WORCESTER, Mass. -– Cardinal Spellman was clinging to a three point lead in the Division 3 state title game, with the surging Tyngsboro on the verge of overcoming a 10-point deficit when point guard Ryan Roach crossed and fluttered a high-arching pass toward the hoop at the DCU Center on Saturday afternoon.
Spellman big man Rory Donovan took off, catching the ball in midair and bringing down a thunderous dunk that would shift momentum back toward the Cardinals for good, allowing them to cruise a 61-51 and the program’s first state title since 1984.
“Me and Toasty (Roach), we work on it every day in practice,” Donovan said. “We just have a really good connection. Almost every single game we get those lob dunks. It’s been a couple games since I got one and I was just hoping for a chance. We made eye contact and we both knew it was coming.”
Donovan, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, went running up the court, beating his fist against his chest, yelling in excitement.
“I was screaming ‘All for Joey, All for Joey’ just saying thank you for everything he’s done for us,” said Donovan. “He was such an inspirational person for us.”
He was referring to Joey Glynn, a 2012 Spellman graduate who scored more than 1,000 points for the Cardinals and was a friend to everyone in the community. Glynn passed away last spring playing summer league basketball game, but the mark he had on Donovan, who played two years of high school basketball with him, was pretty obvious.
“I really wanted to win this thing for him,” said Donovan. “He was the hardest worker I ever met in my life and I just want to be exactly like him.”
Gone too soon for sure, Glynn passed away, but the Spellman boys team made sure he wasn’t forgotten as they dedicated their season to him this year. Glynn’s No. 21 was retired in the Cardinals gym, and the team and community have rallied around his memory, breaking out in ‘All for Joey’ chants during trying times throughout their state title run.
They’ve even kept one of his pregame rituals alive.
“I visit him all the time at his grave site,” said Donovan. “Me and all the boys visit him. I go at least once a week. Me and him had a ritual where I’d bring a Butterfinger to him, he’d take a bite of it then I’d take a bite of it. We did it before every game. Every time I visit him, I leave a Butterfinger on top of his gravestone.”
Fitting then that it was Donovan who finished the exclamation point on the season dedicated to Glynn, changing the course of the contest with a ferocious slam that would’ve made his friend smile. The air seemed to come out of the tires for Tyngsboro, and that dunk was the beginning of an 8-0 Spellman run.
“There was still a little bit of time left, I didn’t want them thinking the game was over,” said Spellman coach Mike Perry. “But something like that can take a little bit of steam out of you. Defensively we did some nice things that we had to. We got some good rebounds to keep them from getting second chances. The kids did a nice job of that, especially at the end. They’d get one shot, we’d get the rebound, then they’d have to foul us.”
Super Sophomore: Collin Sullivan arrived at the DCU Center a rarely used sophomore, but left a hero for the Cardinals. With senior stand-out Joey Crane in foul trouble seemingly from the get-go, Sullivan stepped in and knocked down four 3-points off the bench to bolster Spellman’s offensive attack.
“He’s a very good shooter,” Perry said. “He’s the one that will have to step in next year for Joe and he can really shoot the ball. He’s somebody maybe they weren’t really watching but he’s very good if he has an open look.”
Added Donovan: “He gets into the game and shoots lights out, he was absolutely amazing.”
Sullivan finished with 12 points and five rebounds, including a pair of boards in the final minute of play to help seal the win.
“For a sophomore to come in and play like that – to make those shots and get those rebounds, that was just huge,” said Roach, who finished with 14 points and eight assists. “He hits all those shots in practice, but to step in to this game and knock them down was unreal.”
Spellman also got 13 points and six assists from Austin Joseph and seven from Crane in capturing the state title.
Tigers claw back: Early in the fourth, Spellman took a 12-point lead on a Roach trey, but from there Tyngsboro came fighting back, rattling off 10-3 run to climb back into the game.
Drew Hurynowicz was big reason why as he notched six of his game-high 23 points in the final quarter.
“He’s a sophomore whose been doing it all year,” said Tyngsboro coach Mike Crowley. “He’s a really talented kid who hurt them inside early in the game. Just a really talented player, I’m glad to have for two more years.”
Austin Coene was nearly as effective, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds in the losing effort for the Tigers, who were nearly completed the impressive comeback.
“We had it down to three points, then the point guard did a great job of breaking our pressure and threw that lob pass for the dunk and I thought it was kind of the exclamation point that gave them the ‘W,’” said Crowley. “I’m really proud of my guys for hanging in there as long as they did.”