What does it mean to be a champion?
I first experienced what it meant to be a champion 25 years ago by playing for Burke in the the Boston Public Schools basketball championships. A title meant your team was the best in the city. When I was younger, the girls of English High reigned supreme. Tonya Cardoza and Michelle Pelezer, along with many other great players on English, made it hard for others to win. Ernie Green was truly one of the most respected coaches in BPS girls' basketball. Most of his players went on to Division 1 or 2 college basketball. Going to college on a scholarship was the ultimate. However, walking through the neighborhood with your City Champion jacket seemed even sweeter.
I can recall in 1988 beating West Roxbury, 62-47, in the city semifinals. We came ready to win although the game started off close. Coach Lee Nieves would tell us every practice that, “we could win the city championship if we worked hard.” Although Nieves felt this way, the team needed to believe it. During the semifinals my teammates, Linda Parker (off guard) and Tarsha Baker (point guard) internalized these words. Parker, with her great defense, made a few steals during the game and helped me contribute 22 points in the win. However Baker, with her electrifying 3-point shot, hit a couple of three’s that got the crowd excited and on their feet. Not to minimize West Roxbury’s tenacious defense, but in the beginning of the 4th quarter it fell to those long practices and suicides that I hated to run.
We already knew who we would face in the finals if we won -- English High School and coach Erie Green. That game went to the wire. I got into foul trouble early and spent most of the time on the bench. I contributed 16 points and 18 rebounds but it was definitely a team effort that day. With just 12 seconds left, Marie Washington got fouled on the way to the basket. Her two free throws won the game and we beat English and made history with a 58-56 win.
Wow! We won! I couldn’t believe it. All our hard work paid off, but we learned together what it meant to be a champion and together we wore our jackets as a proud TEAM.
Brandy Cruthird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.