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New Mission and English ready for fresh starts

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 30, 2013 07:05 PM

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New Mission baseball coach Modesto Gomez instructs Gabe Sanchez during practice. A year after winning the city championship with Boston English High, Gomez is launching the new baseball program at New Mission. (Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe)

While it may seem like English and New Mission’s baseball teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum, the teams have similar themes as they get ready to launch the 2013 season.

Coach Modesto Gomez has taken the coaching duties for New Mission in the new baseball program's pilot season. He also happened to be the head coach for English last season in their city championship run.

“It was great for the city, how the team became city champs. Especially at English High,” said Ricardo Figueroa, who has filled the void left by Gomez as English’s head coach. “It was a great accomplishment for him and the school too and the city.”

While Figueroa transitioned from O’Bryant, it is a homecoming for Gomez. Before coaching at English, he held the head coach position at Hyde Park high school for eight years.

“I guess it’s a little more nostalgic for me to come back to Hyde Park again,” Gomez said. “It wasn’t the main reason, it was just a challenge and I really like the idea of starting all over again.”

Starting over is exactly what Gomez will be doing. With the exception of shortstop Ansel Rivera and outfielder Jomar Ventura, two New Mission students who played for English last season, Gomez will have a team full of new players. While many will be New Mission students, the team will also be composed of students from Boston Community Leadership Academy.

“It’s fresh, everything is new,” Gomez said. “I like the feeling that everything is new and that makes me work harder.”

Figueroa on the other hand will have a different motivating factor for his ball club. The defending city champions are clearly still the team to beat, according to Gomez.

“I feel comfortable with that. I’ve been through championship teams in my years as a ball player and I feel really comfortable with that. No pressure,” Figueroa said.

With a defense as good as English’s it’s not too hard to feel relaxed. Figueroa even noted it as the biggest strength for the team going into the season.

“We have kids that really know how to handle the glove and we have the arms too,” Figueroa said. “It’s going to be awesome this year. I have high expectations for my team this year.”

Even with the high expectations, the first year coach of English knew that the competition in the city league would not be lacking. He noted both Latin Academy and Madison Park as competitive squads, as well as New Mission.

“He has enough experience to make a good transition,” Figueroa said. “He’s going to be able to make a decent club over there at New Mission.”

But for the coach of the brand new program, it’s all about taking things day by day.

“Just taking baby steps right now and taking it one year at a time and we’ll see,” Gomez said.

That philosophy may be the biggest difference between the two coaches.

“I was thinking the other day about the big picture but I think we’re going to be a top contender at the end,” Figueroa said. “Watch out.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Softball preview capsules

Posted by Justin Rice March 29, 2013 02:01 PM

NORTH DIVISION

East Boston

Coach: Thomas Elliot (27th year)

Last year: 12-9

Strengths: As always, the Jets will bring it from the pitching circle. They might not strike out the side each time out, but they throw strikes, coach Thomas Elliot said.

Concerns: The Jets graduated their shortstop, second baseman and best outfielder from last year’s team.

Outlook: The Jets look to get back to the city championship this spring and avenge their loss to Latin Academy in the title game.

“I believe we are going to make it back to the city playoffs and the state tournament,” Elliot said. “The outlook is looking pretty good overall it’s just a matter of coach Elliot putting it all together with the kids.

“They are a great group of girls. So far they have been showing a positive attitude for the first two weeks of practice. I think their spirit and enthusiasm will carry us.”

Elliot also expects senior utility player Amanda Pomer to step up into the starting lineup this year.

Returning starters: Junior pitcher Stephanie Rizzo, sophomore pitcher Daniel Elliot, sophomore catcher Annamaria Dargenio, senior center fielder Vanessa Vernadie, junior outfielder Hannah Lunetta.

O’Bryant

Coach: Bridget Ryan (second year)

Last year: 11-8

Strengths: All but three players from last year’s squad are back for more this spring. The team will feature six returning seniors and has a strong junior class.

Concerns: Like most spring coaches, O’Bryant coach Bridget Ryan is worried that the lack of outdoor practice time has put them behind this spring.

Outlook: Minus three seniors from last year’s squad that made the city tournament for the second straight year, O’Bryant returns almost its entire squad from last year. Not only that, many of the returning players honed their skills in summer and fall leagues after last season.

“The kids have a lot of heart and desire and they work really hard,” Ryan said. “A lot of them play in the off-season, in fall, summer and spring leagues. It’s huge because their arms are warmed up; they’ve been hitting, I had a lot of kids that have been to the batting cages.”

Ryan said last year she got the job late in the year and this year she already has a jump on the season. In her first year, Ryan lost to Latin Academy in the first round of the city championships.

“I think we have a great chance of getting back to the city championships again this year and definitely making states,” Ryan said. “Last year, I was hired really late; I got hired and the next day schedules were due. I didn’t get a chance to look at who we played.

“This year we are playing Randolph, we are going to Martha’s Vineyard. Our JV team has almost 15 games. Last year they had five because of all the rain.”

Returning starters: Senior pitcher Kristen O’Brien, senior shortstop Valerie Nieves, senior first baseman Iryelis Lopez, sophomore center field Irgi Budo, senior left fielder Arlette Reyes, eighth grade second baseman Naya Shed, junior catcher Netta Harris.

Burke

Coach: Joanne Lee Nieves

Last year: 7-8

Strengths: The Bulldogs have a solid group of veteran seniors returning to the team this spring.

Concerns: As usual, pitching and outfielders will be an issue for Burke.

Outlook: Last year’s team just missed making the state tournament by one game, and this year's squad is looking to go .500.

“Maybe a little bit better this year,” coach Joanne Lee Nieves said. “Half of the team is going to be veterans and the other half will be ninth graders. At least six ninth graders. So it’s going to be partially a lot of teaching this year and getting ready for next year.”

She said she has five veterans who can help teach the freshman.

“That’s the good part about it,” she said. “I’m hoping that is going to be my strength, because the rest are all brand new.”

Returning starters: Senior catcher and pitcher Brenda Calderon, senior first baseman Merline Aherents, senior shortstop Whanellely Guerro, senior third baseman Rene Pierre, senior pitcher Madorah Sesay

Fenway

Coach: Joseph Cheung (seventh year)

Last year: 4-12

Strengths: Despite their lack of check marks in the W column last year, Fenway is one of the most enthusiastic and supportive teams in the city league. They also feature the Escolero twins (Lorena and Laura) who helped Fenway’s basketball team win a state championship this winter for the second straight year.

Concerns: The Panthers will play a young team with only one returning senior this spring and two returning juniors. But while they are learning the game for the first time, they are eager to learn, coach Joseph Cheung said.

Outlook: Cheung not only hopes that the success of the Fenway girls’ basketball team rubs off on his team, he also hopes that their star player, Tajanay Veiga-Lee, comes out for softball this spring.

“I think that the basketball team obviously sets the gold standard for our school athletics and we just want to continue that positive energy and do the best we can and really represent our school in a way we can be proud of,” Cheung said.

“I have [Veiga-Lee] in class. I teach the seniors. I spoke to her. I still haven’t seen paperwork. I don’t want to get my hopes up. … I assume she is pretty good. She told me ever since she was a freshman she used to play baseball.”

Veiga-Lee, who said during the basketball season that she wanted to pay softball for the first time this spring, is still waiting to hear back from colleges about basketball scholarships and is unsure if she will play for the softball team. She recently worked out for Providence College.

Returning starters: Sophomore second baseman Laura Escolero, sophomore shortstop Lauren Escolero, junior first baseman and outfield Ariana Martinez, sophomore pitcher Deja Casiano, sophomore left field third baseman Kayleen Gomez, sophomore outfielder Khadeejah Peete, senior pitcher Malaysia Thomas, sophomore right fielder Vanesa Guevara.

Madison Park

Coach: Gladys Perez-Byrd (23rd season)

Last year: 9-6

Strengths: While only four players return to the Cardinals program that lost in the first round of state tournament last spring, the team should remain a cohesive unit as many of the same players also play volleyball in the fall together for coach Gladys Perez-Byrd.

Concerns: After graduating seven seniors last year, Madison Park lost its best pitcher, catcher, shortstop and center fielder.

Outlook: Despite the team's lack of experience, Madison Park is always an athletic team with a shot at making the city tournament every year.

“That would be our ultimate goal as a team, that’s usually what we’re striving for,” said Perez-Byrd’s, whose team last made the city tournament two years ago. “I honestly have no idea [if we can get back]. The middle of my field is weak and that’s where you have to be strongest. I’m training everything up the middle from catcher to pitcher to center field to shortstop so it’s going to be a tough year for us.”

But many of the players play volleyball for Perez-Byrd as well.

“The kids know each other, they trust each other, they get along well with each other,” she said. “They are a super group of kids. They are willing to learn from each other. I’ve manged to instill in them always help each other out.”

Returning starters: Senior first base Krystal Edwards, senior utility Dayna Santana, junior second baseman Katira Andujar.

Snowden

Coach: June Robinson

Last year: 8-8

Strengths: Snowden looks to return five key players from last year’s squad that qualified for the state tournament.

Concerns: At the same time, Snowden will have a lot of new players this spring just learning the basics of the game.

Outlook: With a veteran coach, Snowden is always a team to look out for given that June Robinson is used to working with new batches of players.
“I think we’ll probably have a lot of new girls,” she said. “I usually carry 15 [players]. I’ll have five girls with experience.”

Returning starters: Junior utility Stephanie Morales, junior infielder Anna Ortiz, junior infielder Alexandria Deler, senior pitcher Cheyenne Sulfaro

SOUTH DIVISION

Latin Academy

Coach: Rocco Zizza (eighth year)

Last year: 12-10

Strengths: The defending city champions five seasons running return eight starting position players as well as three pitchers from last year’s squad. That includes senior pitcher Sydney McGrath, who is 32-0 when pitching against city teams.

Concerns: Latin Academy’s home field Playstead Park is still undergoing renovations so the Dragons will be displaced once again this spring, playing their home games at Malcolm X Field.

Outlook: As always, the Dragons are the favorites to win the city championships. But Zizza says their biggest challenge will be to maintain consistency against city league and non-league opponents as Latin Academy traditionally struggles against teams outside the city.

Last year, they lost in the second round of the state tournament to Marion.

“It’s par for us to play very good softball and not have a very impressive record because 14 of our games are outside the city,” Zizza said. “The thing is I tell the kids ‘Try hard and give a consistent effort and consistently improve.’ Those are the two most things we strive for and a lot of times our record does not dictate that.”

Returning starters: Senior pitcher Sydney McGrath, senior catcher Aurora O’Brien, senior first baseman Virginia McCaughey, sophomore second baseman sophomore Juliann Coleman, junior shortstop Rachel Kerrigan, junior third baseman Eliza Laden Mauro, junior left fielder Colby Cahill, junior center fielder Rachel Wells, freshman right field Anna Kopp, sophomore designated hitter Alexis Kenney.

Brighton

Varsity Coach: Victoria Barbato (first year)

Last year: 9-9

Strengths: The Bengals’ biggest strength is that the team draws upon three different schools: Brighton High, Another Course to College and the Mary Lyons School.

Concerns: At the same time, however, the team loses players from Boston Community Leadership Academy, which is now playing with New Mission in Hyde Park.

Outlook: Last year, Brighton beat South Boston 24-12 in the preliminary round of the Division 3 North state tournament before losing to Greater Lowell 23-0 in the first round. But many of the leaders on that team attend BCLA and will play for New Mission this year, meaning this year will be a rebuilding year for the Bengals.

“We will miss those players who have grown up in our program,” Brighton coach Victoria Barbato said via email. “This year, we will be focusing on training new players and educating them on the game. … We are looking at this year as a learning year and a year for our girls to form relationships with each other that will allow them to function as a solid whole.

“At the same time, we are excited to welcome more girls from the Mary Lyons school who have a lot of experience in the sport and have a lot to offer in terms of skill level. We also look forward to discovering new talent and having space to welcome new girls who have wanted to play in the past but have thought they couldn’t make it. We are very optimistic about our season!”

Returning starters: Senior second baseman Kristiana Torres, senior pitcher and left fielder Crystal Figueroa, senior first baseman and center fielder Christy Cruz.

Dorchester

Coach: Richard Moran (sixth year)

Last year: 9-6

Strengths: After being knocked out of the first round of the state tournament last year, Dorchester returns a number of starters from last spring, including two seniors.

Concerns: Unfortunately for the Bears, they did lose last year’s main pitcher, catcher and first baseman.

Outlook: Dorchester coach Rich Mora also coaches football at the school. This past fall, Dorchester came from nowhere to go undefeated during the regular season before losing in the Super Bowl. He hopes to repeat that magic on the softball diamond this spring.

The school’s boys’ basketball team also went to the city tournament this winter.

“I think it has [rubbed off],” he said. “This year especially, the football and the basketball and track teams did well. I’m a firm believer in that. I think it does [rub off]. I don’t think it’s me personally. I think establishing a winning tradition there is a carryover. I think it has. Whether it feeds into the girls I don’t know. So I hope so. I try to bring that.”

But it will be tough to do without last season’s pitcher, catcher and first baseman.

“We have to try to fill them, pitcher, catcher and first base, those are the big things with softball,” Moran said. “We’ll find somebody. Softball is like football in that it’s always an adventure.

“The biggest problem is kids don’t play a lot. Softball and baseball you have to have been playing since you were eight. Football, if you are tough and have a little heart you can find a spot for them. The girls have to play for a long time to be good. I’m teaching kids to catch, throw.”

Returning starters: Senior third baseman Jeanette Sepulveea, sophomore shortstop Jasmine Sudau.

Boston English

Coach: Jenelle Corey (first year)

Last year: 1-10

Strengths: Last year’s record is not an indication of the talent and heart among English’s returning players. The new players also have a lot of potential according to first-year coach Jenelle Corey.

Concerns: Learning how to win will be an issue for English.

Outlook: First-year softball coach Janelle Corey is also a first-year chemistry teacher at the school. She played high school softball in California but couldn’t continue in college because she injured her shoulder.

Her enthusiasm matches a English squad that lobbied the athletic department to have its team reinstated last year after the team was slated to be shut down for forfeiting too many games the previous year.

“I’m excited to see where we go with it this year,” Corey said. “I personally don’t know a lot of about the other teams since I’m new to the area but I’m excited to see what we can do this year compared to last year.

