of me, there’s going to be good results."

Williams was primed for proving people shouldn’t overlook his height after game previews leading up to the game. No one on Connolly proclaimed they hoped to exploit that mismatch – in fact, what told the guard that he needed to prove people wrong again had nothing to do with what was said about him. It was based on what wasn’t said.

“We read the Fall River papers talking about how Eamonn (Joyce) was a real good player down near the baseline, then they want on to elaborate and say if you stop Khaneil Bruce, you stop St. Clement,” said Boucher. “That’s exactly what we wanted to see, because we knew Brandon had a game in him like this.”

Not only did the diminutive point guard spark the offense, but he also was a driving force of a defense that caused fits throughout for Bishop Connolly. The Anchormen, using a 2-3 zone throughout, never allowed Connolly’s offense to find any rhythm, limiting star player Dylan Holland to just 10 points in the win.

“We work hard on defense,” Williams said. “We wanted to take them off their game, make them uncomfortable and pressure them a little bit. We wanted to deny Holland the ball because he had a huge game last game, so we knew if we could slow him down we could play our game.”

St. Clement was certainly able to play its game most of the contest, using the stingy defensive effort to set up huge runs in both the second and fourth quarters (and overcoming a sluggish five point third quarter) to guarantee the Anchormen reached the first state final in school history.

Early on Joyce was a driving force to help stretch the lead for St. Clement, registering eight points, five rebounds and three blocks before the half en route to a double. He finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in the win. Bruce paired with him to lead an effective front court, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds in the win.

Opening loss anchors St. Clement: On the first night competition back in December, St. Clement fell to East Boston. They’ve benefited from that game ever since. Three months later, it’s still their only loss of the season and they’ve rattled of 23 straight wins following that defeat.

“The East Boston, I made a lot of mistakes,” said Boucher. “I think I lost that game. I would put it on myself and I told these kids that I lost that game with my decisions. We should’ve come out of man-to-man earlier, and we haven’t played man-to-man since.”

Maybe it was coaching decisions, but Boucher’s players weren’t OK with the way loss sat with them.

“After we lost that first game, we really didn’t like it. Our mood in the locker room was very down. We don’t want that to happen again so that’s why we keep a chip on our shoulder that we’re not going to lose again.”