LOWELL — When the program’s first state title began to slip away, Archbishop Williams senior Josh Campbell stood strong down the stretch.
The 6-foot-3-inch guard from Plymouth scored 21 of his team’s final 28 points in Saturday’s Division 3 state final against St. Mary’s, allowing the Bishops to hold on for a 76-71 victory at the Tsongas Center in the program’s first finals appearance since 1954.
“That was big,” said Archbishop Williams senior Lorenzo Jackson, who tallied 16 points and nine rebounds. “[Campbell] hit shots when we needed to hit them, he hit free throws when we needed them. He’s the leader of this team and it showed.”
The top-seeded Bishops (24-1) stifled their Catholic Central League rivals in the first half, holding No. 2 St. Mary’s (19-8) scoreless for five minutes and opening a 31-19 halftime lead.
The Bishops expanded their lead early in the third quarter to 49-27, before David Brown Jr. (22 points) and the defending champions began to climb back. The Spartans trimmed a 17-point deficit to 5 multiple times, but Campbell (34 points, 4 rebounds, 6 blocks, 13 for 14 on free throws) always seemed to have the answer.
“Even when we got up by 20, we knew [the Spartans] were going to go on a run at some point, it just happened to be late game,” said Campbell, a Bridgewater State commit, who topped 1,000 career points “We just had to slow it down, not turn the ball over, and make free throws, and we did it.”
While Campbell provided the necessary scoring, the Bishops played excellent team defense against a familiar foe. Just six weeks after squeaking out a 78-77 win at St. Mary’s, the CCL champs used ball pressure and great team rebounding to lead from wire-to-wire in the rematch.
“St. Mary’s is one of the best programs in the state and seeing them on the other side of the bracket, I think we always keep an eye out on what they’re doing,” said Archbishop Williams coach Brian Holden.
“We know their personnel, they know our personnel, and our kids did an incredible job defending them in the first half. They’re a difficult team to guard, and we stepped up to the challenge.”
Campbell, Jackson, and Tristan Rodriguez all transferred to Archies over the past three years, forming an elite lineup along with Andres Espaillat and Charlie Conners.
Bringing all those pieces together in a short span to win a state title was quite an accomplishment for Holden, a 1990 graduate.
“When I got the job five years ago, it really was a goal of ours to win a championship within four or five years,” said Holden. “I don’t know how realistic I was to think that, but every year we’ve gotten a little better with regards to wins and losses.
“And I’ve been very fortunate we’ve had kids transfer in out of nowhere. The timing of everyone coming in and how they’ve meshed together has been awesome, and to finish with a state championship is incredible.”
Archbishop Williams 76, St. Mary’s 71
at Tsongas Center, Lowell
St. Mary’s (19-8) 7 12 18 34 — 71
Archbishop Williams (24-1) 16 15 23 22 — 76
ST. MARY’S — David Brown Jr. 7 7 22, Anthony D’Itria 5 0 12, Omri Merryman 4 0 11, Dion Okonoboh 2 0 5, Javihan Martinez 5 1 12, Nick Sacco 1 1 3, Donel Kabongo Mutombo 2 2 6. Totals 26 11 71.
ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS — Julian Sustache 1 2 4, Charlie Conners 1 0 3, Andres Espaillat 3 0 7, Brendan Foster 0 3 3, Tristan Rodrigues 2 0 5, Josh Campbell 10 13 34, Tommy McDonough 1 0 2, Jack Solomon 1 0 2, Lorenzo Jackson 5 4 16. Totals 24 22 76.
3-pt. goals: SW David Brown Jr., Anthony D’Itria 2, Omri Merryman 3, Dion Okonoboh, Javihan Martinez; A Charlie Conners, Andres Espaillat, Tristan Rodrigues, Josh Campbell, Lorenzo Jackson 2.