“My approach is just to work on fundamentals and expand from there. That’s our approach. We’ve been working really hard on fundamentals and now we’re going to see what happens this next week coming up in our first game; to see if we can translate that into a win on the field.”

This is also Corey’s first year as a head coach.

“I’m sure that there will be new challenges but I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I’m excited to meet all those challenges and the high bar of a head coach.”

Returning starters: Junior catcher Heidy Barriero, sophomore pitcher Nelsy Barriero, senior first baseman Olga Pena, junior shortstop Lorena Labour, junior second baseman Niurkys Arias, senior third baseman Zaidy Santiago

South Boston

Coach: Mary Linehan (sixth year)

Last year: 11-7

Strengths: Senior first baseman Sydney Cunningham returns to the lineup for the first time after getting injured in the fourth game of the season last year. Nevertheless, last year’s team found a lot of success during the regular season before losing to Brighton in the first round of states.

Concerns: South Boston only returns one player from last year’s team after graduating seven seniors.

Outlook: Despite losing most of her team to graduation, South Boston coach Mary Linehan remains hopeful.

“I’m hoping that we come around,” she said. “If we get into the playoffs that would be great. That’s what we’re going to try for but I don’t know how the other teams will be looking. I think everybody is in the same boat. A lot of people graduated quite a few players.

“Honestly I don’t know what my team is going to look like. I’m not sure but I’m hopeful I can pick up some of the kids who played baseball, maybe some volleyball players. I am definitely going to need a pitcher, catcher; the whole nine yards.”

Returning starters: Senior first baseman Sydney Cunningham.

West Roxbury

Coach: Grace Diggs (27th year)

Last year: 5-5

Strengths: West Roxbury returns six solid players from last year that look to make their mark this season. They all have played for two or three years.

Concerns: Coach Grace Diggs worries about competing against her players' other conflicts, including jobs, school work and social commitments.

Outlook: West Roxbury only graduated one or two seniors last year and if everyone returns to the diamond this spring they could be a team to contend with.

“That’s the if,” Diggs said. “Some of them have jobs and say they can’t make this game and boyfriends and all that stuff. I would say if everyone comes back who was there it would be [a good season.]”

Returning starters: Senior pitcher Marissa Serette, senior left fielder/shortstop Cathy Lopez, senior first baseman/catcher Selena Gonzalez, senior catcher/shortstop Nadia Ellis, senior second baseman Nekia Ellis, senior center fielder Mackala McPherson, and senior right fielder Kathy Chavez.

New Mission

Coach: Cory McCarthy (sixth year)

Last year: 7-9

Strengths: Power and pitching will be New Mission’s strengths this year.

Concerns: The Titans graduated their All-Star catcher from last season and coach Cory McCarthy also worries about his team’s mental toughness.

Outlook: After losing 10 seniors from last year’ squad, New Mission inherits 12 players from Boston Community Leadership Academy that played for a Brighton last year. That Brighton team beat South Boston in the state tournament.

In fact, those 12 players make up the majority of the team’s 18-girl roster.

“I expect a very strong year from us because we have two players that can play every position,” coach Cory McCarthy said of freshmen Katy Koftigen and Samantha Olivencia.

Alison Davey will be a strong anchor for the Titans behind the plate and the Titans have three good pitchers, including senior Nicole Sandell.

“She is blazing fast,” McCarthy said.

Returning starters: Junior pitcher Nichole Beatty.

Latin Academy ace McGrath is pitch perfect in city league going into senior year

Posted by Justin Rice March 29, 2013 01:42 PM

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Boston Latin Academy's Sydney McGrath pitches during the city softball championship against East Boston at Cobe Field last spring. McGrath, who is 32-0 against city teams, helped Latin Academy to a 5-2 victory for the team's fifth straight city championship. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe).

Sydney McGrath recently went shopping for a prom dress. But senior prom will not be the only highlight for Latin Academy’s ace pitcher this spring.

McGrath — who has played on the Dragons’ softball squad since she was in seventh grade and her older sister, Rachel, was a junior on the team — will play this year with her younger sister, Olivia, (an eighth grader) this spring.

“It’s awesome because my passion is softball so the more I get to play at a high level I love it,” McGrath said during a telephone interview while she was dress shopping for the prom. “In eighth grade, my sister was senior so I got to look up to her, following in her footsteps is awesome.

“It’s just been a great experience. I think senior year will be even better.”

Olivia, who was along for the dress search, is looking forward to playing with big sis too.

“I’m just looking forward to having a good season, to have fun playing with her and just have a good last year because I might not play with her ever again,” she said.

Senior year has one more little bit of intrigue for McGrath as well: She’s 32-0 pitching against Boston City League teams during her tenure with the Dragons.

Not all the city league teams play up to Latin Academy’s level of softball but McGrath said there is still pressure to pitch well against them as the Dragons shoot for their sixth straight city championship.

“There’s still pressure because my team counts on me and BLA has a title to maintain and there is definitely pressure no matter who we are playing," she said. "Going into my senior year, I definitely want to maintain that.”

McGrath hasn’t left senior year up to chance either.

Aside from competing on the Dragon’s city championship swim team this winter, she has also been training with a private hitting and pitching coach several times a week.

“Swimming helps keeps my breathing in check [when I’m] pushing off the mound, it helps so much with my muscles and maintain stability and endurance,” she said. “If I’m pitching 120 pitches a game I’m going to get tired, just stay healthy to the point where I can pitch as many pitches as I need to.”

McGrath has also added a screwball and curveball to her repertoire, bringing her arsenal to a total of six pitches: fast ball, changeup, drop, rise, screwball and curveball.

“I worked so hard trying to perfect my changeup, my curveball and screwball,” she said.
“I’ve seen so much improvement so I’m so excited to throw those more during season … I like the screwball. It just fools hitters so much. I love seeing it. It comes at you straight and looks like a fastball and at the last second it breaks into a right-handed batter so you have to pull back and up on your hands. It spins inward to you. I see a lot of people jump back from them thinking it’s going to hit them and it lands on the inside corner.”

Latin Academy coach Rocco Zizza said McGrath’s strikeout to walk ration in city league games is four to one.

“She very rarely walks someone,” Zizza said.

Despite all her success, McGrath still hasn’t made it past the second round of the state tournament during her tenure on the team.

“I think it will just take dedication from everyone on the team and working hard in practice,” she said. “I think if we perfect our plays and just clean up on the field a little bit, I know we can do that so I’m excited.”

If Latin Academy doesn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs this year, the McGrath family not only has Olivia coming up, but another sister who is in elementary school as well.

“I think we all learn so much from each other and knowing you have someone to look up to helps,” McGrath said of her older sister Rachel, who captains the swim team at Secret Heart University in Connecticut. “I know Olivia knows if she’s struggling on pitching or has an off day she can look to the bench and say ‘Sydney, what am I doing wrong?’

“I know in my experience having Rachel there just definitely calmed me down on the mound and I know Olivia thinks that too.”

McGrath carries a 3.36 GPA and hopes to play college softball. She has been accepted to Emmanuel College, Bryant University, Catholic University, American University, Scranton, UMass Lowell, St. John’s and Pace University and is still waiting to hear from Holy Cross and George Washington.

“Being able to play college softball has been one of my dreams since I was 12,” she said. “Being on a college softball team would broaden my talent and horizons so much.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Latin Academy falls short against Cambridge in boys' volleyball season opener

Posted by Justin Rice March 28, 2013 06:30 PM

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Despite coming up short against Cambridge Rindge & Latin on Thursday afternoon, the Latin Academy's boys' volleyball team was pleased with its effort against the defending state champs. (Justin A. Rice / For the Boston Globe)

At the start of the third and final set of the Latin Academy boys’ volleyball team’s season opening 3-0 loss to rival Cambridge Rindge & Latin on Thursday afternoon, senior middle hitter Fritz Jolivian served the ball before the referee blew her whistle.

“Wait for the whistle,” Latin Academy assistant coach Hung Tran shouted.

“It’s his first game, come on,” head coach Phuong Cao replied.

Aside from that small transgression, the four-year Latin Academy basketball player could not have played better in his first competitive volleyball game.

“I’m a rookie to the sport, I didn’t really know what was going on,” said Jolivian, who never touched a volleyball before practice started about three or four weeks ago. “I’ll definitely clean that up and get it better."

Cao, who has been trying to convince the Dragons' basketball players to come out for his team since he took over the program four years ago, could not be more pleased to finally have some athletes on his team who can play above the net.

Even though Latin Academy lost (25-23, 25-22, 25-19) to the defending state champs, Cao said the match was the closest he’s ever come to beating Cambridge in his tenure.

“Finally a couple of [basketball players] decided to join the team this year,” said Cao, who also convinced junior basketball player Darren Chanel to play this spring. “I wish they had last year so they could learn a little bit about the game. It was their first game and I think they did pretty well for their first time playing volleyball for us.

“[Fritz] picked up the game very fast. So hopefully with more time he’ll get the game down by the end of the season. We play these guys again at the end of the year so we’ll see how it goes.”

In the past, Cao has struggled to get basketball players to join the team partially because there has been a stigma at the school that volleyball is only for Asians. That was not an issue for Jolivian.

“I go to school with Asians all the time so it’s not really something that affected me,” Jolivian said. “I’m friends with a lot of them, I take classes with them. So being on the volleyball is nothing different … I decided since I’m a senior and it will be my last chance to do something with the school I decided why not, and I decided to play volleyball.”

Latin Academy trailed for much of the first set before knotting the score at 16. The Dragons even scored the next three points. But Cambridge 6-foot-8-inch senior Jalen Penrose (19 kills) tied the game at 22 with a hard spike before his team took the set, 25-23.

Penrose, who is close to signing with Penn State, had five spikes in the second set as Cambridge took it 25-22.

Penrose’s mother, Kelley Leary, coaches Cambridge and she said she was happy to see Latin Academy compete harder against her squad.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “BLA is a good program. Phuong is doing a great job. A lot of these kids play club so it’s fun. Some of my kids know their kids. He’s got some good talent in the middle, a lot of good blocking and good digging."

She also noticed Fritz in the middle of the court.

“The middle jumped pretty high,” she said. “I was pretty excited about that. I was pretty happy for him.”

Phuong said the biggest advantage to having a player who is a threat above the net is that the rest of his players don’t have as much ground to cover.

Team captain Jianyi Huang said the game gives them confidence moving forward even though they lost.

“It’s great to have Fritz on the team because we really need some hitters,” he said. “Two of our hitters left us last year so it’s really good to have some basketball players join us because they are tall and they have great potential if they get better at hitting.”

The teams will meet again at the end of the regular season.

“This is our first game together, so there’s a lot of chemistry left to be built,” Jolivian said. “I feel like we could get them next time.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Revolution fashion show to benefit America SCORES Boston

Posted by Justin Rice March 28, 2013 10:40 AM

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New England Revolution players, wives and girlfriends will model looks from Ted Baker London’s spring/summer line to raise money for America SCORES Boston on April 3 at BOND at The Langham Hotel in downtown Boston.

America SCORES Boston partners with elementary and middle schools in Boston public schools to provide team-based programs that integrates soccer, poetry and service-learning.

Revolution players Kevin Alston, Darius Barnes, Andy Dorman, Lee Nguyen, Saer Sene and A.J. Soares will serve as models along with team wives and girlfriends.

The evening is emceed by WHDH-TV Anchor Sarah French and features raffles, music and more. Dellaria Salons & Spas’ hair and make-up artists will style the models while DJ Joe Bermudez provides music.

A ticket including a 6:30 p.m. VIP Reception costs $50 while a general admission ticket to the 7:30 p.m. fashion show is $25.

Tickets for the 21-plus event are available in advance at RevsFashionShow.eventbrite.com

For more information call 617.956.8765.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Celtics host Stay in School assembly at Jackson Mann

Posted by Justin Rice March 28, 2013 10:22 AM

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Paul Pierce headlined a Stay in School assembly at the Jackson Mann school in Alston earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of the Boston Celtics)

Boston Celtics Paul Pierce, Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams visited with students at the Jackson Mann School and Horace Mann School for the Deaf earlier this week as part of the Celtics' Stay in School program.

Sponsored by Arbella Insurance Group, the assembly honored high-achieving students and encouraged them to continue to take pride in their school work.

The players emphasized the use of the acronym P.R.I.D.E., which stands for Perseverance; Respect; Integrity; Decisions; Education. The players also conducted a mini basketball clinic and left tickets to an upcoming Celtics home game to reward students.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.


City Council honors Volley Against Violence

Posted by Justin Rice March 28, 2013 09:56 AM

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The Boston City Council recognized the Sportsmen's Tennis & Enrichment Center's Volley Against Violence program with a formal proclamation on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Sportsmen's Tennis & Enrichment Center

The Boston City Council on Wednesday honored the Sportsmen's Tennis & Enrichment Center's Volley Against Violence program with a formal proclamation.

The motion recognizes Sportsmen's Executive Director Toni Wiley and Frank Williams, founder of the Boston Police Tennis Program, for their creation of the Volley Against Violence program.

The free tennis program serves roughly 140 Boston youth every Friday night at the Dorchester tennis club. It is sponsored by The Boston Foundation and Tufts Medical Center.

Many of the youth are transported to the tennis center by Boston Police officers, who help run the program.

"The evening begins with a discussion of the topic of the week, such as goal setting, teamwork, or respect, for example," according to a press release. "Then, children enjoy ninety minutes of tennis, with drills and games led by STEC coaches and Boston Police officers who have received special training through a US Tennis Association Recreational Coaches Workshop.

"A spirited relay race follows, and the evening ends with a pizza party."

The motion to recognize the program was sponsored by City Councilor Tito Jackson of Roxbury.

For further information about Volley Against Violence or other youth programs offered at Sportsmen's, contact Toni Wiley at (617) 288-9092.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Bengals roar, lead Red team victory in City All-Star game

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 23, 2013 08:08 PM

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Brighton junior guard Malik James guards South Boston's Phil Lodge. James and the Red team won the Boston City League All-Star game on Saturday at Northeastern's Cabot Center. (Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)

Among the city’s best players, the state champions still shined brightest in the Dr. Joseph Warren Boston City League All-Star game.

Brighton’s Malik James, Nate Simpson, Daivon Edwards and Prince Unaegbu combined for 41 points in the Red team’s 71-63 win over the Blue team.

“To be able to celebrate as the city and state champs and then come out here and say you know what? ‘We’re going to coach our guys for the last time in the All-Star game and to a win,” Red team coach Hugh Coleman said.

