Shrewsbury High, St. John's teams win two state titles
Shrewsbury – It's been almost a fortnight since the events occurred on back-to-back days, but Shrewsbury in particular and Central Massachusetts in general is still basking in the glow of a pair of state championships.
For starters, on March 14 the St. John's basketball team defeated Lynn English 80-62 at the DCU Center to win its second state title in school history and a day later the Shrewsbury High boys hockey team won its second state title in school history when it defeated Shawsheen Tech, 3-2 at Boston Garden.
"I'm still smiling," Colonials coach John Binkoski said. "I told people all summer to watch us, that we could be a really good team if we could figure out our goaltending situation."
No easy task in the best of times, but a job made tougher this season with the departure through graduation of Pat Army, a two-year starter between the pipes. Binkoski did have the luxury to have a pair of promising junior goalies, however, in Pat Coates and Bobby Fitzgerald.
Both played regularly during the season and Binkoski decided to go with Coates in the playoffs after wins over Gardner, North Middlesex and Algonquin Regional late in the season.
Coates didn't disappoint, rolling through the postseason defeating Auburn, Wachusett, Hudson, East Longmeadow and Shawsheen Tech to help the Colonials claim the title. In the final eight games of the season Coates allowed just seven goals and recorded a pair of shutouts.
Scoring for 18-4-3 Shrewsbury High in the state championship were Curtis Beals, Kevin Dufault and Castan Sommer, who scored what would be the game-winning goal with 11:22 to play.
This year's state championship for Shrewsbury came 10 years to the day after its only other one.
Binkoski, who credited much of the Colonials' success this season to the tireless efforts of his assistant coaches – Jeff Lewis, Todd Cooksey and Greg Bennett – was in his first year as junior varsity/assistant varsity coach during the 1998- 99 season.
St. John's state title came via the one-two punch of Matt LaBove, the Pioneers 6-foot-8 senior center, who banged the boards inside, and Richard Rogers, the silky smooth junior shooting guard who led all scorers with 28 points. Roger's classmate, David White, added 15 points.
"Just like he was many times during his career, Matt was our main man in the state final," St. John's coach Bob Foley said. "He not only blocked shots and altered others, he seemed to get every big rebound, too."
The biggest of LaBove's 10 points came with 7:26 to play when his thunderous slam dunk gave the 21-6 Pioneers a 56-44 lead and left no doubt to the outcome of the game.
St. John's seized control of the game with an 8-0 run to begin the second half, turning a 33- 33 tie into a 41-33 lead.
Rogers converted a threepoint play to get the scoring parade going. His work was followed by a three-pointer by Anthony Trapasso (15 points) who then converted a pair of free throws to push the lead to 41-33 and prompt Lynn English to call a timeout.
"This is amazing," LaBove said. "I remember thinking on my first day at St. John's, as I looked up at the 2000 banner, that I was going to get one before I left. I'm sure everyone says that, but to actually be able to do that is really amazing."
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