LOWELL– It takes a total team effort to reach what the English boys basketball team has accomplished this season. Make no mistake about it, the Bulldogs are no different.
English’s run to the Division 1 North title wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions from every member on the team. Alonzo Linton and Jarnel Guzman do the heavy lifting more often than not but English’s role players have stepped up to make crucial buckets through the tournament. In Saturday’s 67-60 win over Central Catholic in the Division 1 North final at Tsongas Arena, Calvin Seng came off the bench and knocked down a few key hoops. Mason Jean-Baptiste and Joaquin Crespo followed suit. Jack Rodriguez has emerged as a reliable third scoring threat for the Bulldogs.
Aside from what the players have done, English coach Antonio Anderson credited the English High community for making his team’s success possible.
“For English, it’s huge,” Anderson, in his second season coaching English, said. “We haven’t been here in almost 10 years. We have (principal) Mr. (Thomas) Strangie, (vice principal) Mr. (Gary) Molea, (athletic director) Mr. (Richard) Newton, (vice principal) Ms. (Jen) Manciello, (vice principal). All those administrators are so supportive. They give me the utmost support. They support the team. When you have people like that backing you, it feels good.
“It’s awesome,” Anderson said. “It’s huge for the city of Lynn. I saw the St. Mary’s girls as well. You have two teams from the one city going to TD Garden. People have to come out and support us. We play on different days (English Tuesday, St. Mary’s Wednesday). It’ll be good for the community to come out and support our schools.”
While some may have felt the Bulldogs weren’t tested enough through the regular season, Anderson believes they were. His Bulldogs went undefeated in the Northeastern Conference and made things look easy. Still, Anderson tipped his cap to the NEC teams that pushed English, the last NEC team standing, to play its best basketball.
“You have to credit our league,” Anderson said. “Even though we didn’t lose in our conference, some teams pushed us. Even though we won with big margins in some of the games, a lot of teams fought. I think we’ve seen different types of defenses all year and that pays off in situations like this.
“It makes a statement for our league,” Anderson said. “Not just for English but everybody in our conference, that we’re capable of doing it. Last year Everett did it as well. We just want to play hard no matter who our opponent will be. Leave it all out on the floor. It worked out.”
Central Catholic gave English everything it could handle from start to finish. Kevin Constant kept the Raiders within striking distance all night, leading all scorers with 29 points. Showing heart and grit, the Bulldogs managed to make shots when they needed them most. A 7-0 English run to end the third quarter gave the Bulldogs a 48-43 edge heading into the fourth. Central whittled English’s lead down to a point but the Bulldogs never trailed from there. Jean-Baptiste’s 3-pointer in the closing stretch put English up 60-56 and helped the Bulldogs lock the win.
Anderson, who knows a thing or two about March Madness from his playing days at Division I Memphis, is confident the Bulldogs will be ready for Tuesday’s (7:15) Division 1 state semifinal against Newton North at TD Garden.
“I was just waiting for that buzzer to go off,” Anderson said. “Those last 20 seconds had my heart racing. It brought me back to my playing days. For those kids, to be able to experience this, should help at TD Garden. It’s a different situation, a bigger arena. But the last five games have been wars. Needham, Brookline, these three MVC teams (Lawrence, Andover, Central Catholic). We’re prepared. Now we just have to focus on Newton North and go from there.”