With just a 2-point lead at the end of the third quarter, the Red team needed a jumpstart to their offense in the closing minutes if they hoped to the get the prize of being recognized at halftime of the Celtics-Wizards game April 7.

“They add the Celtics tickets in there and just like the NBA All-Star game, fourth quarter, it’s time to win,” Coleman said.

After four minutes in the quarter had passed and Coleman found his team down 3, he went with the four players with the strongest chemistry on the squad.

The Red team’s last 13 points were scored by Bengals, earning the squad bragging rights for the coming months and a trip to the TD Garden.

“It feels good, to go back to the Garden especially. Last time we came out there victorious, now we’re going back,” Unaegbu said. “I was happy to be back on the floor with them, for the last time probably, because those are my brothers. I love them.”

The All-Star game capped off senior years for Edwards and Unaegbu. James also won’t be returning to Brighton, as he will be moving on to prep school.

It looked as if coach Jeremy Silva’s All-Star game would end up as a win after the first half. The Blue team led, 42-33, after the first half thanks to a big 7-point second quarter from Charlestown’s Taris Wilson.

“It was definitely fun. I still can’t beat Brighton, but it was fun,” Silva said.

Silva wouldn’t say that Brighton’s players having less rust as a result of the state tournament gave their team an advantage. However the South Boston coach did agree with Coleman in chemistry being a huge factor.

“All the kids know each other, but it helps when you play together a lot. I think they had that advantage there,” Silva said. “We just wanted to make sure we had as much playing time as possible for everybody, have as much fun as we could and I think we had as much fun as we could, so it’s a success in that respect.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

McIntyre fills in for Veiga-Lee as Blue squad wins girls' Boston City League All-Star game

Posted by Justin Rice March 23, 2013 05:13 PM

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Fenway freshman Takora McIntyre drives to the basket in the first quarter of the Boston City League All-Star game at Northeastern on Saturday afternoon. Filling in for senior Tajanay Veiga-Lee, McIntyre helped the Blue squad beat the Red squad 50-47 at the Cabot Center. (Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)

Takora just might be the new Taj.

Without Fenway senior point guard Tajanay Veiga-Lee and South Boston point guard Elaina Wright-McCarthy in the lineup, the Blue squad managed to win the Dr. Joseph Warren Boston City League All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon with Fenway freshman Takora McIntyre playing point guard for much of the 50-47 victory.

Veiga-Lee couldn’t play in her fourth consecutive All-Star game at Northeastern’s Cabot Center because she was working out for the Providence College coaches and Wright-McCarthy was out of the lineup with an injury.

“It was a pleasure, I actually never met her before, I’ve never seen her play, I can’t recall seeing her play, but she was awesome,” Blue coach Emily Coleman said. “She came out of nowhere. She’s a pleasure ... She played with so much grace, like she’s been there before. She played with such leadership.

"She’s a very tough player, very tough player.”

The victory also means that the Blue team gets to attend the April 7 Celtics game against the Washington Wizards, during which they will be honored on the floor at halftime.

“It’s really exciting to have an opportunity to do this,” Coleman said. “This was really fun. The girls were great. Nobody had any issues about playing time, I tried to even it out, but they are excited that collectively we are going to experience something at the Garden.”

The Red team came close to returning to the Garden for a second straight year. But McIntyre, who tied for a team-high 10 points with Madison Park’s Amber Edwards, stole the ball in front of the Red team’s bench in the final seconds.

New Mission’s DeAndra Humphries (11 points) managed to get the ball back for the Red team but her last-ditch, half-court buzzer-beater clanked off the rim.

“I was just thinking ‘Don’t let her shoot it, don’t shoot it,’ and then I see the ball coming and I grabbed it,” McIntyre said of her final steal. “I was thinking the only way we’re going to beat this team is if we all worked hard on defense so I felt that we all put all our effort into defense and that’s how we won.”

McIntyre’s steal came after South Boston’s Daitannah Smith (6 points) split a pair of free throws to put Blue up 3 points with 9.5 seconds let.

“I thought I was going to miss it because I was struggling the whole game, but my team had confidence in me so I had to make that one,” Smith said.

O’Bryant junior Raven Kelsey (game-high 12 points) scored to put the Red team down 49-47 with 58 seconds left. She also scored 3 points in the Red team’s 8-2 run that cut Blue’s lead to 40-38 with 4:16 to play.

Kelsey said they were rushing their shots before they finally made a comeback.

“We had to move the ball around,” she said. “Once we moved the ball around we got open shots and open layups and we took our time.”

Blue took a 38-30 lead into the final quarter after McIntyre scored 4 points and added two assists in a 12-2 run to close out the third quarter.

“Her defense is incredible and she’s really small, so in every possession she’s there in every possession,” Kelsey said of McIntyre. “You have to protect the ball at all times.”

Even though Kelsey said she knew the game would be tough even without Veiga-Lee because McIntyre was a more than suitable sub, she hesitated to call McIntyre the new Veiga-Lee.

“Taj is definitely talented but I knew they had a whole bunch of other people like Takora so it would still be balanced out,” Kelsey said before adding, “I don’t think she would be happy if I told her [she’s the new Veiga-Lee] but they are definitely both talented.”

McIntyre, however, didn’t seem to mind the comparison and said she aims to make four straight All-Star games just like her mentor.

“I always look up to Taj,” McIntyre said. “Coming in as a freshman I’m looking to do the same as her.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Mayor Menino's Game of the Week to feature City All-Star games

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 22, 2013 06:11 PM

Boston City TV wraps up live coverage of the 2013 high school basketball this season on Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m., as the city’s best girls' and boys' basketball stars compete in the 2013 All-City Basketball Classic, presented by the Boston Scholar Athlete Foundation at Northeastern University’s Cabot Center.

The girls kick off their All-Star Showcase at 2 p.m., followed by the boys at 4 p.m. These games can be viewed live on Boston City TV (Comcast Ch. 24 & RCN Ch. 13) and online at: www.cityofboston.gov/cable/live.asp.

All of this season’s games featured on Mayor Menino’s Game of the Week can be found online at www.cityofboston.gov/gameoftheweek.

O'Bryant's Brock gets Alfreda Harris coach of the year award

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 21, 2013 10:44 PM

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O'Bryant boys' basketball coach Drew Brock was awarded the second annual Alfreda Harris Coach of the Year Award before Saturday's Boston City League All-Star game. (Justin A. Rice / For the Boston Globe)

Coach Drew Brock has had a big year at O’Bryant.

He was offered a job by the school teaching physical education and health at the beginning of the year. He went on to coach O’Bryant's boys' basketball team to 12 wins -- compared to last season’s five -- and win the Alfreda Harris Coach of the Year Award.

Harris is known for founding multiple basketball groups, including the women’s Boston Neighborhood Basketball League and the Boston Shootout Basketball Tournament. She also coached at UMass-Boston, Roxbury Community College and Emerson College.

“The award for me as a coach means a lot because it recognizes a lot of the hard work I do off the court, in the classrooms,” Brock said. “Now that I’m teaching at O’Bryant I’m always harassing my kids to go to study hall and progress reports.”

While Brock said he is proud to accept the award, he gave all the credit to his student-athletes.

“It’s all about the kids. Without the kids and without them staying eligible and without them executing my plays, we wouldn’t of gotten the recognition that we did get,” Brock said. “I get the award but the award is shared with my family, my wife, my players, my coaching staff, and my administration.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Less pressure, same intensity for City all-star game

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 21, 2013 10:15 PM

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The Blue squad looks to win back-to-back titles at in Saturday's Boston City League All-Star game. (Photo courtesy of Colin Campbell)

With 20 city teams making it to the state tournament this year, players from the city league have been used to playing competitive games under high amounts of pressure.

While the same level of pressure may not be there, the 2013 Dr. Joseph Warren Boston City League All-Star game should be just as competitive.

“You don’t make it to an all star game like this unless you’re competitive, unless you’re super competitive and that alone right there is motivation," said Blue team coach Jeremy Silva at the all-star pregame recognition dinner at Suffolk Construction's Roxbury headquarters Thursday night. "I’m not going to need to do anything but stay out of the kid’s way."

While it may be coach Silva’s first time around an all-star game, it is Brighton coach Hugh Coleman’s third straight appearance as the coach of the Red team. The coach, whose team is coming off their first state championship in school history, agreed that the game would be competitive.

“Last year, we fell short," Coleman said. "It was a Miami Heat vs. Celtics game so that actually burned us a little bit. In the back of our minds, we want to win, we’d like to get an award at the end of it all but I just want to make sure the young men have a good time.”

One of those young men will be Coleman’s star point guard, Malik James, who said the prize for winning the game -- getting recognized at the Celtics vs. Wizards game on Sunday April 7 -- will definitely add more intensity.

“The season was hard work so now you can just go out there and enjoy yourself and enjoy everybody playing against you and stuff like that, so it’s definitely going to be a fun game,” James said. “I’m still representing the school so I’m going to go out there and have fun but take it seriously at the same time.”

The boys' all-star game will be 4 p.m. Saturday, March 23 at Northeastern’s Cabot Center. The girls' all-star game will be at 2 p.m.

Many of the players selected as all stars are also seniors, and some said the game would be great preparation to playing in a college atmosphere.

“It’s an experience for me because I’m getting ready to play college ball after I do my postgraduate year so it’s new experience for me and I really appreciate the opportunity,” senior Gabriel Vieira said.

Every member of the All-Star team was treated to dinner as they were recognized for their great efforts, thanks to the BSA organizers behind it all.

BSA Athletic Director Chris Rooks congratulated the players during the dinner for being both good athletes and students.

“In takes equal dedication in both to be successful so we’re happy that each of you are here for this reason,” Rooks said. “We’re recognizing you all for your efforts, your teammates effort, your leadership, your effort on and off the court, your dedication to your game and your school and in the classroom.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Veiga-Lee unable to play final All-Star game of high school career

Posted by Justin Rice March 21, 2013 09:42 PM

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Tajanay Veiga-Lee signs balls during a pregame dinner for Saturday's Boston City League All-Star game. The Fenway senior will be unable to play in the game because she is working out for the Providence College coaches. (Justin A. Rice / For the Boston Globe)

Fresh off her second consecutive Division 4 state championship, Tajanay Veiga-Lee was named to her fourth straight city league All-Star team.

But the Fenway point guard will be unable to play for the Blue squad in Saturday’s Dr. Joseph Warren Boston City League All-Star Game at 2 p.m. at Northeastern’s Cabot Center because she will be working out for the Providence College coaches.

“It feels pretty good, it’s like an honor [to make it] four years,” Veiga-Lee said during the All-Star pregame recognition dinner at Suffolk Construction’s Roxbury headquarters on Thursday night. “I’ve made it since my freshman year.

“I really wanted to play since that would be my last official high school game. But it is what it is.”

Veiga-Lee said she will most likely be working out with other prospects as well. She said she’s not nervous.

“I’m just going to show them my game and I’m just going to work hard and hopefully they’ll like me,” she said. “They just want to see me play so I’m just going to go out there.”

The Blue squad will have the services of Veiga-Lee’s Fenway teammate, Cadejia Matthews — whose 47-year-old stepfather, Robert Summers, died hours before Matthews hit a pair of crucial free throws in the Division 4 North sectional final to send the Panthers to the state championship at the TD Garden.

Matthews said Summers’ funeral was on Tuesday.

“It’s getting better, it’s just a little bit shaky but I’m hanging in there,” Matthews said.

The Blue team will be coached by Latin Academy’s Emily Coleman, who his coaching her first All-Star game.

“Oh my god it’s an honor, it’s an absolute honor to be voted amongst my peers as coach of the year,” she said. “It’s a recognition that I think any coach would like to have. I strive to try to run a program that my girls can be proud of being a part of and to be recognized behind the scenes for that … again, it’s an honor.”

Coleman’s husband, Hugh, who just won a Division 2 state championship with Brighton, will coach in the boys’ game for the third straight year.

“It is pretty cool, I’m like ‘Hey coach of the year’ and he’s like ‘Hey what’s up coach of the year?’” she said. “We joke around with it.”

The Red team is coached by Boston English’s Justine Grace for the second straight year. Grace said having a year under her belt will make it easier to strike the balance of being competitive and making sure all of her girls get enough playing time.

“The nerves will be out of the way after last year’s game,” said Grace, who coached against her former coach John Rice last year. “I’ll know what to expect this year so it’s about balancing the team and finding a good combination of kids that we can play and making sure everyone gets playing time. But in the end, we do want to win so when it comes down to crunch time if we have to make some adjustments with players or subs we will.”

For the second straight year the winning teams of the All-Star game will get tickets to a Celtics game. But while the teams sat in the mezzanine last year, this year they will sit in the lower bowl. The teams will also be recognized on the court during halftime of the Wizards game on April 7.

“It definitely makes me want to work harder knowing I can go to the Celtics game but I have season tickets to the Celtics so I go all the time,” said South Boston’s Elaina Wright-McCarthy, who will play for the Blue team. “But knowing I could go somewhere with [basketball] and this will take me different places and give me different opportunities is definitely something that means something to me, that there are people trying to help.”

Coleman, who had a baby earlier this season, joked about not being able to find a babysitter on April 7 if both her team and her husbands’ team win on Saturday.

“You know what, listen, baby is just going to have to come along or something,” she said. “I’m trying to win.”

And even though she won’t do any of the heavy lifting in the All-Star game, Veiga-Lee hopes she’ll get to go along to the Celtics game if the Blue team wins.

“I hope so,” she said. “I’m still on the team.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Boston Scholar Athletes gala April 30 at Agganis Arena

Posted by Justin Rice March 20, 2013 01:29 PM

This year's Boston Scholar Athletes fund-raising gala will be April 30, 6-8 p.m., at Agganis Arena.

The theme of this year's event is a pep rally.

"Listen to the sounds of success as this year's Boston Scholar Athletes bang the drum loudly in a chorus of excitement!" a flier for the program reads.

For tickets and sponsorship information, contact Katharine Powell at kpowell@suffolkconstruction.com.

