St. Bernard's junior Andrew Baron lifted his team in front for good with a clutch, foul-line jumper with 20 seconds left as the Bernardians got past the tenacious Blue Knights in a Division 2 semifinal at WPI. For the seventh time since 1994, the Bernardians advance to the Central Mass. final, where they'll meet top-seeded Quabbin at noon Saturday at Fitchburg State. ‘‘I usually don't feel comfortable taking that shot so late in the game, but I was open, and I hit it,'' said the 6-foot-6 Baron, who made a key baseline steal at the other end seconds after his winning shot. Senior guard Andrew Pierce hit a foul shot with 4.7 seconds left to give the Bernardians the final three-point edge. ‘‘(Baron) had the courage to take the big shot at the end, just like he did against Gardner in the quarterfinal,'' said St. Bernard's coach Mark Pierce, whose teams have captured four Central Mass. championships since his first season in 1994. ‘‘Our kids were prepared for a close game. We play a brutal schedule, and all our games have been battles,'' Pierce said. ‘‘We've learned that you have to execute down the stretch.'' St. Bernard's junior guard John Crawley scored 24 points and a trio of 3-pointers to lead the Bernardians (14-10). Baron added 17 points and 18 rebounds, and senior forward Trent Hunt (4 points) had 19 boards.
Baron, a long time Middlesex Magic player, is now averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks per game over the three state tournament victories. Baron is the leading rebounder and backbone defender, and he and St. Bernard's are looking to continue their success against Quabbin Saturday, March 10th in the Division @ Central Mass Finals!