WORCESTER - St. John's of Shrewsbury did a lot right in its state final against Central Catholic. The Pioneers held the Raiders' leading scorer, Billy Marsden, to 5 points before he fouled out. They were even more successful against sophomore big man Carson Desrosiers, who fouled out with 2 points.
But the Pioneers had no answer for best friends Adrian Gonzales and Wilfredo Pagan. Senior forward Gonzales had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and senior guard Pagan (21 points) was a force on both ends as Central Catholic captured the Division 1 title with a 68-47 victory at the DCU Center.
"[Gonzales] knew he had an opportunity tonight to do something special, to have a legacy for himself and for the team," Central coach Richard Nault said. "Billy is our leading scorer and Adrian's our best player, so it's kind of tricky how teams choose to stop one and let the other one [go]. With [Gonzales's] rebounding and interior scoring, he's difficult to stop. You put a quicker guy on him, he'll score in the post. You put a bigger guy on him, he'll beat him off the dribble.
"[Pagan] is relentless. He plays just as hard on the defensive end as he does on the offensive end, and there's not a lot of kids that way."
The Raiders opened up a 29-16 lead, but St. John's went on a 9-3 run to cut its deficit to 32-25 at halftime.
The Pioneers continued their hot streak at the start of the third with a 7-0 run that was capped by a tying 3-pointer from sophomore David White (10 points).
Central decided to turn to its zone defense, which had worked well throughout the tournament. It did the trick last night as well.
"We switched it up a little bit to see how it would pay off," Gonzales said. "It went pretty good. With Billy having three of the best games of his life in the last three games [before] fouling out this game, we knew we had to play harder. Carson fouling out, that's our big presence in the paint. We knew we had to play harder and that's what we did. We played as hard as we can and we ended up getting the win by 21."
The Raiders began to take control with 22 seconds left in the third quarter, when a Gonzales bucket gave the Lawrence school a 45-37 lead. Relying on their tough defense, the Raiders went on a decisive 9-2 run that was punctuated by Pagan's steal-and-score off a St. John's inbound with 5:06 left in the game.
"We had to pressure the guards and make it tough for them to score," he said. "So we tried to pick up the guards full-court and make it tougher for them with the ball."
Pioneers coach Bob Foley praised the Raiders as "a very tough club," but was also pleased with his team's season despite its disappointing ending.
"I thought our kids fought back hard [in the second half]," Foley said. "But obviously, [Central Catholic's] a very good team and they're very well coached. It was just a great run for our kids."