Last year's gala was at TD Garden.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Tenacity founder Ned Eames honored by International Tennis Hall of Fame

Posted by Justin Rice March 18, 2013 05:14 PM

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Tenacity president and founder Ned Eames (left) was awarded the 2012 Samuel Hardy and Tennis Educational Merit Award on Saturday alongside
former New York Mayor David Dinkins and former tennis pro Kathy Rinaldi. (Photo courtesy of Susan Mullane/camerawork usa)

The International Tennis Hall of Fame awarded the president and founder of Tenacity, Inc. — a tennis and enrichment program for 6,500 youths in Boston and Worcester — with a 2012 Samuel Hardy and Tennis Educational Merit Award on Saturday.

A former pro tennis player, Ned Eames started Tenacity 13 years ago with the mission of improving the academic, character, and physical development of urban youth by combining tennis instruction and competition with literacy instruction and life skills development. The program includes intensive school-year and summer programs.

Eames received the award during the International Tennis Hall of Fame annual awards luncheon alongside former New York Mayor David Dinkins and former tennis pro Kathy Rinaldi, who is a national coach in USTA Player Development.

“At Tenacity, Inc., in Boston, Ned has developed one of the country's finest National Junior Tennis & Learning organizations, opening the doors to education and opportunity for thousands of children,” Christopher Clouser, chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “These three individuals have applied their love of tennis to such important work, ultimately growing the sport and helping so many individuals. We are grateful for all that they do for tennis and we are pleased to recognize their dedication and accomplishments."

Tenacity is the second largest of the USTA's 660 National Junior Tennis & Learning Chapters.

Tenacity includes a three-year Middle School Academy, which it credits for the academic success of its students.

In 2012, Boston public school eighth-graders in the Tenacity program scored 35 percent higher in English, language, and arts proficiency on the MCAS test than BPS eighth-graders not enrolled in the program. The program also graduates about 95 percent of its students enrolled in BPS, a district with a 40 percent dropout rate.

Eames, who serves as a member of the USTA's Strategic & Creative Planning Committee, played professionally on the ATP Satellite Tour from 1983-85.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Coleman dedicates title to his former coach Jack O'Brien

Posted by Justin Rice March 16, 2013 09:08 PM

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Brighton head basketball coach Hugh Coleman talks to his team during a timeout during the Div. 2 Boy's State Basketball Finals against South Hadley at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday. (Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

After becoming the first Boston public schools basketball team to win both the city and state championship in the same season since Charlestown in 2003, Brighton boys’ basketball coach Hugh Coleman dedicated Saturday afternoon’s victory against South Hadley to his former coach at Charlestown, Jack O’Brien.

“I feel honored that the last time it was done was with Jack O’Brien and Charlestown and I was a part of their coaching staff [that year] and my brother was on their team, so it is a special thing and I definitely want to dedicate this to Jack O’Brien,” the fourth-year Brighton coach said after the 59-41 victory at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Coleman played on O’Brien’s first Charlestown team in 1993 and helped the Townies make it to the state quarterfinals in 1996 and 1997. Coleman was an assistant under O'Brien at Charlestown from 2002 to 2008.

“We spoke afterwards, obviously I didn’t know he said anything like that of course,” O’Brien said when reached Saturday night. “It’s always an honor coming from him. I just think he has such deep feelings and deep roots for the program he was in and has done the same thing for the program in Brighton.”

O’Brien won a total of six state championships, including four straight at Charlestown from 1999 to 2003 and a fifth in 2005 before resigning from the Lynn English job in 2006. He hasn’t returned to the sideline since.

“He should be coaching and I have no idea why he’s not coaching in the state of Massachusetts,” Coleman said. “In my opinion he is the best coach in the state of Massachusetts. He is. Not just because he won games. He changed the lives of so many of us young men at Charlestown during that period. We went on to go to college, we went on to be great men, fathers, husbands, and you know what, it’s because of what he helped us do from the inside out.

“I’ll be honest with you, I coach, and I took the coaching job because he’s not coaching … and when they said he couldn’t coach, or they wouldn’t allow him to coach for whatever reason I said ‘I gotta keep the legacy going.’ He’s healthy. He’s a 10 times better man, he learned whatever lesson I guess he was supposed to learn and it’s an absolute shame that the man is not coaching because he is all that and then some. He is a great person so I just really want to dedicate this state championship to him and all of my CTB brothers because I remember the days of us putting in a lot of work before they started winning a lot of state championships and we never got one.”

O’Brien’s name has been mentioned for several jobs over the years but he said he's waiting for the right circumstances.

“We’ll see what opens up,” he said. “I’m just going to see what opens up. Obviously in the right position and the right situation I definitely want to get back.”

O’Brien said he was glad to see Coleman and Lavelle Larkins, who played with Coleman at Charlestown and is his assistant at Brighton, finally get a state championship.

“It’s funny, we talk about that quite a bit,” O’Brien said. “When he first came to high school that was my first year coaching. They kind of laid the foundation with all their hard work and dedication.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.


Brighton champions on and off court

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 16, 2013 08:50 PM

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Brighton's Malik James goes in for the easy layup during the Div. 2 Boy's State Basketball Finals against South Hadley at the DCU Center in Worcester. (Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

Coach Hugh Coleman believes that his Bengals didn’t deserve to win the state title last year.

With the way his players have grown on and off the court, that’s not even up for debate for this year's Bengals, the new Division 2 state champions after a win against South Hadley, 59-41, at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“We didn’t deserve it last year, I really feel that spiritually. We drove that to make changes,” Coleman said. “We told guy’s there’s going to be no tolerance with how you act.”

Brighton had overcome adversity in all forms, including academic ineligibility. Multiple players on Brighton's 2011-12 team failed off of the squad including senior Nate Hogan.

“I failed off the team so I wasn’t able to be on the bench with them,” said Hogan (8 points, 2 steals) when asked about last year’s state tournament. “This year I made sure I kept my grades, stayed on the team and now I played in the state game and we won.”

If there were anyone that topped Hogan in terms of academic improvement, it would have to be Nick Simpson. In fact, Coleman said the forward is the most improved person on the team.

“Nick Simpson flunked off the team last year. He had the best grades both quarters of everyone on the team [this year],” Coleman said. “That is a testament to his character.”

The extra work in the classroom has paid off for Simpson as the junior made big play after big play for the Bengals, whether it was his first game in the Garden or knocking down free throw after free throw in the DCU Center.

Oh, and then there’s Malik James.

“For a long time, he didn’t want the pressure,” Coleman said. “You’re one of the best players if not the best player that we have, guys follow that, guys believe in that.”

While Coleman still believes the junior has room to grow off the court, James’ leadership on the court has been impressive.

“A lot of the times, I’ve been wondering how much he’s listened to me and how much he’s grown off the court but what I’ve realized is he takes it in but it shows a lot more on the courts so that’s meant everything for us,” Coleman said.

James led Brighton with 16 points and 4 steals in the state title game. For the point guard, the game was all about leaving Brighton with a their first state championship trophy before he moves on to prep school.

“I don’t have to leave on a bad note and just say that I did everything I could. I did do everything I could but it was on a good note this time,” James said.

If James and the rest of the Bengals hadn’t matured off the court, it’s a wonder if they would’ve made it to Worcester.Coleman mentioned before the season that getting to the state championship last season could hurt his squad because they could assume that the road would be easier.

However, it turned out losing in the state title game last season couldn’t have been better for the growth of his players.

“It was invaluable last year because it taught us we’re capable of it but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win it. So every game, every practice we said we’re capable of doing it but you’ve got to do the right things on and off the court,” Coleman said.

With their state championship medals as evidence, it's clear the Brighton boys' basketball team learned their lesson.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Brighton wins first state title in school history

Posted by Justin Rice March 16, 2013 07:39 PM

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Brighton celebrates their Division 2 state championship victory against South Hadley at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday. (Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

Less than a minute remained on the clock in the fourth quarter as Malik James headed to the bench where he was greeted by hugs and smiles from his teammates and coaches.

Last year's trip to the Division 2 state championship didn't end as planned for Brighton, but Saturday's game at the DCU Center was much different for the Bengals, who won their first state title in school history with a 59-41 triumph over South Hadley.

After a thrilling victory over Scituate in the semifinals, coach Hugh Coleman stressed the importance of getting off to a quick start and keeping the momentum down the stretch. When the Bengals play with a sense of urgency they are one of the toughest teams in the state to keep up with, and they had that motivation from the opening tip on Saturday.

Senior guard Nate Hogan hit a 3-pointer for Brighton's first points of the game and the Bengals never looked back. Brighton was up 19-10 after the opening eight minutes, finishing the quarter on a 7-0 run.

Malik James took over in the second frame as he scored eight of his 16 points. The 6-foot-2 point guard, who saved Brighton a couple times in the postseason with some late game heroics, was simply in the zone.

With the memories of last year's loss to Mahar in the state title game lingering in the back of his mind, James woke up at 9 a.m. and went to a gym down the street to shoot around and run some drills with his brother to get him prepared.

“I knew we weren't going to get on the floor early enough because of all the games,” James explained. “I took it into consideration just to go work out so I could be on and contribute to my team.”

Despite James's dominant second quarter, South Hadley's Cameron Earle (16 points) helped keep the game close as he chipped away with 11 points, including two 3-pointers, in the first half.

Brighton was ahead 32-22 at the half and kept the energy flowing in the third, holding the Tigers scoreless for over 2 minutes, part of a 12-2 stretch for the Bengals.

The Tigers fought to keep their hopes alive, but Nick Simpson's 7 fourth-quarter points, five of which came from the free throw line, helped keep the Bengals in control.

“Missed free throws add up at the end so I didn't want to make free throws be the reason we lost,” explained Simpson, who finished 9 of 11 from the line. “It got to the point where I wasn't making my outside shots so I just put it in my head that if I wasn't hitting those shots, I'll go to the foul line and make all my foul shots.”

Not only is this the first year Brighton won a state title, it is also the first time they've won the city championship. And when the team reflects on its successful season, the city tournament will stand out as the defining moment which jumpstarted their confidence and led them to the ultimate prize.

“It's a part of history,” affirmed Hugh Coleman. “The coaches are so proud that this is the first city and state title for Brighton high school in 171 years. That is amazing for me.

“It means so much and we feel honored to be the first to bring that home, and that's something that obviously no one will be able to take away from us,” he added. “We can always walk into that gym and be like we were the first.”

Boston City TV to show Brighton's state championship game live

Posted by Justin Rice March 15, 2013 04:18 PM

Mayor Menino's Game of the Week is not only the Brighton High's state championship game on Saturday, it will be shown live on Boston City TV on Saturday.

Boston City TV’s live coverage of the Division 2 state championship game between Brighton and South Hadley will be shown live from the DCU Center in Worcester starting at 4 p.m.

The game will air on Comcast Ch. 24, RCN Ch. 13 and online at: the Boston City TV web page.

An archive of the Mayor Menino’s Game of the Week can be found online at: www.cityofboston.gov/gameoftheweek.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Brighton prepares for Saturday's state championship game

Posted by Justin Rice March 14, 2013 01:08 PM

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Brighton's Nick Simpson draws contact from Scituate's John Foster as he drives to the hoop in the second half of Brighton's Division 2 EMass championship victory on Tuesday at the TD Garden. Brighton plays South Hadley for the state championship at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Worcester's DCU Center. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff).

The night before a new pope was elected in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday afternoon, Brighton boys’ basketball coach Hugh Coleman felt some divine intervention at TD Garden.

“Us coaches really like to give things to the higher power, you know, give it to God,”
Coleman said after a miraculous 55-52 victory over Scituate in the Division 2 EMass championship game, sending the Bengals to the state title game for the second straight year. “We feel like if we do what we’re asked to do in his eyes, he’s going to give us what we deserve and what we’re blessed with.

“And last year I think we dealt with a lot of things off the court that really was like, ‘You guys kind of don’t deserve to be here and I’m going to teach you a lesson about coming here and having a chance to win it but taking it away at the end so that this year it all means a lot more.’ ”

After dealing with disciplinary issues last season, Brighton lost to Mahar in the state championship game, 45-40.

This year, Coleman said, his players have been much more disciplined. Brighton overcame an 11-point deficit with four minutes to play on Tuesday, culminating with Malik James's winning 3-point-play with 1.2 seconds remaining.

Coleman, whose team will play South Hadley at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester, said this was the first year during his tenure that not one player flunked off the team before the state tournament.

“And that is a product of buying in and trying to teach these guys the right way to do it,” he said. “And you know what, they’ve been faithful, they’ve been consistent. They are not perfect, I’m not perfect, but they’ve done what I've asked them to do and they’ve done it with their heart.”

Brighton was glad to get some rest after practically playing every other day in its run to the state championship game. Coleman said the team watched video Wednesday, before a hard practice on Thursday and a walkthrough on Friday.

“I kind of want to [play right away] because we have the momentum but then again I just want to take practice day by day and just rest my body because I’m exhausted right now,” James said after Tuesday’s game.

James, who went 0 for 3 from the free throw line Tuesday before splitting a pair to tie the game with 1:15 remaining, said he would also use the extra time to practice from the charity stripe.

“We take [free throws] all day in practice and I think it’s because I was like, ‘I need to make these, I need to make these,’ but when I finally calmed down I hit them,” James said.

Another point to work on will be not committing silly fouls. Both James and the team’s other captain, Nick Simpson, sat out much of the third quarter in foul trouble Tuesday.

“Yeah, that’s my fault,” Simpson said. “Now that I know what I did wrong I’m going to work on it so next game we won’t have to be in the same situation.”

Simpson said they also need to focus on not settling for jump shots, and running their half-court sets all the way through.

That will be tough for a 3-point shooting team like the Bengals. But South Hadley, which nailed nine 3-pointers in its Western Mass. championship game victory at the DCU Center on Tuesday, is in the same boat.

And while South Hadley might seem to have a slight home-court edge in Saturday’s game, Coleman said his team has the advantage of playing on the same court for the same stakes last year.

This is South Hadley’s first trip to the state title game.

“For us, it does give us a little space to say, ‘Hey we’ve been here before, we know what to expect, we got the feeling,' ” Coleman said. “Yes, it’s a different feeling but last year’s journey — to the point that it taught us so much about what to expect, respect, appreciate, and I feel like we’re able to go in with this sense of knowledge — makes us appreciate it."

This time around, however, Coleman feels like his team deserves to be in Worcester.

