In its inaugural year as part of the Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Association the KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate girls' basketball team made a great first impression on Sunday, winning the MCSAO tournament title, 53-51, over the Academy of the Pacific Rim.
Point guard Alex Huffman went 3-for-4 from the line in the final 30 seconds of play at UMass-Boston's Clark Athletic Center to help a Panther team composed entirely of freshman rally from 7 points down in the last five minutes for the win.
"Iíve coached this exact team for the past four seasons at the middle school," said KIPP coach Nat Jones. "Then we opened a high school this year and they all agreed to go, so I moved up with them."
Huffman, who finished with a game-high 23 points for the Panthers (15-2), earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors for her effort.
"I have not seen a player that I would trade for [Huffman] on any team," said Jones, whose team led 28-23 at the half. "For a ninth grade point guard, with a pass first mentality, that can score when we need her to, Iím just fortunate to have a player like her.
"Sheís the undisputed leader of the team on the court and has never let me down once," Jones continued. "I canít wait to see how awesome she can become."
Pleilerkay Gaye (9 points) and Serena High (8 points) also turned in strong performances for the Panthers, who defeated a top-seeded Pacific Rim team which featured 12 players older than anyone on KIPP's roster.
"Weíre a team of freshman playing in a varsity league and to win this was pretty awesome," said Jones. "Iíve been practicing with these girls ever since they were in the middle school in a parking lot, we never had a gym, we've had to practice in the snow, so itís pretty gratifying to actually come on a real court against seniors and win."
According to Jones, the KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate facilitates are currently under construction and he and his team should have their very own gym to play in by the start of next season.
Senior guard Meagan Badohu finished with 14 points to lead Pacific Rim (15-2), while freshman Jameela Olivo added 9 of her own.
The small one in the photo is Coach Jones's daughter, Serena, named after Panther's forward Serena High. She's also the team's No. 1 fan.
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