By Avonlea Cummings
Hometown Weekly Sports Reporter
History was made on Sunday, March 19th when the Needham boys’ basketball team stepped foot onto the Tsongas Center to go head-to-head in the division one championship for the first time. The fifth-seeded team tipped off against the sixth-seeded Worcester North Polar Bears. In a long-tested battle throughout the four quarters, Needham was resilient in their skills and talent but dropped to Worcester North, short by nine points and resulting in a final score of 73-64.
Head coach Paul Liner knew there was something special about his team this season. This belief held true and carried on proudly throughout the tournament. The spirit and togetherness brought to the team this season are to thank for their longevity.
“We lost eight seniors last year, though I knew we had a lot of kids hungry to do what those seniors did and fill those shoes which can be hard to do. I think the first game when we played Walpole, I looked at the coaches and said ‘This team is going to be special.’ They practice so hard together, it’s the best we have ever had. They really love each other, and I saw that right away,” Liner noticed.
The arena was filled with spectators supporting the Needham boys in the battle keeping them energized throughout the match. Trailing close behind the Polar Bears in the second half, the Rockets continuously made baskets to catch up. Without hesitation, Needham dug deep and made every second count. Rising to the North’s challenges, Needham dodged the competition and stuck to the basics, which they knew would mark up more points on the scoreboard. It was an impressive and close battle for the championship title; Needham did not stand down.
“We were concerned about handling their pressure, but I am very proud of the way we did that tonight. Although they beat us with rebounds tonight, it was hard for us tonight. They definitely won that part of the battle… If it was anyone’s first time watching us tonight, we showed what Needham basketball is all about and the kids never gave up. That’s a quality that we have had all year,” said Liner.
Senior captain Henry Bickford pocketed an outstanding 20 total points in the competition. Juniors Brian Cloonan, and Jackson Shaw both contributed 13 points. Liner was impressed with what the boys have brought to the competition. He couldn’t be prouder knowing how difficult saying goodbye to the seniors will be.
“Henry Bickford showed again how well he plays tonight- he played great. The seniors have been great role models for what it means to be a Rocket to the underclassmen. You can see their resilience out there to make their play and I am going to miss coaching this team a lot,” praised Liner.