“You know what, I think today might have been that, ‘Hey, remember,' and then, 'All right, go ahead, go on through,' " Coleman said of Brighton’s close call with Scituate.
“So that’s how I’m feeling today. That’s the message that I’m getting today. So we’re not going to take it for granted at all. We’re going to go in wholeheartedly. We’re going to go in humble and we’re going to go in and say, ‘Let’s just work hard and make this the best game of all year.’ ”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Burke coach Meghan Waterbury helps out Brighton

Posted by Justin Rice March 14, 2013 12:18 PM

The Brighton boys’ basketball team got off to a bad start in last year’s state final. And the game hadn't even begun.

A day after beating Stoughton in the 2012 Division 2 EMass championship game at TD Garden, Brighton’s coaches set out to scout the Western Mass. title game between St. Bernard’s and Mahar at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

“It was my fault, I put in the GPS 'UMass Amherst' for some reason,” Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said Tuesday. His Bengals had just defeated Scituate, 55-52, to return to the state championship game (Saturday, 4 p.m. at the DCU Center) for the second straight year.

“You know why? Back in the day when I played for Charlestown we played out there. I took us to Amherst and the game is in Springfield and we even got to Amherst late so we couldn’t even drive over to Springfield.”

This time around, Coleman didn't have the opportunity to scout the next opponent, since the WMass final between St. Bernard’s and South Hadley was also played Tuesday night.

“I had one of my very best friends, Megan Waterbury, who used to be over at Snowden and is currently at the Burke, [go scout the game,]” Coleman said of his co-teacher, who is an assistant coach with the Bulldogs. “She is phenomenal with scouting and knowing her Xs and Os, and you know what, she sacrificed being here tonight to go scout for us.

“I’m very grateful for that because one of us would have had to go because it’s important.”

Waterbury said she told Coleman she would scout the game if he didn't have an alternative.

“He was like, ‘Oh, you don’t have to do that,’ and I was like, ‘You are not losing a state championship game again because you don’t know anything about the team, I’m going,’ ” Waterbury said.

So what did she learn about South Hadley in its 63-48 victory?

“They are a good team, they have some good shooters who will pull up from NBA range with people on them and stuff like that,” said Waterbury, who sat in traffic for nearly an hour and a half before rushing into the DCU Center, camcorder in hand, as the starting lineups were announced.

“I think it will be a good game [Saturday],” Waterbury continued. “I think Brighton will beat them if they play their basketball, if they pressure them, if they take their shots and everything like that. If they are shooting well it will be a high-scoring game because they like to come down and jack the ball up. They like to come down and shoot, shoot, shoot; they reminded me of Brighton in that aspect. But I think as long as Brighton plays their game they should be able to win.”

South Hadley hit nine 3-pointers in advancing to its first state title game, including T.J. Fitzell’s trey at the start of the fourth quarter that broke a 40-40 tie.

Fitzell, who along with Evan Marcus notched a team-leading 20-points, hit six 3-pointers. Marcus had two.

While videotaping South Hadley’s fourth-quarter heroics, Waterbury was also receiving text messages about Brighton’s last-ditch efforts against Scituate.

“I got the text message midway through the fourth quarter that they were down by 11,” said Waterbury, who added there was radio silence until after Brighton guard Malik James's a 3-point-play with 1.2 seconds left gave the Bengals the narrow victory.

After grabbing a bite on the road, Waterbury met up with a Brighton assistant coach at a Mass Ave. gas station in the wee hours of the night to hand over the video tape.

“Once we’re done with the season I just want the city teams to win," she said. "I don’t care who it was, I’d do it even if you beat us by 40 points. I’d go help you win. You want the city teams to win. I think and I hope that at this time everybody rallies together and supports the city and it doesn’t matter how we did against each other, we’re the Boston Public Schools.”

Waterbury hopes Coleman will one day return the favor.

“Hopefully,” she said. “Or we’ll both be in [the state championship] and we’d have to find someone else to go. That would be even better, we’re both in it, Burke and Brighton, are in it and we’ll have to find someone else to go. “

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

James rallies Brighton past Scituate

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 12, 2013 10:28 PM

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Brighton's Malik James sinks a key layup to put Brighton up on Scituate in the final seconds of the Eastern Mass Championship game at the TD Garden on Tuesday night. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

Malik James stared from the Brighton bench at what could be his last game in a Bengals jersey, after picking up his fourth foul at the end of the third quarter in the Emass championship and state semifinal against Scituate Tuesday night.

“I’m definitely not coming back to Brighton next year," James, who will try to play for a prep school next year, said after scoring the winning basket in the 55-52 victory,"There are a few options, I have an interview coming up but my coach he has all that information.  It’s been planned. That’s why I’m trying to carry them so far, getting them this ring so I can leave on a good note."

The fourth year junior certainly left this one on a good note. With four minutes left in the fourth, James scored 14 of his 21 points to lead Brighton to victory.

FULL ENTRY

Brighton wingman Nick Simpson manages to handle Garden's bright lights

Posted by Justin Rice March 12, 2013 09:13 PM

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Scituate's Taran O'Toole is wrapped up by Brighton's Nick Simpson as he drives to the basket. Simpson sat most of the third quarter with three fouls before returning in the final quarter to help Brighton win the Eastern Mass championship at the TD Garden. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

Playing under the bright lights at TD Garden for the first time, in Brighton’s 55-52 Division 2 state semifinal victory over Scituate Tuesday night, Nick Simpson found himself in foul trouble with just under six minutes left in the third quarter.

Brighton’s junior wingman — who missed the Bengals’ run to the state championship game last year because he was academically ineligible — had a team-high 12 points when he went to the bench to watch Brighton lose its 6-point edge.

FULL ENTRY

BSA city league All-Stars announced

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 12, 2013 02:26 PM

The 2013 BSA Boston City League basketball all-stars have been announced, as the Dr. Joseph Warren Boston City League All-Star Game approaches Saturday, March 23, in Northeastern's Cabot Center. The girls game will take place at 2 p.m. with the boys game following at 4. Players are only required to bring sneakers, as uniforms will be provided.

Players, coaches, and parents are also encouraged to attend the All-Star Recognition Dinner at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at 65 Allerton Street in Roxbury.

The student-athletes chosen as all-stars:

FULL ENTRY

Fenway wins second straight championship

Posted by Justin Rice March 11, 2013 06:08 PM

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Fenway High players celebrate their victory against Greater New Bedford High in the Division 4 state championship on Monday. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

With 27 seconds remaining and Fenway’s second consecutive Division 4 girls’ state championship all but wrapped up, coach John Rice sent in a sub for senior guard Tajanay Veiga-Lee.

As Veiga-Lee, who was named MVP (13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists), left the court, the Fenway fans’ section at the TD Garden rose as one and saluted the Panthers’ captain.

“[Veiga-Lee’s] represented Fenway High School for four years,” said Panthers coach John Rice, whose squad defeated Greater New Bedford 56-47 in a rematch of last year’s Division 4 final. “I was just really happy for her. She appreciated [getting the ovation], it’s a small community over there and that was special. It gave me goose bumps.”

Fenway (15-7) rallied from a disappointing season in which it was forced to forfeit four games and failed to qualify for the Boston City League tournament to ultimately finish on top.

“It just feels good, because a lot of people said we weren’t going to make it this far and win this year,” said Veiga-Lee, who also had five steals, “But look at the outcome, we came here and we won it again. It just feels great.”

Fenway’s forfeits, which were all originally runaway wins, came because it played junior varsity players that were not eligible to be on the court, once it had the games in hand.

Fenway scored the first four points of the game and never trailed, riding a 30-point third quarter to a 9-point win, despite not scoring a single point in the fourth quarter.

Cadejia Mathews led all Panthers in scoring with 15 points in the game (three 3-pointers), but was joined by Veiga-Lee (13) and sophomore center Jalissa Ross (12 points, 12 rebounds) in double figures.

Ten of Ross’s points came in the second half and her overall performance left coach Rice feeling optimistic about her future at Fenway.

“That’s just what she’s capable of,” he said of his center for the next two seasons. “We’ve just been telling her that she cant be all this potential anymore, she can’t be this division one potential anymore, she’s got to go out and dominate and she did in that second half.”

Sophomore center Nakira Examond had a huge game in the loss for Greater New Bedford, finishing with 12 points and 18 rebounds.

For coach Rice, the second time around was actually a bit sweeter.

“It almost sounds selfish to say this, but it feels better than the first one,” he said. “It’s always harder; it’s a different challenge, different mindset, different mentality. You’ve got to push the kids to find that hunger again.

"Last year we were searching for it and we had such a drive to go after it and this year was just different with the adversity we dealt with this season. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Fenway's Matthews wins state championship for late stepfather

Posted by Justin Rice March 11, 2013 06:03 PM

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Fenway High's Cadejia Mattews getting a hug from teammate Shai-Ann Nance after they defeated Greater New Bedford High in the Division 4 championship game. Matthews' stepfather died of a heart attack on Saturday. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)



Lined up on the parquet floor at the TD Garden for the trophy ceremony of the Division 4 state championship game on Monday afternoon, Cadejia Matthews buried her face in her neon yellow warmup shirt and her head into the embrace of a teammate.

The 5-foot-5-inch junior guard with braids and braces could finally exhale after helping Fenway High win its second straight state title against Greater New Bedford, 56-47.

The victory came just two days after her 47-year-old stepfather, Robert Summers, died of a heart attack on Saturday, hours before she hit a pair of crucial free throws in the Division 4 North sectional final that helped send the Panthers to Monday’s state title bout.

“Some of me still feels hurt but some of me feels a little relieved,” she said after scoring a game-high 15 points on Monday. “I did this for my father and I did it for my team and my seniors. It’s kind of both ways. I’m still thinking about him because he’s supposed to be at this game today but sadly he wasn’t.

“I was just thinking that he could’ve been here seeing me play, because he was here last year and we won. He was spiritually with me. That’s what made me tear up. I felt him with me while I was playing.”

Matthews said Summers was taking his medication in the kitchen around lunchtime on Saturday when he started screaming to her mother, Carolyn Matthews, that he couldn’t breathe. Matthews said her mother called 911, but Summers was screaming so loudly that the operator couldn’t understand her mother.

“So I called 911 and I was like ‘We need an ambulance,’” she said. “His medicine pump wasn’t working, so when he fell to the floor on his knees me and my mom were trying to call his name but I saw his eyes roll back and I knew he was gone.”

Matthews said the whole episode took five minutes.

She said a funeral has yet to be planned.

“He was an amazing guy, he did everything for me, he would always be at my games,” she said. “When I had troubles with my mom he would be the one talking to me. School-wise, he was always on me to get honor roll.

“He just always took care of me just like a regular father would do.”

The whole family was planning to go to Fenway’s game against Whittier that night and Matthews said they maintained their plans to try to keep up their spirits.

Mathews said she never considered not playing on Saturday. But playing is one thing. Hitting a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to make it a two-possession game is another.

“It doesn’t surprise me that she’s doing this,” Fenway headmaster Peggy Kemp said Monday. “I’m sure it’s really difficult for her, but given the fact that she’s really assumed a big leadership role I’m not surprised that she’s deciding to play. And it is her choice.

“I think she’s using basketball — something that she cares about, something that she’s disciplined in — to keep herself focused.”

Matthews also came up clutch in Fenway’s first state championship last year, scoring 10 points in the final quarter to help erase a 5-point deficit.

On Monday, she got off to a rocky start. After grabbing the opening tip, she tossed a pass out of bounds. She quickly rebounded, hitting a 3-pointer before putting in a layup to put Fenway up 9-3 with 4:16 to play in the first quarter.

In the third quarter she hit two 3-pointers, including banking one that she launched from a foot behind the NBA 3-point line as the clock wound down.

“I’m thinking it’s going to air ball and I see it going higher and higher and I’m like ‘that’s going to go in,’ she said. “I was like ‘wow.’ That’s my first actual shot from the NBA line. I thought I was much closer but then I looked and I was like ‘I’m way back here.’”

After the trophy ceremony Matthews climbed halfway up the steps of the Garden’s lower bowl to find her mother and brother.

“It was hard because I knew he wanted to come,” she said. “I knew he wanted to see me win. My heart was just broken just to see just my mom there, my brother. I gave my mom a hug. I told her I love her and I gave her a kiss.

“I played my heart out for him knowing he was still looking down on me. I just wanted to give him another win, give my teammates another win. Give me another win, give my seniors another win.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Brighton looks for Unaegbu to step up again in title game

Posted by Justin Rice March 11, 2013 11:20 AM

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Brighton senior Prince Unaegbu grabs a rebound against Melrose in the Division 2 North semifinals. (Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe)

It’s not unusual for an overlooked role player to step up in the most crucial moments of a championship game when defenders are keying in on the offensive horses.

In the case of Tuesday night’s Division 2 Eastern Mass championship game (6 p.m.), it will be hard for Scituate to overlook Brighton big man Prince Unaegbu.

The 6-foot-6-inch senior center — who has struggled with his confidence at times during the football and basketball seasons this school year — hit his offensive stride when it mattered most during the Bengals 64-59 victory in the North division final at the Tsongas Center in Lowell on Saturday.

Unaegbu scored his first bucket of the game with 5:39 left in the contest when he tipped in a Nate Hogan miss to put the Bengals up 52-47.

Then, after North Andover tied the game at 55 with 1:59 to play, Brighton point guard Malik James crossed over his man in the lane before feeding Unaegbu for a dunk that put the Bengals up two with 1:41 left.

“I was happy,” Unaegbu said of the dunk. “Every time Malik does that I just know I’m going to get the ball and I hadn’t dunked since [the city tournament] and I just needed it so bad.”

James said, “He definitely struggles sometimes and I try to get in the way of that by giving him easy dunks, get in the lane and dump it off to him because once he gets his confidence up nobody can stop him.

“It’s very important for everybody to step up [on Tuesday], not just Prince, but especially Prince because once his confidence is down his confidence is down. We just have to encourage each other.”

After his go-ahead dunk, Unaegbu snagged a rebound on the other end of the floor after North Andover missed a 3-pointer that would have given them the lead.

Then, Brighton’s other offensive horse, Nick Simpson, converted a 3-point-play that practically put the game on ice with 57 seconds to play — sending the Bengals to the TD Garden for the second straight year.

“I’m glad we are returning back to the Garden, I’m so happy, it felt so good,” Unaegbu said. “We just have to come back with the win.”

Last year Brighton defeated Stoughton, 53-42, in the Garden before losing to Mahar 45-41 in the state championship game at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“We already know the environment, no nerves or anything,” Unaegbu said of the Garden. “If anything it will be hard for them, the excitement.”

