Sunday, March 4, 2018

Henderson Powers Algonquin Past St. John's, Into D1 Central Finals

Algonquin senior Kyle Henderson finished with 36 points to lead Algonquin to its first ever D1 Central title game.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Worcester, Mass. - Behind one of the greatest performances in program history, Algonquin is headed to its first ever Division 1 Central final after defeating perennial power St. John's (Shrewsbury) 82-70 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

That historic performance came from senior captain Kyle Henderson, who poured in 36 points for the T-Hawks, including 19 during a wild third quarter, to help Algonquin avenge a 65-60 defeat at the hands of the Pioneers earlier this year.

Algonquin advances to face top-seeded Franklin Friday night at WPI in its first sectional final since the T-Hawks were a D2 team back in 2001.

“We couldn’t shoot against (St. John's) the first time around,” Algonquin coach Brian Doherty said. “Watching the tape with the boys the other day, they were like ‘we were bad,’ and I said ‘yeah, you guys were pretty bad that game’. They realized that if we could make our shots we were going to get them, and tonight was the night.”

Things were tight early, with St. John's actually leading 16-13 heading into the closing seconds of the first quarter. But, a transition runner from junior Brian Duffy pulled the T-Hawks within one at the first break.

Duffy carried his hot hand into the second quarter, hitting a three to open the period, then finishing a layup off a feed from Sean Cullen to give Gonk a 25-18 lead and force a Pioneer timeout. After a pair of free throws from Henderson, Duffy hit a corner three to stretch the T-Hawk lead to 10.

“I knew from the beginning of the season we had the potential to beat any team I think in Mass,” Duffy said. "I think now we’re showing that.”

Moments later, Nick Redden buried a three of his own, and Algonquin took a 39-29 lead into the half. After intermission, Henderson would take the game over.

Early in the third, the lefty point guard traded buckets with St. John's junior Bobby Duquette, with Henderson knifing in for a layup, then bombing a three, and Duquette hitting a pair of threes on the Pioneers' first two possessions of the half.

A hard drive and finish from Henderson put Algonquin up 11, but another Duquette three made it a single-digit game again moments later. Henderson then finished an old-fashioned three-point, hit a deep three off a feed from Redden, and buried a midrange jumper at the buzzer to give Algonquin a 66-52 lead and finish the third with 19 points in the period.

"We were trying to get it into the middle, and they kept sinking on Nick (Redden)," Henderson said. "He just kept kicking it out to me. I like to shoot it from pretty deep, and they went in in that quarter."

St. John's wouldn't go quietly, however, as senior forward Sean Burke finished off a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays to pull the Pioneers back within seven. Unfortunately for them, the Pioneers just weren't able to get enough stops, as a Michael Spataro layup pushed the game out of reach for good with 30 seconds left.

Algonquin will be back in action Friday night, again at WPI, against No. 1 seed and reigning D1 Central champion Franklin. Tip is scheduled for 6 pm.

“It’s a dream come true,” Henderson said. “I’ve been thinking about it since I’ve been playing travel basketball with some of these kids for a long time now, and I’m just so stoked that we’re going to be able to compete for a championship.”

"Kyle's great," Doherty added. "If you're open, he's gonna get it to you. That's the best part about him. He's a great point guard, the best we've had here."

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