By Elizabeth F. McNamara
It looked like EG and Narragansett were going into overtime. With the Division II state championship on the line the score was 54-54. The Avengers would be taking the ball out in back court but with only 1.7 seconds to make a shot.
Sam Lewin threw the ball in to Patrick Shea, who turned and put the ball up from around 40 feet away. Ball midair, the buzzer sounded. Then, the ball banked in.
With that, the EGHS Boys Basketball team had its first state championship in 28 years, beating the team that beat them in the finals last year, 57-54. A Cinderella ending to a Cinderella playoff series.
The Avengers went into the playoffs the number 10 seed, with a conference record of 9-9. But They first beat Portsmouth, 71-66; then Westerly, 67-62; then Wheeler, 47-46 to make it to the final at CCRI Warwick Sunday.
Coach Don Bowen said the win belonged to the community.
“It’s all about the feeder systems and the whole culture of our town. It’s a great, great victory for the town. The kids who played the game, the past players, I love them all,” he said.
Bowen, an Avenger himself (he played for EG legend Nick Carcieri on back-to-back championship teams in 1971 and 1972), has been coaching in East Greenwich for years. He assumed the head coach position three years ago.
He said it had been a tough year, with several players getting injured, including starting point guard Grant Driscoll, as well as Shea.
“You just never know. It’s why you play the game,” he said. “Narragansett’s an outstanding team. They eliminated us the previous two years. We were here last year in the finals. It just feels good to get one back for the kids.”
Bowen acknowledged that being the underdogs probably helped them.
“Cinderella is always a better thing than being a favorite,” he said, “everything to gain; nothing to lose. No pressure. I think we played better under those circumstances. You just never, ever know. We needed this win to qualify for the states. Our backs were against the wall for the past four games and here we are – we live for another day. Makes me so happy.”
For the seniors who played and lost to Narragansett last year, Sunday’s was a sweet win.
“Last year, we weren’t able to pull it off, so it was really a redemption season coming in. We’re happy to win this. Now, hopefully, we can get it going in the tournament,” said Shea.
“It’s tremendous. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. A lot of guys felt pressure last year. We lost to the same exact team last year. We knew coming in it would be tough,” said David Norton, senior captain of the team along with Shea. “I don’t think anyone in the state thought that the tenth seed would be winning the state championship except for every guy on our team. We all knew we could make it. We all knew we could come in here tonight and get a little revenge on ‘Gansett from last year.”
East Greenwich trailed for most of the game. At the end of the first half, EG was down 26-22. In the second half, the two teams stayed close but with just over 10 minutes to play Narragansett was up 9 points. East was able to narrow the gap then close it with back-to-back 3-pointers by Jack McMullen.
With 13 seconds left in the game, the score was tied. And then it wasn’t.
About that final shot.
“I kind of lost it on the way up but I kind of was able to get a little more into it,” Shea said. “Got a little more of my lower body into it and let it fly.”
Shea, who scored 14 points in the game, was named most valuable player.
“I’ll never forget this,” he said. “The best moment of my life.”
McMullen also scored 14, including four 3-pointers.
“McMullen always has the green light and shooters shoot,” said Bowen of the sophomore. Bowen also credited junior Roman Gloria, who had 11 points in the game.
“Roman Gloria played phenomenal,” Bowen said. “He gets to the glass; he’s a penetrator. We needed that. They boxed Jack [McMullen]. We had trouble bringing other people up. Narragansett’s an outstanding defensive team. We needed a creator and Roman’s a creator. It was a perfect situation for him. He did an outstanding job.”
The win gives the team a spot in the state tournament, which starts Thursday. For Shea, that’s a dream come true.
“I never want basketball to end. It’s my favorite sport,” he said. “I get more of it so I’m happy.”
2019 EG Boys Basketball team:
Head Coach: Don Bowen
Asst. Coach: Dave Gee
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