Brighton coach Hugh Coleman will make sure that Unaegbu is confident for the big moments during Tuesday’s Garden game by reminding him of how well he performed in the clutch against North Andover.

“I think because Malik and Nick and Davion [Edwards] take so much pressure off everyone else it allows Prince to be there at those moments,” Coleman said. “Whenever I see something positive I go to him and say ‘I want that for the next game, I want that for the next two games, you proved you can do it now do it every time.’”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Fenway prepares for Garden rematch with Greater New Bedford Voke

Posted by Justin Rice March 10, 2013 01:59 PM

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Fenway coach John Rice and players Cadejia Matthews (middle) and Tajanay Veiga-Lee pose with the Division 4 North sectional trophy on Saturday at Malden High after defeating Whittier 50-46. (Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)

The Fenway High girls’ basketball team will not only be playing on the TD Garden parquet floor for its second straight Division 4 state title on Monday afternoon, the Panthers will be doing it against the same team they defeated to win their first title in program history last year.

Fenway will battle Greater New Bedford Voke, who they defeated 58-49 last year, at 2:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

“I think it’s pretty cool, I really do,” Fenway coach John Rice said of the rematch. “Both programs are obviously strong and dedicated and it’s just a testament to both programs hard work. We’re both familiar with each others style of play and I think it’s pretty cool and I’m looking forward to it.

“They will be licking their chops to try to get revenge on us. They probably have a little bit more motivating factors than us because we won. They’ll probably be up. So we have to try to get [our players] up.”

Last year the Panthers trailed by five points in the final quarter before coming back for the victory, mostly thanks to a 10-point fourth quarter by Cadejia Matthews.

“Our big [fouled] out and somebody had to step up and that was me, just hitting, a three, layups and my free throws,” Matthews said of last year’s Garden game after Saturday’s Whittier game. “So I’m hoping I can do that again with my team but we’ll try to have the bigs stay out of foul trouble.”

In Saturday night’s victory against Whittier in the Division 4 sectional final, Matthews hit two game-clinching free throws for Fenway with 19 seconds left to make it a two-possession game. The clutch shooting from the stripe came after the top-seeded Wildcats came back from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter to tie the game at 35 with 5:52 to play.

“I was just trying to stay focused in the game,” she said. “There was a lot of noise, too many things at once going on in my head so I just focused on making my shot or making my layups, that’s what I did basically.

“It really is a blessing to go back to Garden once again. It is just so shocking that we were able to do it another year ... we’re going back to the Garden and we’re going to push hard like we did.”

Fenway missed an opportunity to defend its title in the city championships this year after it forfeited four regular season games and failed to qualify for the city tournament.
But Rice said his girls aren’t playing with a chip on their shoulder.

“We haven’t even discussed it, we just come out and play,” he said of cities. “The kids have short memories .The girls are a little bit different types of athletes.”

A former Celtics draft pick, Rice said his advice to his team about playing in the Garden is just to enjoy themselves, play their hearts out and leave it all out on the floor.

"Oh man, one of the best feelings in the world, all the hard work, it’s just amazing,” he said of playing in the Garden. “You think about playing in the Garden as a kid and the athletes are excited, the players are excited, the coaches are excited. That’s what it’s all about.”

Rice said he isn't going to try to tamp down his players' excitement

“We’re all going to be excited,” he said. “You can’t erase that feeling and you don’t want to. They just have to come out and buckle down.”

Freshman Takora Mcintyre — who scored a team-high 13 points in the Whittier game, including a clutch layup before stealing the ball on the next possession — said she’s not afraid of her nerves either.

“I usually get nervous before a lot so I’ll just play through it,” she said. “It’s the best feeling [going to the Garden]. As a freshman I’m the youngest, we don’t usually come across this, so to experience this is amazing.”

The only better feeling would be to win back-to-back titles.

“Oh boy, I mean, the Fenway community, the leadership, the students are just wonderful, a wonderful organization,” Rice said. “That would just cap it off. That would be amazing.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Snowden gains experience in loss to Lynnfield

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 9, 2013 10:03 PM

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Snowden sophomore Javaughn Kittrell rises for a jump shot against Lynnfield in the Division 4 North sectional final at Malden High on Saturday night. Snowden lost 58-44. (Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)

MALDEN -- An improbable state tournament run for Snowden that included beating the defending Division 4 state champions was brought to an end on Saturday night against Lynnfield.

The short-benched Cougars just couldn’t find enough ways to score against Lynnfield and came up short, 58-44.

“We came out flat, we didn’t play with the same intensity that we’re normally accustomed to playing with. I credit Lynnfield, they took it to us and they deserved to win the game,” coach Paul Rogers said.

After Lynnfield took an 11-9 lead after the first period, neither team scored for the first three minutes of the second quarter. Junior Edward Moore’s 3-pointer then sparked a 10-0 run for the Pioneers which was capped off by senior Patrick Kearney’s 3-pointer.

“He’s a safety net that most teams don’t have,” coach Scott McKenzie said about Kearney, the Cape Ann League Division 2 player of the year. “He’s the best player I’ve ever coached and I’ve been in the program for 13 years. He is fantastic.”

Senior Jaquann Smith’s 3-pointer with 1:14 in the quarter ended the run, but thanks to Lynnfield mixing in the 2-3 zone with its tradition man defense, this was Snowden’s lone field goal in the quarter.

“We knew that they had an athletic advantage on us, they like to run a lot of isolation stuff on the perimeter. That’s just not our thing, we’re not that athletic,” McKenzie said.

Regardless of any sort of lack of athleticism, Lynnfield came out of the halftime break with a 13-point lead and quickly pushed that deficit to 20 in less than three minutes.

Using a well-rounded scoring effort, the Pioneers were able hold the lead throughout the rest of the second half. However, Snowden did make a late run in the remaining minutes of the fourth to cut the lead to 11.

“At the ending, we always try to go hard and put the effort in but we always do it at the last minute,” said Smith, who ended the game with 10 points. “I love my team to the death of me but we could’ve won this game but we just let it go.”

The loss marks the end of a great run to the city tournament and while a trip to the Garden will not be in order, Rogers still found positives within the game.

“With the guys that got this game experience, where it really counts, hopefully we’ll come back more focused, ready to compete again for a state championship,” Rogers said.

One of those players is sophomore Javaughn Kittrell who hit the winning shot in double overtime against the defending champs, St. Mary’s, and led Snowden against Lynnfield with 14 points.

Kittrell and various other underclassmen for Snowden have the program’s future looking bright.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Fenway girls hang on to beat Whittier in the Div. 4 North final

Posted by Justin Rice March 9, 2013 07:01 PM

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Fenway freshman Takora McIntyre came up big for the Panthers down the stretch on Saturday in the Division 4 North sectional final. She collected a layup and a steal in the final 30 seconds to help secure the 50-46 victory against Whittier. (Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)

Fenway's girls' basketball team prevailed over Whitter, 50-46, in the Division 4 North final in Malden, earning a shot to repeat as state champions on Monday at TD Garden.

Fenway will defend its title against Greater New Bedford, the South champion.

It was a strong start for the Fenway Panthers, who led at the half 25-11.

But in the third quarter, Whittier went on an impressive 11-1 run, cutting the score to 34-28. But Whittier would never lead in the game.

With 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Cadejia Matthews hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game, sealing the victory.

Takora McIntyre (13 points) had a big game for the Panthers, playing strong defensively. Jalissa Ross chipped in 13 points and Jaqualah Holliman added 12.

Head coach John Rice was impressed with the competition.

“Whittier showed the classy team that they are, they came back and took it to us in the second half, got us back on our heels, we were surprised, they gave us a good fight,” Rice said.

“But our kids fought back, they found themselves, it was a great game.”

The TD Garden is a familiar place for Fenway, as the defending champions hope last year's experience will be beneficial to this year's squad.

“The experience is definitely going to help,” Rice said. “It’s going to be a little more familiar this year. We have a number of freshman and other younger kids that didn't play that much last year so they'll still have a bunch of jitters I’m sure.

“This is what its all about, I’m happy for the kids, myself too, and the school.”

Brighton heading to the Garden after win over North Andover

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 9, 2013 04:26 PM

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Malik James, (left) reached around North Andover's Isaiah Nelsen and just misses the basket during a game between Brighton and North Andover at the Division 2 North Sectional final at the Tsongas Center in Lowell on Saturday. Brighton won 64-59. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

LOWELL -- Brighton is heading to the TD Garden for a second straight year after defeating North Andover 64-59 in the North division final at the Tsongas Center.

“I’m really trying to get the guys to have a sense of urgency each game and to realize we can'’t wait,” coach Hugh Coleman said. “Sometimes we wait to get a feel; you want to feel a team out. I’ve been stressing since the playoffs started, get up, get after it, even from the opening [tip], attack.”

The Bengals may have been down by five after the first half but they certainly came out with that sense of urgency in the second. Junior Malik James led the aggressive attack with 10 points in the third quarter alone. The point guard had just one basket in the first half.

“I had to play through it. I just didn’t want to lose, I didn’t want my season to be over,” James said. “So the third quarter, fourth quarter I got other people involved more than trying to take my shots.”

The players that benefited most from James’ penetration in the fourth would have to be senior guard Daivon Edwards (17 points) and junior forward Nick Simpson (24 points).

With 3:20 to play in the fourth, Edwards hit a crucial 3-pointer off of a James’ pass from the right wing to put Brighton up 55-51.

After two straight North Andover baskets and a made shot by Bengal senior Prince Unaegbu, Simpson made a 3-point play in transition to give Brighton a two-possession lead.

“If [Malik’s] penetrating, they got to collapse the defense leaving it open for Daivon or Nick so we hope that’s kind of basic basketball, basic basketball principles, and it’s worked pretty well for us,” Coleman said.

For North Andover, the loss marked the end of a 31-year career for coach Mike McVeigh at North Andover. The coach, who will be turning 65 this summer, announced his retirement after the game.

“I made the decision about two months ago and from then on, every single day in practice I enjoyed. Every single day, I looked at those guys even when I get mad and all that stuff, I appreciated my guys and every single day I just was grateful to a job that I’ve loved for a long time,” McVeigh said.

McVeigh had reason to be proud of senior Derek Collins after his 26 points and seven 3-pointers propelled North Andover to a win over Wakefield. Coleman, who was a spectator at the game, said that the performance left him searching for ways to defend the guard.

“We have a lot of guys, we don’t play them as much, you know you limit your bench but you know what today we are going to send as many guys we can after [Collins], try to limit his shot, make it tough for him, try to wear him down,” Coleman said.

The depth proved to be just what Brighton needed. The Bengals held the guard to 16 points and just a 2-point second half.

“Our strategy was to make the game fast, pressure their guards and like send 4, 5 guys right off the bench at 21 to limit what he can do for them and fortunately to some extent it worked,” Coleman said.

While the season may be over for McVeigh and North Andover, Coleman and his Bengals said that they are ready to make their mark at the Garden.

“We made it to the state championship appearance last year, that was the first in school history and they still don’t have a state championship so hopefully we can take it one game at a time, focus, prepare and take care of business at the Garden.”

Brighton will take on Scituate for the Division 2 Eastern Mass. championship.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Brighton seniors shine in North final victory after rescheduling SATs

Posted by Justin Rice March 9, 2013 04:02 PM

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North Andover's John Enright waited for Brighton's Daivon Edwards to make a move during the Division 2 North Sectional finals at the Tsongas Center in Lowell on Saturday. Brighton won 64-59. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

LOWELL — Two days before Saturday’s Division 2 North Sectional final against North Andover, Daivon Edwards and Nate Hogan thought they’d be filling in bubbles on a scantron sheet with a No. 2 pencil instead of helping the Brighton boys’ basketball team win a trip to the TD Garden for the second straight season.

“Me and my friend Nate, we were contemplating if we wanted to play or take the SATs,” Edwards said after scoring 17 points in the 64-59 victory at the Tsongas Center. “Schools that were looking at us, we didn’t know if they’d accept us if our SATs [scores came in] too late.

“I’m a senior. I’m not coming back next year, this is my last year, I want to win it all.”

After Brighton officials unsuccessfully lobbied the MIAA to change the game time,
Brighton’s academic coach Caroline Correa called the SAT board to allow the players to take the exam on May 4. She also called their prospective colleges to make sure it is OK that they turn their SAT scores in late.

“She’s wonderful, she helps me out with all my college applications, she helps me out,” Edwards said. “She is a big part of my future right now, honestly, a really big part.”

The game was originally scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon but was moved to 12:15 p.m. because it would have conflicted with North Andover’s junior prom in New Hampshire.

Hogan said they used the fact that the MIAA wouldn’t move the game as motivation.

“Definitely, because college compared to prom, it’s no comparison,” he said. “We should be able to take the SATs so that just got me more motivated to go harder on the court.”

Hogan played tough defense in Saturday’s victory while Edwards nailed four 3-pointers, including one to give Brighton a 55-51 lead with 3:20 to play.

“I was just feeling it,” Edwards said, “and I remember coach saying ‘Be aggressive’ and once I let it go I thought it was going in.”

Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said he was pleased with Edwards’ performance because the guard had struggled for much of the postseason.

“I said, ‘I know what you’re capable of, you’ve proven you can do it, stick with it,’ ” Coleman said. “His confidence rose and now the last few games that stroke has been going and it meant a lot for his confidence and it means a lot for our team.”

Edwards said the SAT conflict did distract him going into the game but he had to push it out of his mind.

“I didn’t let it get to me,” he said. “I was just thinking about winning the championship. Coach told us this is the biggest game. He texted me last night and said ‘I have to rebound, I have to come out and play more aggressively’ because during the state tournament I haven’t been playing aggressive.

“I’ve just been shooting. I haven’t been attacking the rim.”

During the run up to the game, State Rep. Kevin Hogan even offered a police escort to rush the players to the game after the SATs but Hogan said there was no way he would have been able to focus on the test.

“I wouldn’t be able to do good on the test because I would just be thinking about the basketball game and that’s basically it,” he said.

Hogan, who flunked off the team before the postseason last year and now carries a 3.0 GPA, said he's looking to playing in the Eastern Mass. championship on Tuesday at the TD Garden for the first time.

He said he’ll also be ready for the SATs on May 4th.

“When I heard I couldn’t play because of the SATs it broke my heart,” Hogan said. “I was ready to miss the SATs, I really did not care because I really wanted to play in this game.
This is basically my second family so I didn’t want to miss out on anything.

