17 high school varsity teams began competing with each other for eight slots in the recently concluded
Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization (MCSAO) Girls Basketball Championship Tournament when the 2014-2015 Winter sports season opened for charter schools in December. From the MCSOA North League, KIPP Academy of Lynn (13-1 League and 19-4 Overall), Prospect Hill Academy of Somerville and Cambridge (13-1 and 16-4), Community Charter School of Cambridge (10-4 and 12-6) and Pioneer Charter School of Everett (9-5 and 11-6) survived the season to earn four of the eight tournament slots. The top four finishers of the MCSOA South League who gained entry in the tournament were Edward M. Kennedy Health Careers on the Fenway (14-0 and 25-2), Boston Collegiate (9=4 and 10-5), Academy of the Pacific Rim in Hyde Park (9-4 and 9-7) and Foxborough Regional Charter (9-5 and 10-6).
The MCSAO Championship Tournament took place this past weekend on the University of Massachusetts, Boston Harbor Campus with the quarter-finals match-ups on Friday night, the semi-finals on Saturday and the championship match on Sunday morning. Three-time defending MCSAO Champion, KIPP Academy, advanced to this year’s championship game with convincing early round wins over Foxborough Regional (59-41) and Boston Collegiate (60-25).
The Prospect Hill Academy Lady Wizards, North regular season co-champion with KIPP, also gained a spot in the finals. However, the Lady Wizards road to the championship was much more difficult. Prospect Hill opened tournament play with a 45-40 win over the South League’s Academy of the Pacific Rim from. PHA needed poised play throughout the game from its elite eighth grade guard, Ahley Cadet, who contributed 8 points to PHA’s first half total of 21 points. She then stepped up with 11 points in the closing half to finish with a team high 19 points. Cadet’s back-court teammate, sophomore Agar Felix, added 8 points to the Lady Wizards’ total output. Starting center, junior Sarah Blaise, also chipped in with 8 points–all in the first half–and 9 rebounds. Another eighth grader, super sub Kaleesha Joseph who played center or forward when she came off the bench collected a game high 12 rebounds and scored 7 points. Only three points total were contributed by five other players seeing action in the quarter-finals–Fabiana Paul, Sarah Merina, Kami Ambroise, Marley Durham and Tracy Beauvois. However, all five were indispensible to the team’s stingy defensive efforts that did not let down throughout the game.
On Saturday morning in the first semi-final of the day, the Lady Wizards were matched up against Edward M. Kennedy Health Careers. EMK entered the tournament undefeated in both league and cross-league play. Additionally, eight days earlier, the school from Boston’s Fenway area had beaten and beaten up on PHA in the Lady Wizards last home game. Kennedy’s leading scorer, junior guard Ana Marcelin entered the contest averaging more than 25 points per game during the season. PHA employed a box and one defense throughout the game, assigning four players to work in a zone defense inside the three-point arc and challenging its fifth player to lock down the superstar scorer everywhere on the court covering her player-to-player. A trio of players shared this task during the game. Senior swing person Kami Ambroise started the game with this responsibility. When fatigue set in on Ambroise, Freshmen guard Sarah Merina inherited the task of covering Marcelin. Then Sophomore Marley Durham, who sat out the entire regular season rehabbing from an injury, accepted the challenge. Kennedy reeled off the first 9 points of the game. down 9-0. However, by half-time, the two teams were dead-locked at 22 points apiece with Marcelin starting to shows frustration from being hounded all over the court all of the time. Entering half-time. Joseph and Felix had scored 13 and 7 points respectively, accounting for 20 of PHA’s 22 points.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Lady Wizards pulled out to an 8 points lead, only to watch that lead crumble to down by one point at the midway mark of the closing half. Prospect Hill would bend but not break during the final 8 minutes of the game behind the scoring of Felix who responded to Kennedy’s offensive surge by putting up 12 points in the second half. Felix finished the game with 19 points. Cadet, held scoreless in the first, added 10 points to the cause in the second half. Joseph finished the game with 15. When the game clock expired, Prospect Hill was on the winning side of a 46-42 final score and had earned the right to play KIPP Academy in Sunday’s MCSAO Championship Game.
Prospect Hill and KIPP had split during the regular season. KIPP embarrassed PHA in the first match-up, winning by 28 points. The Lady Wizards earned back KIPP’s respect by beating them by 9 in the second contest near the end of the season. KIPP entered the Championship Game led by MCSAO North League current and three-time MVP Alex Huffman, a senior guard who will attend Middlebury in the Fall. However, Huffman’s movements were greatly restricted due to a sprained ankle that had side-lined her during the last three weeks of the regular season and had greatly limited her playing time during the playoff weekend. PHA started the scoring and was up by 6 early in the game. KIPP immediately answered the Lady Wizards run. Both teams held the lead on several occasions in the first half. Prospect Hill entered intermission with a 22-19 lead. The second half mirrored the first with PHA going on small runs, but seeing every lead that PHA had change to a KIPP lead behind Huffman’s sharpshooting and heroics on one leg. With less than three minutes left, the Lady Wizards saw their last lead go away. Prospect Hill had six players score in the game, but also had almost 26 turnovers that and 18 missed free throws which resulted in KIPP garnering a fourth consecutive championship and Prospect Hill finishing the season on the losing end of a 51-47 score. Ashley Cadet finished the game with 17 points to lead the way for PHA. In addition, the eighth grader was chosen as a MCSAO North League First Team All-Star and finished her inaugural season on the PHA’s high school varsity team as the leading scorer. Fellow eighth grader, Keleesha Joseph, finish the game with 10 points and finished the season as the team’s second leading scorer and second leading rebounder. Junior center, Sarah Blaise, closed out the game with 9 points. Others scoring were Sophomores Agar Felix and Tracy Beauvois, each with 4 points and Kami Ambroise, the team captain and only Senior, netting 3.
At the end of the game the Prospect Hill Academy Lady Wizards collected their second tournament runner-up trophy in two years. Additionally, it was announced that the award that is presented annually to the MCSAO member school that has the most successful men’s and women’s athletic programs will be called the “Jack O’Brien Achievement Award” after PHA’s athletic director and one of MCSAO’s founding fathers, Jack O’Brien. Also, PHA’s head coach, Brian Harris, was recognized by his fellow coaches awarded “Coach of the Year” honors.