BOSTON -- Written on the backs of the sneakers worn by Bishop Connolly senior Tommy Keyes were the words "Rest Easy."
It was a tribute to his grandfather Ed Keyes, the former Durfee High teacher and football coach who passed away last Monday. Watching the Cougars' lone senior in action in Tuesday's Div. 4 state championship game, it would have been impossible to know that he was playing with a heavy heart.
Keyes scored a game high 26 points and went 10-for-10 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter to help close out Lynnfield, 65-62, and bring Bishop Connolly its first state title.
"We had a game that day so that was tough but the team was behind my back," Keyes said of the day of his grandfather's passing. "They had me. They were pushing me, holding me up. They said, 'We're going to do this for him, we're going to do this for your father' and they stood true to their word and I can't thank them enough for that."
For the Cougars, leadership was every bit as important from Keyes as was his stellar play on the court, a point that head coach Matt Coute emphasized with him before the season.
"I told him, you have to be the leader," Coute recalled. "You're the lone senior, you have to be the leader. It's not about how many points you score, you're going to get your thousand points. It's about leading the juniors and leading the sophomores to get where you want to go."
"Not many seniors can say they ended their career with a win," he continued. "I wasn't able to, not a lot of people were able to. The way that he just gripped the game at the end in the last two minutes, he just said, 'I'm getting the ball, they're going to foul me and I'm going to ice it.' Literally, in the last minute when they fouled him, I'm like, 'This game is over.' I really believed every one was going in and literally every one did. The amouint of confidence, pride that he showed, he pretty much his stamp into Connolly history that's for sure."
Six-foot-six sophomore Konrad Bradbury had 14 points and 13 rebounds (five offensive) for the Cougars (19-7), John Goncalo added 12 points and Brian Quinn hauled down 11 boards. Adam Buchanan paced Lynnfield (16-8) with 19 points while Patrick Kearney tossed in 17.
Keyes had 12 of his points in the first half as the Cougars raced out to a 25-16 lead, scoring the final six points in a 15-6 run. Lynnfield stormed back, cutting the deficit to five points at the half and hitting three buckets to open the third quarter and grab a 31-29 lead, a lead they would also take into the final frame.
"We got down in that second quarter and we called a timeout and ultimately, we didn't talk Xs and Os, this is the question we asked the fellas -- this is the spot where this thing can get away from you," said Lynnfield coach Scott McKenzie. "It can go from 10 to 15 or you can make it a couple possession game heading into the half. We managed to get some stops and we went into the half with a two possession game and I think the kids, ultimately it just gave them a little bit of confidence."
In n effort stem the tide, the Cougars switched into a 3-2 zone with an eye on doing a better job of getting out on Kearney and Buchanan.
"The gameplan was to be physical and aggressive man to man and Pat Kearney singlehandedly got us out of it," admitted Coute. "We wanted to go man to man, we were switching off, we got in foul trouble early in the first half, we put like three different guys on him and he was tough. We really had no one who could match up to him."
Added Bradbury, "We switched to the 3-2 because we weren't getting out to the corners as much as we needed to. We weren't getting to that three, getting the hand up there. We knew a lot of them were shooters and we knew they always had two guys sitting in the corners so we thought in the 3-2, we can get someone out there quick."
Lynnfield took its last lead on a jumper by Buchanan early in the fourth, but Bradbury knocked down a pair of free throws to start a 13-2 run and pushed the advantage up to 51-41. The Cougars were deadly at the line, making 17-of-19 freebies over the final eight minutes to close the game out.
"We knew coming in this year that we had something to prove because we got knocked out in the first round last year," said Keyes afterward. "We were focused, in the first practice of the year, we were running doubles as hard as we could. Our defense was right there so we knew we had a good shot. We lost two major pieces but we filled in those holes. Scoring 1,000 points is very personal to me. My teammates helped me. But going out on top, there's nothing that tops that. I'm a state champion and I'm going into college a winner. Can't ask any more."