“I’m going to be real confident [on May 4th] now because I can actually prepare for it; I couldn’t prepare for it if I took it today.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Brighton seniors get SATs rescheduled so they can play Saturday's sectional final

Posted by Justin Rice March 8, 2013 10:44 AM

The two Brighton seniors who thought they had to miss Saturday’s Division 2 North boys’ basketball tournament game against North Andover because of a conflict with the SATs are now set to play.

Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said school officials were able to move the exam to May 4th for Daivon Edwards and Nate Hogan.

The game is at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, so there would have been no way for the players to make the game after the exam.

“It was a situation where even if they had gone to the test they would’ve been thinking about the game,” Coleman said. “That was a bad situation.”

After unsuccessfully lobbying the MIAA to change the game time, Brighton’s academic coach Caroline Correa called the SAT board to have the exam moved. She also called the colleges the students are applying to to make sure it is OK that they turn their SAT scores in late.

Coleman said state representative Kevin Honan even offered a police escort to get the students to the game after the exam.

“They didn’t even call us to give us a heads up and say does that time work for you, that was just totally unfair,” Coleman said of the MIAA. “A lot of people fought on our behalf. … Everything was cleared and fine, we were able to make it work,” Coleman said. “What’s crazy is we always have something we have to overcome.

“We’ll take it in stride and we’ll add it as a little fuel to our fire. Hey everyone is against us. It’s us against everybody. We’ve prepared.”

Coleman said he’s not worried about the game being canceled due to the snowstorm, but he is still going to schedule his bus to leave Boston at 9 a.m.

But because there is a girls’ game before their game they won’t be able to get on the floor early to warm up like they did before their victory against Melrose on Tuesday night.

“I don’t think we’ll have any extra time to get on the floor,” he said.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Fenway set to take on No. 1 Whittier

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 7, 2013 06:31 PM


After blowing out Shawsheen Tech by 26 points in the Division 4 semifinals, Fenway once again has a challenge standing between them and TD Garden.

The girls' team is set to take on No. 1 Whittier on Friday at 6 p.m. at Emmanuel College and coach John Rice said his team needs to play its best game of the season to win.

“They have good parts; they have good scrappy guards, they can penetrate, they can shoot. They have the enforcer back there on defense, a 6-4 kid who can change shots and intimidate, especially on the high school level,” Rice said.

Rice said one of Whittier's biggest strengths is its defense.

“They press, they get back, they keep you in front of them and they change defenses,” Rice said. “The coach will try different things throughout the course of the game to put his team in a position to win.”

To break down that defense, Fenway will count on point guard Tajanay Veiga-Lee. The senior All-Scholastic led Fenway to the state title last season and is coming off a 24-point game.

However, Rice said that it will take a team effort to defeat Whittier.

“We mainly focus on our team defense and our unselfish play. That’s who we are and that’s what we bring,” Rice said.

Veiga-Lee also agreed that she would need help if Fenway hopes to go to the Garden.

“I can’t beat them by myself. It all depends on my team,” Veiga-Lee said. “They got to help me out, it takes team ball to win.”

“The kids are exited. It’s just a lot of fun really, we’re taking it one game at a time and were extremely exited,” Rice said.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Lynnfield stands between Snowden and the Garden

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 7, 2013 05:56 PM


On the way back from scouting their next opponent – No. 4 Lynnfield – coach Paul Rogers and his Snowden players passed by the setting for what has been the team’s goal since preseason: TD Garden, site of the boys' Division 4 state final.

“Our goal was to win a state championship so we all know the stakes,” Rogers said. “We’re ready and willing to accept the challenge. We’re just happy to have the opportunity to play another day because there’s three city teams left.”

No. 10 Snowden will tip off against Lynnfield Friday night at 7:45 in the Division 4 North final at Emmanuel College. The winner advances to the state final on Tuesday.

Snowden has momentum after knocking off No. 6 St. Mary’s in a double-overtime thriller. According to Rogers, this is the furthest Snowden has gone in the state tournament.

“I love my team,” said junior Derron Stone who had 13 points against St. Mary’s. “We just have a big heart and when we’re together, nothing can stop us. There’s been times when we’ve been down a lot and we just get into the huddle and we talk. We just play like this is our last game.”

However, on Friday they’ll have to deal with a team featuring the Cape Ann League Division 2 coach of the year, Scott McKenzie, and the league's player of the year, senior point guard Patrick Kearney.

“[He’s a] tough kid, lefthander, and they have a couple forwards that are really, really skilled so they do a good job being disciplined in running their offense and they attack from the transition point of view,” Rogers said.

Snowden knows a thing about fast-break offense as well, getting a lot of transition buckets off of full-court pressure defense.

“We’re going to have to do well [with] what we do against every team and that’s have a good press,” said Stone. “At Snowden, we always have trouble getting rebounds but our press definitely actually helps us a lot. It helps us get turnovers, fast-break chances and opportunities to score.”

Snowden will have to continue to capitalize on those opportunities to reach its final goal. However, the players can start to see the bigger effect their success is having on their school.

“From the headmaster of not just Snowden but the Josiah Quincy to our athletic coordinator at Snowden and on down, it’s a tremendous thing for the team and for the school to have the opportunity,” Rogers said.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Two Brighton seniors to miss sectional final because of SATs

Posted by Justin Rice March 7, 2013 01:26 PM

Having already knocked off the No. 1 seed in the Division 2 North boys’ basketball tournament, Brighton will look to beat second-seeded North Andover on Saturday afternoon in Lowell.

But the fifth-seeded Bengals (18-5) — who defeated Melrose, 65-62, Tuesday night to advance to Saturday’s final (12:15 p.m. at the Tsongas Center) — are expected to be without seniors Daivon Edwards and Nate Hogan, who will be taking the SATs.

“As of right now, yes [we will be without them] unless we can figure something out, I don’t know what we can figure out,” Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said Thursday morning. “Obviously Daivon is our shooter and Nate is our defensive stopper/backup point guard.”

Brighton athletic coordinator and football coach Randolph Abraham said school officials have reached out to the MIAA about pushing the tip-off back to late afternoon, but have been rebuffed. Abraham even said local politicians have offered to give the students police escorts to the game.

The MIAA traditionally does not change game times to accomodate for the SATs since there are so many opportunities to take the test. But Abraham said most Brighton students can only take the SATs at certain times because they use vouchers that cover the cost of the exam.

The test usually costs around $50 per try.

“It’s not right for teams of our caliber, two Division 2 schools, to play that early on,”
Abraham said. “[The MIAA said] they are cemented in. They have eight games going on and everything is concrete.

“Nobody called to say, does this time work for us?”

North Andover (19-4) defeated Wakefield to advance to Saturday’s game. Derek Collins had a game-high 26 points, including seven 3-pointers.

“We know he’s a really good shooter, a really good player, we know they have a good inside presence,” Coleman said. “They are a good program. They are well coached and seem pretty disciplined.

“It’s going to be a tough game regardless. We’re just going to try to do our best to defend and run stuff on the offensive side."

Coleman said his team is used to battling adversity.

“I do really enjoy and appreciate my guys' ability to deal with adversity,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with adversity for the past four seasons in terms of not having a gym last year — we played every game on the road for the most part — to losing guys to eligibility to having guys suspended from the team.

“So our guys have been through a lot. It’s weird but they are used to adversity. By now it’s almost second nature. I feel regardless our guys there will step up and play their role and play their game.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

James and Simpson shine in Brighton semifinal win

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 5, 2013 10:08 PM

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Malik James (above) and Nick Simpson led Brighton to a victory against Melrose in the Division 2 North semifinals on Tuesday night at Woburn High. (Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe)

WOBURN— The two-headed monster of Malik James and Nick Simpson proved to be too much for an undefeated Melrose team in the Division 2 semifinal at Woburn High School.

The juniors combined for 43 points in the (No. 5 18-5) Bengals’ 65-62 win over the (No. 1 22-1) Raiders and were at the heart of practically all of Brighton’s crucial possessions.

One of those plays came right after James gave Brighton a 61-59 lead on a drive through the middle of the paint. James stole the ball on a tipped pass from Simpson the very next possession and once again had the ball in his hands with a chance to seal the game.

“I mentioned this the other day in practice. I said, ‘When the game’s on the line, who takes the last shot?” Coach Hugh Coleman said after the game. “Everyone screams out Malik. But what if he gets double teamed and Nick’s wide open?”

That is the exact situation James found himself in after the steal and the junior did exactly what his teammates answered their coach with. He passed the ball to the wide-open Simpson who connected on a tip after missing the initial lay-up, giving Brighton a two-possession lead.

“It’s an honor because he takes a lot of pressure off me. He’s a good scorer, he’s an all around scorer so by me giving it to him I know it’s a bucket or he rebounds,” said James, who finished the game with 21 points. “It’s a big relief to have him on the floor and when we both got our head in the game, we’re unstoppable together and as a team.”

Relief is exactly what the entire bench of Brighton must have felt after Simpson checked back in to the game after injuring his ankle 1:28 in to the second quarter.

After James’s 8 points gave Brighton a 24-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, Melrose focused its defense in on the point guard in Simpson's absence and went on a 6-0 run.

Even when Simpson checked back in with 5:00 to go in the quarter, the team had to watch as forward Samual Jean-Gilles cut the Brighton lead to two with a 3-point play.

Simpson then scored the next 10 points for Brighton to carry it on a 10-7 run to close out the half for a 34-29 lead at the break.

“I just added more tape to it and I came out strong," said Simpson who led the game with 22 points.

The junior certainly played through it whether it was preventing Melrose from taking a early lead in the fourth with a huge block on an attempted lay-up by senior Matthew Sherlock (led Melrose with 21 points) or being the beneficiary of a beautiful behind-the-back pass from James later in the quarter.

“Good thing it got to him or coach would have sat me out,” James said.

For Melrose, it is the second straight year coach Mike Kasprzak’s team has lost in the semifinal to Brighton.

“They’re a great team; best player in the state, two best shooters in the state, everybody back from last year. We have three guys back from last year so we handled ourselves with great composure,” Kasprzak said. “22-1, to lose to the best team in the state, we’ll take that.”

Even with the win, Brighton knows they’ve been in this position before. After losing the Division 2 state championship last year to Mahar, Coleman said that his team’s job is not finished.

“Right now, I take it with a grain of salt, I look at what we didn’t do well, what we did do well, how we can improve because we got the winner of two good teams, Wakefield and Andover, and that’s not going to be easy,” Coleman said.

Brighton will play at the Tsongas Center in Lowell on Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s North Andover-Wakefield game.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Simpson returns from ankle injury to lead Brighton to victory

Posted by Justin Rice March 5, 2013 10:03 PM

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Brighton junior Nick Simpson injured his ankle during the second quarter of the Division 2 North semifinals on Tuesday night. He returned 1:28 later to score a game-high 23 points in Brighton's victory against Melrose. (Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe)

In the second quarter of the Division 2 North semifinals at Woburn High on Tuesday night, the Brighton boys’ basketball team faced the idea of playing without Nick Simpson for the second straight postseason.

The 6-foot-4-inch junior guard/forward was sidelined because of academic problems just before the city championship game last winter and was forced to miss the Bengals’ run to the state championship game.

During Tuesday night’s 65-62 victory against No. 1 seed Melrose, Simpson went down with an ankle injury at the 6:32 mark of the second quarter with his No. 5-seeded team leading, 24-13.

“I was praying that he wasn’t out because earlier in the year he did the same thing, sprained his ankle and kind of shocked all of us because we thought we lost Nick,” said junior point guard Malik James (21 points), who scored 8 points in the opening frame but was scoreless when the defense focused on him without Simpson in the game.

During the 1:28 that Simpson was out, Melrose (22-1) went on a 6-0 run to make the score 24-19 before Simpson returned with 5:04 left in the half. After a Melrose 3-point play, Simpson sank a pair of free throws, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key on his heels, and scored a transition layup to make it 32-25 with 2:30 left in the half.

Brighton (18-6) took a 34-29 lead into the locker room at the break.

“I just added more tape to it and I came out strong,” said Simpson, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “It was hurting for a few min. I just took my time, didn’t walk on it that much and put some more tape around it and came out strong. It’s still bothering me but I have to play through it.”

Brighton — which lost to Mahar, 45-41, in the state championship game last year — will play for the Division 2 North championship at the Tsongas Center in Lowell on Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s North Andover-Wakefield game.

Simpson stepped up even bigger in the second half against Melrose. In the third quarter he hit a 3-pointer to stop a 9-0 Melrose run. The shot cut Melrose’s lead to 47-44 with 1:10 left in the quarter.

With 6:03 left in the game, Simpson caught a behind-the-back pass from James and was fouled as he made a two-handed power layup. The 3-point-play gave Brighton a 52-51 lead.

“Malik is a good point guard, he got open, my guy helped and it left me open for an and-1,” Simpson said.

James said, “Good thing it got to him or coach would’ve sat me out.”

James made an equally impressive pass to Simpson with 33 seconds left in the game. The play started on defense with Simpson stepping into the passing lane and tipping the ball to James, who ran the floor before finding Simpson under the hoop. Simpson tipped in his own missed layup to put Brighton up, 63-61.

“I was just watching the ball, I knew where the pass was going, I got there first, I got the steal and finished,” Simpson said.

Brighton coach Hugh Coleman said Simpson is the most consistent player on the team and the Bengals suffer when he is not on the floor.

“He’s a great all-around player, he can score form the inside and the outside, he can rebound the ball,” Coleman said. “He gets blocks, he’s a treat out there so having him out really puts us in a little bit of a rocky situation because we lose a lot if other guys aren’t holding it down.”

Coleman said Simpson traveled with the team during last year’s state championship run and watching from the bench is what is fueled him stay eligible this season. He said Simpson went from a 0.5 GPA last year to a 2.8 this year.

“Absolutely, when we lost in the [championship], even though I felt we could’ve won without him … I think if we had him we would’ve won,” Coleman said. “Even with how bad we played.”

Luckily, Brighton only had to worry about playing without Simpson for 1:28 on Tuesday night.

“He’s an awesome player all around so for him to get up and run back in the game, I’m like ‘Thank you god,’ because he’s one of the best players on the team and without him it would be a struggle,'' said James.

“He’s one of the keys to success and I’m glad we had him back.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Fenway girls win big behind star point guard Veiga-Lee

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 4, 2013 10:57 PM

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Fenway guards Tanajay Veiga-Lee (right) and Cadieja Mathews (left) fight for a loose ball ((Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe))



Another great game from Tajanay Veiga-Lee resulted in another Fenway blowout win Monday night.

