WORCESTER — After leading his Lynn English team to a 64-57 win over Springfield Putnam in Saturday’s Division 1 state final, Alonzo Linton searched for a way to give back to some of the fans that packed the Hart Center at Holy Cross and turned the state championship into a virtual home game.
When a young fan, whom he recognized had been to every game throughout the program’s first state title run since 1939, asked Linton for a memento, the 6-foot-5-inch forward selflessly gave up his size 12 LeBron XVI basketball sneakers.
“I wanted to save those sneakers, since I scored my 1,000th point in them,” Linton said, “but I thought, ‘Why not? They showed us love, so let me show him some love back.’ ”
Linton scored a game-high 27 points with 12 rebounds in a dominant showing to pace the Bulldogs. English (23-2) also received key contributions from Jack Rodriguez (10 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), Jarnel Guzman (7 points, 7 assists), Mason Jean-Baptiste (9 points), and 11 clutch points from Justin Fitzpatrick, including an alley-oop finish late in the fourth quarter to send the English faithful into jubilation.
“I don’t want any credit,” said English second-year coach Antonio Anderson, a Lynn native with an accomplished résumé as a player. “I’m happy to be a part of it, and happy to be the captain of this ship that helped these kids to accomplish something like this. It means more to me than anything I accomplished as a player.”
Putnam (20-3) took an early lead thanks to strong play on both ends from senior Taelon Martin (15 points), but Fitzpatrick nailed a triple to make it 20-19 early in the second quarter, giving the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish.
English led, 36-27, at the break and turned up the defensive pressure, holding Putnam scoreless for more than more minutes in the third and fourth quarters.
When Putnam made a brief run in the fourth, Rodriguez and Linton came up with key transition buckets to put the game out of reach.
“We don’t fold under pressure,” said Linton. “We just play our game. We know the other team is going to make runs and we’re going to have our run, and lately, we’ve been getting the last run.”
The rest of the Bulldogs starting five will return next season, while Linton is immortalized as the leader of a state championship team.
For Anderson, Linton’s final gesture of generosity demonstrates the connectivity between his program and his community, as well as the maturity developed throughout a trying season.
“None of us [in Lynn] come from much, from rich families, or anything like that,” said Anderson.
“So, they’re very appreciative of the things that they have. I’m sure [receiving those sneakers] is something that kid will remember for the rest of his life. Alonzo’s grown a lot. That says a lot about his character and who he is as a person.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.