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Doherty stuns No. 1 St. John's.

Byline: Tom Flanagan

WORCESTER -- Doherty High senior Mitch Celaj was a vital but often unheralded part of the Highlanders' star-studded football state championship team last fall.

Last night, Celaj grabbed the spotlight and wrote his own chapter in the Doherty High hoops history book.

Celaj canned the winning jumper from the right elbow with 4 seconds left, then sealed the win with a steal on the ensuing possession to lift the Highlanders to a 59-54 win over top-ranked St. John's High.

Doherty, 8-5 and ranked No. 9 in the Hometeam media poll, fell behind by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, and on more than one occasion it appeared as if the Pioneers (12-3) were on the verge of turning the final quarter into a blowout.

But Doherty's defense never allowed that to happen, holding St. John's scoreless over the final 2:30 as the Highlanders closed their improbable victory with a 13-0 run.

"We just turned up the defense at the end of the game,'' said Doherty assistant Trevor Gray, subbing for coach Jermaine Chavis, who was sick. "(St. John's) had us on the ropes a few times, but we just hung in there and fought together like a family, and Money Mitch made the big plays.''

St. John's had what looked to be a comfortable 54-46 lead when Davon Jones (14 points) hit a free throw with 2:30 left, but Doherty put together a furious run behind an old reliable and a new face.

Senior Youssef Fodaile made a strong move in the paint, drew a foul and hit a pair from the line with 2:21 left. From there, junior transfer Tim Wilkins embarked on a personal 6-0 run that ended when he slashed to the rim for a layup that tied it at 54-54 with 45 seconds left.

Gray opted to put the game in Wilkins' hands out of a timeout, but his pullup jumper hit the front of the rim.

Celaj, however, grabbed the rebound and drilled a 15-footer to give his team a 56-54 lead.

St. John's had a shot to tie or win it, but Celaj came up with a steal near midcourt and, for good measure, canned a trey from halfcourt as the buzzer sounded.

"I thought Tim made a nice move and got a got a good look, but I knew I had to be ready to rebound if he missed,'' said Celaj, who finished with a career-high 20 points. "When I got the ball, I knew time was running out, so I figured I'd do what I do best -- shoot it.

"Then, on the steal, I figured (St. John's) would go to Adham (Floyd) or Davon, and when I saw the pass in the air, I just broke to the ball and was able to get it first.

"The 3-pointer? I didn't think that had a shot, but why not? It was our night.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Flanagan, Tom
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 30, 2014
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