READING, Mass. -- Former Lawrence High great Hector Paniagua, who was tragically shot and paralyzed two weeks after the Lancers' loss in the 2005 Division 1 Eastern Mass final, will be a special assistant coach in the Lancers' Division 1 North final against St. John's Prep Friday at the TD Garden, ESPNBoston.com has learned tonight.
The No. 15 seed Lancers knocked off Lynn English tonight, 75-67, at Reading High School's Hawkes Field House to become the lowest seed to reach the D1 North final since 2007, when Cambridge won the sectional as a No. 14 seed. This will be the Lancers' first playoff game in the Garden since 2005, when they lost to eventual state champion Newton North.
Following the game, Lawrence head coach Paul Neal told reporters he was about to place a call to Paniagua and invite him to be on the bench Friday, saying "It's been a personal goal to try and get back [to the Garden], and then invite him to be the assistant coach at the last place he ever played basketball, and probably ever will."
Assistant coach Dan Rasanen confirmed to ESPNBoston.com that Paniagua has accepted Neal's invitation.
The then-18-year-old Paniagua was shot in the neck and subsequently paralyzed early Easter morning in 2005, while standing across the street from a night club. Neal called Paniagua, a 2005 Boston Globe All-Scholastic, "one of the best players that I have ever coached at Lawrence High School".