LOWELL -- The Division 1 North final between Lexington and Charlestown was a traditional clash of styles: size versus speed.
In the end, the smaller, quicker boys from Charlestown won out. Their timely outside shooting and fast-paced game proved to be too much for the Minutemen as Charlestown won, 48-44, to advance to the Division 1 Eastern Mass final at TD Garden Tuesday.
Charlestown senior Rony Fernandez put Lexington away in what was a back-and-forth contest until the final seconds. His three-point basket with less than 10 seconds remaining gave the Townies a 46-42 lead. After a Lexington basket by Chris O'Keefe, Fernandez was fouled with 2.8 seconds remaining. He hit both free throws to effectively end the game and waved goodbye to the sizable Lexington student section in attendance.
"I dream to make those type of shots," said Fernandez, relishing his teamís win in the belly of the Tsongas Center.
Fernandez's three-pointer from about 25 feet away with just over a minute left in the game gave Charlestown a 42-40 lead.
"We weren't really getting out to their shooters out at the top of the key," said Lexington senior captain Pat Burns (11 points, six rebounds). "They were hitting tough shots and they seemed to come at the worst times."
Charlestown appeared to wear down their bigger Lexington opponents in the third quarter. Back-to-back threes by Fernandez and senior Omar Orriols gave the Townies a 33-28 lead. Fernandezís trey handed Charlestown its first lead of the game since leading 4-2 in the first quarter. The Townies went on to finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run that gave them a 35-30 lead.
Lexington was able to take advantage of its size in the first half, winning with their defense in the paint. The Minutemen, the No. 11 seed in the North, featured a front court trio of players 6-foot-5 and taller for the majority of the game, fortifying their 2-3 zone defense down low. Burns (6-6), senior Chris Lee (6-5), senior Miles Penniman (6-8), senior Caleb Lenderking-Brill (6-6) and sophomore Josh Sharma (6-9) all did their best to frustrate the fast-paced No. 5 Townies.
Unable to score inside, Charlestown struggled as it couldn't find its touch from the outside in the first half, either. Behind six points and four rebounds from Lexington forward Chris Lee (12 points, 7 rebounds in the game), Lexington was able to take a 20-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"We came in here, big arena ... jitters came out," said Charlestown coach Edson Cardoso. "I said, 'Guys, calm down. We've been here before. Let's take it one play at a time, and remember Charlestown plays defense first.' "
The Townies were a different team in the second half. They held Lexington to just 10 points in the third quarter and appeared to find their shooting range. After not making a single trey in the first half, they made six in the second, including four from Fernandez (19 points, two assists).
When the last of his long-distance shots fell through the net, Fernandez couldn't help but look ahead to Tuesday.
"We to the Garden, baby," he told himself. "We to the Garden."
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