BOSTON –- Trailing 11 with just over five minutes to go in the Division 3 EMass Finals, the Cardinal Spellman boys basketball took a timeout to regroup. As the players neared the bench, Spellman’s faithful rained down a chant that brought the Cardinals to life more than anything else could during the timeout, sending them to a come from behind win in overtime, 51-44, over Watertown.
“All for Joey,” they bellowed over and over, remembering fallen friend Joey Glynn, a Spellman 2012 graduate who passed away while playing in a basketball game last spring. Earlier this year, Glynn’s No. 21 was retired and the Cardinals dedicated their season to his memory.
“They come to the bench, and I’m sure they thought 21 was looking over them,” said Spellman coach Mike Perry. “Maybe he was.”
Added senior Joey Crane: “We knew we just couldn’t give up. We did the same thing in the Vineyard game (in the D3 South semifinals) and we knew we could do it again. We know Joey wouldn’t give up –- he’d fight to the end. We knew we just had to keep working for him. I think he has a lot to do with what’s been going on the last couple weeks.”
Coming out of the timeout, the Cardinals quickly climbed back into the game behind the hot hand of Crane, who rattled off eight straight points to close the gap. He finished a game high 20 points to go with eight rebounds in the win, including a game tying basket with two seconds left in regulation.
“You have certain chances to step, there’s a guy you can always count on, and we can count on him to get the ball and make something happen,” said Perry.
Spellman also got seven fourth quarter points from Austin Joseph, a couple of timely rebounds and put-backs in the fourth and overtime from Rory Donovan, and strong defense (despite playing nearly all of the fourth and OT with four fouls) and clutch free throw shooting from Ryan Roach down the stretch to ice the win.
“Sometimes you can get into a funk, then you hear that (“All for Joey” chant) and it just reminds us that we have to win,” said Roach. “We have to win for him.”
Cardinals get defensive: At half time, Watertown led 27-23, but had fired up a dozen 3-point attempts, connecting on none. Spellman aimed to take away those open looks after the break, forcing the Red Raiders to go just 1-for-13 from distance in the second half.
“We really just had better all-around intensity, especially once the ‘All for Joey’ chants started” said Donovan. “We needed to lock down and start playing better ‘D,’ and once we started doing it they couldn’t get their shots up.”
Added Crane: “They would just drive and kick, so we just knew not to sag of the guys outside and to stay more in front of them.”
The result was holding Watertown to just nine points in the third (something that proved vital as the Cardinals went cold from the field in the quarter and scored just four themselves). They surrendered an even more impressive six in the fourth as they tied the game, before allowing just two points in overtime –- and none until the final minute –- to win the game.
One last Cardinals flight: Before any of them crossed paths at Cardinal Spellman, many of the Cardinals’ leading men found themselves situated on the same team in a post season All-Star game for the South Shore Parochial League.
“It all started in the eighth grade at the SSPL All-Star game, me, Joe, Toast (Roach) and Austin Joseph were all on the same team that night," Donovan said. "That’s where it all started. We all met there.”
And now, four years later, now longer strangers but teammates, they’ll get to play one last game together, suiting up on Saturday to take on Tyngsboro in the D3 state title game out at the DCU Center.
“We’ve all become best friends,” said Roach. “This is such a great group to play with, and we just want to keep doing this for the Spellman community, for Joey, and for our coaches. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
One thing could make it better.
“We just gotta finish on top,” said Crane, “all for Joey.”