WORCESTER -- In order to keep its mission to claim a third straight Central Mass. Division 2 title, the St. Bernard's boys' basketball team had a mighty challenge ahead of it in top-seeded Concord-Carlisle.

Unfortunately for the fourth-seeded Bernardians, that was too tough an obstacle to overcome, as the Patriots left WPI's Harrington Auditorium with a 65-53 victory Monday night to earn a trip to the CMass title game.

Concord-Carlisle will face seventh-seeded Hopkinton -- 68-49 winners over Westboro -- at 11 a.m. on Saturday at WPI for the Central Mass. crown and one of the four spots in the state tournament.

Concord-Carlisle star Blaine Taylor moves into the lane against two St. Bernard’s defenders. SUN/SCOTT LAPRADESun staff photos can be ordered by
Concord-Carlisle star Blaine Taylor moves into the lane against two St. Bernard's defenders. SUN/SCOTT LAPRADE

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"As has been the case all year, our defense carried us. We made it tough for them to score," C-C head coach David Cohen said. "We feed off of that."

The Dual County League powers from Concord improved to 19-2. The Patriots defeated Groton-Dunstable in the quarterfinals, 77-44.

Trailing by three at halftime, the Bernardians (13-9) started the second half on a 6-2 run to take a 38-35 lead. But that turned out to be the last lead St. B's would hold as Concord-Carlisle answered with an 11-0 spurt.

"The lead didn't last very long," St. Bernard's head coach Mark Pierce said. "They played well all night. We didn't get many clean looks. I thought we got the ball inside pretty well early, but (Blaine) Taylor is tough in there."

Austin Hoey (eight points) hit a pair of free throws before Taylor (13 points) rattled off three of the next Patriots points and Concord-Carlisle never looked back.

"We made a run in the third there, but we didn't hit free throws down the stretch," Pierce said. "We tried to play a lot of guys tonight, but ultimately you need to go out and make shots. They did that tonight and we didn't."

The Bernardians struggled to string together stops and scores -- missing a dozen free throws in the game -- down the stretch, closing to within nine at 62-53 on a Garrett Stephenson hoop with 1:09 left, but Jamir Henderson (13 points) sealed the game by hitting three of four from the stripe in the final minute.

"We've been consistent on the defensive end all year," Cohen said.

Stephenson was unstoppable in the post in the first half, pouring in 10 of his game-high 20 points, but the Bernardians also racked up the fouls and the Patriots spent much of the first half at the line, going 6 for 10 from the stripe.

"We started shooting from the perimeter," Pierce said of going away from Stephenson. "We tried going back to him in the fourth quarter, but it was too late."

C-C claimed its biggest lead of a fast-paced first quarter on a highlight reel, halfcourt shot by Henderson to push the lead to 21-14.

Concord-Carlisle couldn't put the Bernardians away easily though. C-C had six players score between 8-14 points.

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