Watertown senior Anthony Coppola wanted the ball in his hands. Broken finger and all.
So too did his coach, Steve Harrington.
Coppola sank four free throws in the final 6.2 seconds as Watertown held off Sabis of Springfield 62-61 for the Division 3 state boys' basketball championship on Saturday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Coppola scored 10 of his 24 points in the final seven minutes to propel the Red Raiders (22-3) to the program's first state crown.
"I had so much focus, I knew I had to come through for my team, and my town," said the 6-foot-1 Coppola, who will play at Division 3 Wheaton next year.
Coppola, who broke a small bone in his right hand the day before last week's EMass. Division 3 final against Medfield, was also determined to atone for a late costly turnover at midcourt. Isiah Wallace (team-high 24 points) converted the steal into a layup at the other end for the tying basket, 58-all, with 9.3 seconds left.
"Intensity and toughness, that was the difference," said Coppola still clutching the state championship plaque nearly 20 minutes after the end of the game. After struggling with his shooting in the first 16 minutes, he shed the tape on his right hand at halftime.
"Once they tied it, I wanted to get the ball in [Anthony's) hands," said Watertown coach Steve Harrington.
Defending state champ Sabis, which roared back from an 18-point first-half deficit, led 47-43 with eight minutes left. But Watertown sophomore Benyam Kerman buried a left wing trey, triggering a 10-0 run for a 53-47 cushion with six minutes remaining. Coppola sank two free throws, drove baseline for two more and senior Steve Keuchkarian drained another three.
"Steve, Cory Stockmal (14 points) and Ben all hit big threes for us down the stretch," said Harrington. "I can't explain what this group of kids have accomplished. They are so tough, just so tough."
Coppola added, "To win the first state championship, and be captain of the team, and win it for the town, is just unbelievable."
-- Craig Larson
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