LOWELL, Mass. -- The Taconic boys basketball team's stars stepped up to build a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in Saturday's Division 5 State Championship game.
Its role players did likewise to preserve a 53-51 win over David Prouty for the school's second state crown in four seasons.
Steve Patch scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half. Tayvon Sandifer scored 11 of his 13 in the second half.
And the Thunder survived despite seeing starters Maimoudou Bamba, Chrsitian Maturevich and Sandifer foul out in the final three minutes.
"I knew my teammates would all step up," Sandifer said. "That's what they're all built for. Everybody's built to step up when they needed to. And everyon came into the moment."
Patch and Jarmal Sistrunk were the only staters left on the floor when Sandifer fouled out of a 53-48 game with 1 minute, 32 seconds left to play.
"During the timeout, we talked about it," Patch said. "We knew that if I was going to be attracting a lot of attention, maybe somebody else could get an open shot.
"I didn't really focus on [being one of the only starters left]. We just focused on trying to win and stay together as a team."
Taconic coach Bill Heaphy was not surprised that his bench came through down to the last second, forcing a rushed offline shot by Prouty after it inbounded the ball 90 feet from the basket with 20 seconds left.
"It was huge," Heaphy said. "We talked about it in practice a lot, and they'd been like that for us all throughout this tournament. We've had guys coming in, certainly Caesar [Santos] and Jayden [McCartney] have come in and played an important role for us.
"[Senior] Darren [Henault] came in and almost knocked down that shot in the corner that was right on. He's a good shooter. But here he is, he gets his number called and comes in cold in probably the biggest game of his life, and he had guts enough to take that shot, which is pretty cool."
Early on, it was another big shot that kick-started the Thunder.
With the shot clock winding down on an early first-quarter possession, Patch drained a 3 from well beyond the arc to give Taconic a 6-3 lead and start an 8-0 run to give the Thunder its first working margin of the game.
"At first, when I got the ball, I was just like, 'Reset [the offense]," Patch said. "Then I saw there were five seconds left, and I just pulled it. I hit those, so I just pulled it.
"That just pushed my confidence immediately. I saw the ball go through the net, and it helps me a lot. and it gets everybody going. A big shot like that just got the energy level of the whole team up."
Patch scored in transition, Maturevich (11 points) converted an assist from Sistrunk and Bamba (12 points, 10 to put Taconic on top, 11-3.
After the Panthers got a bucket from Braeden White (11 points), Patch hit another triple, and Bamba scored in transition to push the margin to 11 points.
But David Prouty clawed back into it, making it a four-point game at the end of a first quarter that saw Sandifer and Maturevich each pick up two fouls.
The Panthers got within two points, 25-23, with 2:07 left in the second quarter, but Taconic closed the half on a 6-2 run that featured putbacks by Maturevich and Bamba to go into the locker room ahead, 31-25.
Bamba hit a 3-pointer to spark a 9-0 spurt early in the third quarter that pushed the lead to 12 points. And Taconic kept it at least a three-possession game the rest of the quarter.
Sandifer scored early in the second to give the Thunder a 51-38 lead, and it looked like the No. 1 seed might cruise to victory.
But Taconic managed just one more field goal the rest of the quarter.
That one came with about three minutes left, when Sandifer scored in transition to snap a 7-0 Prouty run and make it 53-45.
Then came the fifth fouls for three Taconic mainstays -- along with personal No. 5 for Prouty's Alex Fournier (13 points).
But the Thunder (23-3), despite being held scoreless for three minutes, held on with kind of defense it has played all year. Taconic held an opponent to 60 points or fewer for the 23rd time.
It also won a state championship after suffering disappointments in the finals in 2018 and 2019
The Thunder did win a state championship in 2020, but it was a co-state championshp. Sandifer was a freshman reserve on that team.
"It feels great," Sandifer said. "It feels like we did the impossible. We've been here before and didn't get it, but now we've got it and feels great to have.
"[In 2020], we didn't really get to get there because of COVID. We came here, we finished the mission. We've got two of them now."