Shepherd Hill advances to Clark championship game
By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
WORCESTER — The Shepherd Hill Rams are one win away from claiming their fourth Clark Tournament championship.
In a semifinal match-up that was more competitive than many expected, the Rams beat the eighth-seeded Auburn Rockets, 46-32 on Thursday night at the Kneller Athletic Center. Shepherd Hill’s big guys led the Rams offense. Kenneth Flynn, 6’5”, led Shepherd Hill with 17 points in the game, with Jason O’Regan, also 6’5”, adding 10 points for the Rams. Craigon Confer paced the Rockets offense with 10 points while Coleman Picard recorded nine points.
After trailing for the entire first quarter, including a seven-point deficit at one point, the Rockets managed to take a 14-13 lead on a Picard three-pointer just 22 seconds into the second quarter. That lead, however, was short-lived as the Rams tied the game and then regained the lead about 50 seconds later.
Auburn, featuring a thin bench due to injuries and departures, kept their starting five on the court for much of the first half as Justin Skaparas became the first Rocket off the bench, entering with 2:44 on the clock. Skaparas came in to give Max Joncas a break after Joncas took a hard charge that left him physically hampered.
The Rams went on an 11-4 run heading into halftime, hitting the locker room with a 24-18 lead. Shepherd Hill put up a 43.5% field goal percentage in the first half in comparison to Auburn’s 29.2%, while the Rams were strong in the paint, outscoring the Rockets 16-8.
Auburn came out strong in the third quarter, but the Rams maintained a fast-paced game that wore down the taxed Rockets squad. While Auburn had managed to cut their deficit down to three points with less than five minutes to play, Shepherd Hill pulled away with a 16-6 fourth quarter that featured six unanswered points en route to a 13-2 run in that time.
Shepherd Hill will take on the sixth-seeded Westborough Rangers in the large school championship game at the Kneller Athletic Center at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday. Westborough defeated the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders 54-43 on Thursday evening. The large school title game will follow the 6 p.m. contest between the Maynard Tigers and Sutton Sammies, who will square off in the small school championship game. Auburn will next hit the court when the district tournament begins.
Shepherd Hill has a 3-1 all-time record in the Clark Tournament finals, claiming the championship in 1975, 1976, and 2015. The Rangers have won nine Clark Tournament championships and have appeared in the finals 17 times. Westborough won the very first Clark Tournament title in 1939 and has gone on to win the championship in 1966, 1967, 1985, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2005, and 2007.
Shepherd Hill and Westboro have split four head-to-head match-ups in the Clark Tournament, squaring off in the quarterfinals in 1983, 1987, 1993, and 2002.
Auburn had advanced to the semi-finals with a 57-52 upset win over the top-seeded Quabbin Panthers on Monday night. Earlier that evening, the Rams secured their spot in the semi-finals with a 67-45 victory against the fifth-ranked Hudson Hawks.