The senior point guard scored 24 points to go with 9 rebounds, propelling her team to a 71-45 win over Shawsheen Tech at Malden High School. The defending Division 4 state champion is now just one win from another trip to the Garden.

“She’s All-Scholastic, she led us to the state title last year, she’s our leader, and she’s elevated her level of play so we’re just taking her lead,” Fenway coach John Rice said.

Veiga-Lee was especially clutch in closing minutes of the first half, one of the more crucial points of the game, according to Rice.

With Shawsheen leading, 19-13, Fenway went on a 17-1 run to close the half. Veiga-Lee scored 6 of those 17 points with less than a minute to go, opening up Fenway’s lead to 10 entering the break.

“Blame the coach on that one,” Shawsheen head man Dick Barriss said. “I was trying to save people for rest thinking that they've only got two minutes so I should be all right but unfortunately I wasn’t all right tonight.”

Fenway never looked back after that. Coming out of the break, Veiga-Lee scored the first 5 points to extend the lead to 15. The point guard scored 11 points in the quarter to give her team a 16-point cushion entering the fourth.

“She’s like a guy playing against girls, I mean she’s that talented,” Barriss said. “She can do anything she wants to do. I tried multiple defenses and you pick one and it really didn’t make a difference.”

Despite her dominant play on the court, Veiga-Lee didn’t hesitate to share the credit.

“I just played team ball,” Veiga-Lee said. “My team helped me out; I was passing it to them, they were making their shots and we came out with the victory.”

Freshman guard Takora Mcintyre had 13 points and sophomore center Jalissa Ross contributed 8 points to the win.

Veiga-Lee and Rice both said the team will not be satisfied until it has another state championship.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Rice said. “We’re just taking each opponent one game at a time. We’re not saying we’re that team to beat, we’re just trying to repeat."

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Young Snowden team outlasts St. Mary's in double OT

Posted by Justin Rice March 4, 2013 10:46 PM

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Despite a short bench, Snowden's boys' basketball team pulled out a double overtime victory against St. Mary's in Monday night's Division 4 North semifinal game at Chelsea High. (Justin A. Rice / For the Boston Globe)

CHELSEA — Snowden sophomore Javaughn Kittrell banked in a fadeaway circus shot off the glass with 36 seconds left in double overtime to help beat St. Mary’s of Lynn on Monday night in the Division 4 North semifinals at Chelsea High.

“That shot, what a [once in a] lifetime shot, what can I say,” Kittrell said after scoring a game-high 23 points in the 63-58 victory. “It happens once in a lifetime, I couldn’t do anything about it. I just hoisted it up, prayed and that’s what happened.”

After junior Derron Stone hit a pair of free throws to give Snowden the 59-57 lead with 1:21 left in the game, Kittrell stole the ball and took it down to the paint, where he pulled up for a jump shot. After being blocked by sophomore guard Nick Amenta, the 15-year-old recovered the ball and threw up his fadeaway prayer over Amenta's outstretched arms to give Snowden a 61-57 edge.

On St. Mary’s next possession, Stone (12 points) pinned senior guard John Teehan’s shot against the backboard with 13.7 seconds left as St. Mary’s fans called for a goaltending call.

“I knew it wasn’t goal tending, I knew it,” said Stone, who was 3 for 8 from the foul line before he hit his go-ahead free throws in double overtime. “During the first quarter I went to block a shot and I hit my hand on the glass. My finger was bothering me all throughout the game and coach, he’s a good coach, and he had to talk to me and I had to suck it up.

“He told me ‘This is what we live for.’ Double overtime; I just had to knock it down.”

Senior Juquann Smith (10 points) and sophomore Rayshawne Mercury (19 points) also made several clutch shots down the stretch, including Mercury’s deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 41 with 3:28 left in regulation.

He also hit another 3-pointer to put his team up 50-48 in the first overtime before St. Mary’s tied it 51-51 to go into the final frame.

“Just confidence, coach told me to keep shooting and I kept shooting and they fell,” Mercury said. “That’s it. We all believe in each other. We all play for each other. We’re all brothers. That’s why we came out with a victory.”

The No. 10-seeded Cougars (11-10) have been playing with a short bench this post season after their best player was ejected from his second game of the season. Another top player is out injured.

“I’m really tired,” Kittrell said. “It was really crazy but we just held our composure, held it down and got the W for our team.”

No. 6 St. Mary’s (14-9) was the defending Division 4 champs.

“It hurts, it hurts,” St. Mary’s coach Kevin Moran said. “We didn’t seem to come with the same energy today that I think was necessary to win a game at this level.”

Snowden, who lost to Manchester-Essex in the quarter finals last year, is now one victory away from playing at the TD Garden. The Cougars will play the winner of Tuesday night’s Lowell Catholic-Lynnfield game on at 7:45 on Friday night at Emmanuel College.

“We’ve been telling our kids all year we have to fight for 32 minutes to get it done,” Snowden coach Paul Rogers said. “We didn’t realize it was going to take, what, 40 minutes to get it done tonight. But hey, they are tough kids, they know what it takes to win.

“We’ve been here before. We lost to the No. 1 seed last year and we just know if we keep playing and keep pushing we’re going to fight through. Our goal has been to make it to the Garden all year and we’re right on our way. We’re right where we want to be.”

Kittrell, who attends the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown, has been playing for Snowden since eighth grade because his school co-ops with Snowden since they don’t have a team of their own.

He said he’s been to the state tournament every year since he’s been on the team.

“It’s crazy. I don’t think we’ve been that far,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was in eighth grade and we never made it this far.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

New Mission cries foul in loss to Shawsheen

Posted by Justin Rice March 4, 2013 04:36 PM

New Mission High School girls' basketball coach Brianna Forde feels that an athletic trainer's decision may have caused her team to lose to Shawsheen in the state tournament Friday night. But in a response from Shawsheen Monday night, Superintendent Charlie Lyons strongly denied any intent by the Billerica school to do anything other than protect a student-athlete.

During a 57-55 loss in the Division 4 North quarterfinals, New Mission point guard Deiandra Humphries was hit in the face and fell to the floor, according to Titans coach Forde, who said no foul was called on the play.

Forde said the athletic trainer said Humphries showed signs of a concussion and had to come out of the game. Forde said the incident happened after Humphries scored seven straight points.

“The kid was 100 percent responsive and we questioned his intent behind the call!” Forde wrote in an email.

Forde said after the game Humphries saw her own doctor, who said she didn’t have a concussion. The trainer in question was not an employee of Shawsheen but rather worked for Precision Athletic Training and had no connections to Shawsheen.

“I am so disappointed in the impact the referees and athletic trainers are impacting the game,” Forde continued. “Their jobs are to protect the integrity of the game, not take away from it, simple!”

But Lyons disagreed strongly with Forde.

"An independent, qualified, medical trainer made a decision to remove a player who had no response to standard cognitive concussion questions,'' said Lyons in a statement. "Student health and safety are our highest concerns. I dismiss out of hand any acqusations that challenge either the integrity of our athletic department or the broadly acclaimed sportsmanship of our programs. We cordially invite the MIAA to investigate our actions in any many manor it considers appropriate."

By MIAA rule, once the game ends the outcome is official and there's no avenue of appeal. MIAA tournament rules mandate that the home team, in this case Shawsheen, is responsible for providing medical services such as an athletic trainer or EMT. New Mission could also have brought their own trainer but did not.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

First half woes result in loss for New Mission

Posted by Zolan Kanno-Youngs March 2, 2013 11:47 PM

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Brian Jones goes up for a shot against Melrose on Saturday night. New Mission lost to Melrose, 69-65, in the Division 2 North quarterfinals. (Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe)

Cory McCarthy said at the start of the season that if his team didn’t win the state tournament, he would resign as the head coach for New Mission. After a 69-65 loss on the road to Melrose in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, the coach will finally have to face that decision.

“That’s something I have to think about because I was assuming we’d have all of our guys,” McCarthy said referring to injured players Isshiah Coleman, Fred Rivers and Chima Ebele. “That’s something I have to consider because it’s in New Mission, it’s not like any other city school. My opinion is just you got to win every year. That’s just it.”

This will not be one of those years. Melrose ended the hopes of a potential rematch between New Mission and Brighton behind a huge game from senior forward Samual Jean-Gilles.

After leaving the game early in the first quarter with a wrist injury, Jean-Gilles hit back-to-back baskets upon returning later in the period to spark what would be a 26-0 run for Melrose. New Mission ended the run with 1:53 left in the second quarter on a basket by senior center Sam Freeman.

“We couldn’t hit a damn thing and we didn’t take bad shots; we missed lay-ups, we missed free throws, we were 0-14 in that stretch,” McCarthy said.

Despite the taped wrist, Jean-Gilles propelled his team to a 30-13 lead at the half. The senior ended the game with a team-high 21 points.

“Because of the foul trouble in [Jean-Gilles'] last game, I didn’t think he was that good,” McCarthy said. “He’s actually a pretty good player. I’d never seen him shoot the ball in all the games I seen but he shot the ball well.”

However, McCarthy’s resilient Titans would not go away that easily. With the adjustments of inserting sophomore guard Juwan Gooding and senior guard Brian Jones into the starting line up, New Mission was able to rally in the third period.

The Titans went on a 12-2 run in the opening minutes of the quarter – all of New Mission’s points scored by Gooding and Jones.

“Stop giving [Gooding] easy looks,” Melrose coach Mike Kasprzak said to his team during a timeout after the run. “That’s his shot from the top of the key.”

Melrose wouldn’t have to worry about the sophomore guard after he fouled out with 5:46 left in the fourth, just as New Mission cut the lead to single digits again, 52-43.

“That team has so much character,” Kasprzak said. “They have so much heart.”

McCarthy focused on that heart and character when reflecting on his graduating seniors.

“I’m happy with those guys, they’re all going to college,” McCarthy said naming the seven seniors in Coleman, Ebele, Jones, Nathaniel Anderson, Zachary Badohu, Tayon Watson, and Percio Gomez. “I’d take a career choice over winning a basketball game any day. I’m more disappointed then I am hurt.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at kannoyoungs.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.

Burke's Facey finishes fifth at New Englands

Posted by Justin Rice March 2, 2013 05:08 PM

The only athlete from Boston public schools competing in the New England indoor track meet on Saturday, Kevin Facey, finished fifth in the 55-meter dash with a personal best time of 6.55 seconds at the Reggie Lewis Center.

Here's a link to a recent feature story on Facey.

The Burke High senior sprinter had the No. 21-seed (6.70 seconds) going into the meet and snagged the eighth and final spot in the finals by running a time of 6.64 in the prelims.

In the finals he tied with Denzel Tomaszewski of Wellesley High for fourth place but when Facey’s preliminary result was factored into the mix we was bumped back to fifth place.

The Jamaican immigrant has had a remarkable ride this post season.

He slipped out of the blocks during the finals of the 55-meter dash in the Division 4 state meet. But despite being in the back of the pack out of the blocks he still managed to finish second, one-tenth of a second out of first place with a time of 6.73.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

Snowden rolls without leading scorer

Posted by Justin Rice March 1, 2013 09:43 PM

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Snowden senior Jaquann Smith led the charge against Matignon on Friday nigh, scoring the first six points of an 11-0 run that broke open the game in the fourth quarter. Snowden defeated Matignon in the Division 4 North quarterfinals on Friday night at Somerville High.(Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe)

SOMERVILLE — Just when Snowden’s boys’ basketball team was learning how to play without the city’s leading scorer from last year, Paul Maurice (22 points per game), the Cougars found themselves entering the postseason without their leading scorer from this season, Kareem Murrell.

Murrell (19 points per game) was filling the void left by Maurice -- who won MASCAC Rookie of the Year with Mass College of Liberal Arts this winter -- before he was ejected from his second game of the season and forced to sit out the postseason.

Nevertheless, the Cougars are rolling.

After beating No. 7 seed Mystic Valley, 42-38, in the opening round of the Division 4 North tournament, the 10th-seeded Cougars defeated No. 2 Matignon, 54-45, in the quarterfinals on Friday night at Somerville High.

“We’re a family, we stick together, somebody has to step up and that’s what happened,” Snowden coach Paul Rogers said of his 10-10 squad.

That somebody was senior Jaquann Smith.

Trailing, 34-32, going into the final quarter, Smith scored the first 6 points of an 11-0 run to start the fourth, helping the Cougars break open a tight game.

“Yeah, I was feeling it,” Smith said. “Coach just told me to keep shooting and every time he tells me to keep shooting I just keep shooting. I’m not going to complain about that so I just kept shooting.”

First Smith scored an uncontested layup off a baseball pass from junior Derron Stone to tie the game at 34. Then he put back Dominique Walker’s miss before stealing the ball and hitting another layup to put Snowden up, 38-34.

After that, Smith stole the ball and passed to sophomore Rayshawne Mercury for a layup to make it a 6-point game before sophomore Javaughn Kittrell (13 points) nailed a 3-pointer to make it 43-34 with 5:23 to play.

After Matignon senior Kevin Louis-Jean scored at the 4:46 mark, Walker hit a 3-pointer to put his team back up 10.

“I wasn’t hitting my shot the first half,” said Walker, who finished with 10 points. “That shot, we needed that. I hit that shot for my team.”

But Snowden let Matignon (14-7) back in the game when Stone fouled Ronnie Slager as he made a layup with 1:12 left. Slager, who scored a team-high 16 points, missed the free throw but he hit a 3-pointer after a scramble for a loose ball at halfcourt to make the score 48-43 with 59 seconds left.

After that, Snowden went 3 for 5 from the free throw line to ice the game.

“They are a scrappy team, they are tough, you know what I mean,” Rogers said. “They are a very tough team and we knew we were going to be in for the battle of our lives and we had enough to get it done. We played with more effort than they did. It all comes down to how hard we worked. We’ve been working hard since November and it paid off there.”

Nobody played harder than Smith.

“He’s a senior and he’s a captain,” Rogers said. “He’s been in this position before and he stepped up and made big plays for us all year long and this is nothing different.”

Snowden will play the winner of Saturday afternoon’s Pope John-St. Mary’s game. St. Mary’s is the defending Division 4 North champ.

“From here on in everything is a challenge,” Rogers said.

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • 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 jrice.globe@gmail.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 butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.
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