MASSACHUSETTS CHARTER SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSIC

Photos by Correen Demers

By Ashley Richardson

Last Friday in the late afternoon, two teams arrived early at the Clark Athletic Center on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Boston for the Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization Girls’ Basketball High School Championship Game. Most players on both teams were excited and smiling, and went about the business of warming up and preparing for the game.

About three hours later, after the end of the game horn sounded, most players from both teams were crying—one side crying uncontrollable tears of happiness and the other with tears of disappointment.

For the game, the Prospect Hill Academy Lady Wizards (16-0) would be the designated home team and dress in their white uniforms, while the Community Charter School of Cambridge Lady Cougars (27-1) would wear their crimson visiting team uniforms. Many of the players and coaches on both squads knew each other due to the proximity in location of the two schools and the teams had squared off against each other earlier in the season—a game won by Prospect Hill. That game was more than one month ago, Since then, Community Charter had reeled off ten consecutive wins, while PHA concluded the regular season undefeated at 14-0.

The three months of hard work, team play and unselfishness by players in both programs earned the two combatants the right to play the championship at a quality and first-rate college forum before a rowdy and ready packed house. At the time of tip-off, both the Lady Cougars and the Lady Wizards were a little anxious and nervous. However, both units were also confident, focused and determined. The first half settled nothing. Neither team led by more four points. Prospect Hill’s Senior guard, Agar Felix, was a sharpshooter in the opening stanza of play connecting on a trio of three-pointers early in the game. During this same time, Cambridge’s Junior star, Shaheedah Cesar, matched Felix shot for shot. CCSC went into the last minute of first half up by three points. After this and before intermission, PHA scored four points to end the half up by one—19-18.

The Lady Cougars did not disappoint their fans during the opening twelve minutes of play in the second half. Community Charter clawed its way to a fourteen-point lead with just under five minutes left to go in the game. At this time, Brian Harris, coach of Prospect Hill, called a time-out to look into the eyes of his players to gauge whether there was any energy left in his team. The three Seniors—Felix, Tracy Beauvois and Marley Durham—unanimously responded that they had plenty of fight left and that the Cambridge would need every point of their fourteen-point cushion before the game ended.

Coming out of the time-out, PHA junked its half-court zone defense in favor of a full-court press to challenge every pass, dribble and shot that CCSC would throw at them in the last four-plus minutes of the title tilt. Down the home stretch, Prospect Hill players ignored fatigue and personal safety, choosing instead to play “on the edge” inspired basketball leaving everything that they individually and collectively had on the court. With fourteen seconds left on the game clock, neither team had an advantage over the other. The score was tied 43—43.

However, Community Charter had possession of the ball. The Lady Wizard’s faithful erupted in a deafening chorus of “defense, defense, defense”. The CCSC crowd exploded in support of their team. The Clark Athletic Center was shaking with conflicted enthusiasm. Coach Harris with no time-outs, tried to bark out orders of “no fouls, play straight up defense and allow no easy shots”. The clock ticked down to under seven seconds. Above the three-point arc, Cambridge set an open court pick for their ball handler. Two PHA players tried to aggressively maneuver around the pick. One of the Lady Wizard defenders slightly bumped CCSC’s ball handler. A faint referee’s whistle was barely heard above the crowd noise. The referee blowing the whistle then gave the sign for a blocking foul by a Prospect Hill player. Two shots were awarded to the Lady Cougar’s player, Dora Duguay, who was three for seven from the charity stripe up to this point in the game. Duguay strutted to the foul line where she calmly and coolly buried both her foul shots.

As the second shot was going through the net, the Lady Cougars sprinted back beyond half court to set up their defense for Prospect Hill’s final possession. The ball was inbounded to Felix who lead all scorers in the title game with 21 points. For some, the final seconds clicked off in slow motion. For others, the contest’s last few ticks were a swift blur. Felix hustled over half court, approached the three-point arc and went up for a trifecta to win the game. Coach Harris and her teammates had no problem with this decision to score three for the win, not two for a tie. Also, when necessary, seniors have to step up and Agar was stepping up. However, the shot missed. The final score—Community Charter School of Cambridge-45 and Prospect Hill Academy-43. The last team standing and the 2016-2017 MCSAO Tournament Champions—Community Charter (27-1). While Prospect Hill (16-1) finishes this year’s campaign as the bridesmaid, and not the bride.

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