Kellyn Preira didn’t have time to weigh the options. If the St. Mary’s 5-foot-10-inch junior commits a foul and Rockland’s Julia Elie converts the layup and free throw, Rockland is the state champion.
But if she comes out of nowhere and blocks the shot, St. Mary’s is the state champion. And that’s what transpired in the final, frantic seconds of the Division 3 state final Friday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
In what St. Mary’s head coach Jeff Newhall is calling “the play of the year,” Kellyn Preira’s block of Julia Elie’s last-second shot sealed the Spartans’ 46-44 victory and a state championship.
Like John Havlicek’s steal for the Celtics in the 1965 Eastern Division finals, Pereira has a block for the Spartans that will stand the test of time.
Newhall credited Rockland coach Diane Newcomb for strategizing a well-executed play for the final sequence.
“But the more I watch the play, I think the more you have to give Kellyn credit for getting over the screen and regaining her balance and not being out of control and just blocking the ball at its highest point,” said Newhall. “Half of it is probably just athletic ability and the way she plays basketball, but there was some basketball acumen that went along with the play.”
Preira had 16 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks.
Asked to describe her final block, Preira said, “I was playing behind her and felt that screen and knew I had to get over it. I looked at her eyes and I knew she was going to get the ball. When she released the ball, that’s when I blocked it so there would be no fouls.”
When did she realize the magnitude of making the greatest defensive play in school history?
“Honestly, I feel like I don’t even know if it’s hit me yet,” said Preira. “A lot of people have asked me that question, and I don’t even know if I actually realize that play saved the game.”
Preira played to an All-Star caliber in all 29 games. She had a season-high 29-point performance versus Austin Prep while averaging 14 points a game.
Preira had back-to-back enormous defensive assignments in the Final Four, matching up with Cecilia Kay of Fenwick and Julia Elie of Rockland.
“Definitely my defense was my first priority,” related Preira.
She said the St. Mary’s team developed a strong bond during the season. “I love playing basketball with this team. Yirsy and I play AAU together with the MCW Stars. Just playing with my teammates on the court – it’s makes me feel more comfortable.”
Preira also praised the St., Mary’s coaching staff, led by Jeff Newhall.
“He’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve had,” said Preira. “He’s very smart with teaching the game to everyone, and that’s why a lot of kids that come to play basketball at St. Mary’s learn so much.”
An excellent student, Preira has begun looking at colleges, including the Ivy League’s Columbia and Brown, American University, Assumption, and Long Beach State.
Kellyn is the daughter of Daniel Preira and Yvette Preira. She has an older brother, Dylan Preira, 18.