By Katie Harris
Pictures by Correen Demers
Last Friday night at the Clark Athletic Center on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Boston, the curtain came down on the 2018-2019 varsity girls’ basketball season in the Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Association. The last act in the season was the state tournament championship game pitting the 2017-2018 state tournament champion and this season’s top seeded Prospect Hill Academy Lady Wizards (19-0) against the third seeded Pioneer Charter School of Science II Lady Pirates (16-2) from Saugus.
Prospect Hill utilized the speed and sharp-shooting skills of its starting guards, senior Ashley Cadet (16.9 points per game) and eighth grader Mia Mitchell (12.9 ppg), to get off to a lead of 18-5 at the end of the first quarter with Cadet scoring six points and Mitchell adding nine in the opening period.
In the second quarter, the tough and physical Lady Pirates dug in on defense and clawed their way back into the game, outscoring the Lady Wizards 16-7. The two teams went into their locker rooms at half-time with PHA holding a slim 25-21 lead. Prospect Hill held Pioneer’s leading scorer and the MCSAO’s North Division Most Valuable Player, junior guard Angie Batista (17.9 ppg), to seven first half points. Prospect Hill entered half–time with Cadet tallying nine points, Mitchell staying at her first quarter total (nine points) and its senior phenom power forward, Kaleesha Joseph (16.1 ppg) chipping in only five points.
At half-time, PHA’s head coach, Brian Harris, urged his players to shake off the second quarter and recommit to what worked in the first quarter—hard work on defense and good decision making on offense. Additionally, Harris instructed Cadet, his floor general and the team’s leader in assists (6.5 assists per game), to get her teammates, especially Joseph and freshman forward Raiana Vass, more involved in the scoring. Also, he urged senior forward/guard Ashley Fortune, his defensive specialist, to demand that everyone playing to toughen up and not be outworked by their opponent.
The third quarter played out according to what was scripted by Prospect Hill at half-time. Pioneer, which made four three-pointers in the second quarter and five overall in the first half, hit only one three-point shot in the third quarter. Batista who accounted for that one trifecta was the only Lady Pirate scoring in the first half who also scored in the third quarter. PHA forwards collected 12 overall points in the quarter—Joseph poured in seven points and Vass added five. The quarter ended with PHA outscoring Pioneer 14-9 and holding a nine-point lead—39-30.
Harris passively sat back and let his assistants, John Collins, Tashi Hamilton, Correen Demers and Katie Harris, interact with the Lady Wizards during the team’s huddle between the third and final stanzas. Every assistant coaches’ message was fundamentally the same—”stay focused and keep working as a team for every second on both sides of the ball in the last eight minutes”.
In the closing quarter, Cadet and Joseph dominated offensively for Prospect Hill each scoring eight points. Every Lady Wizard in uniform played smothering defense in the fourth quarter collectively holding the Lady Pirates scoreless. Final score: Prospect Hill—56 and Pioneer II—30. Batista ended the contest with 10 points, well below her average. Cadet and Joseph finished the state championship clash with 19 and 20 points—both scoring above their season averages.
The Prospect Hill Academy Lady Wizards dedicated the winter basketball season to Samaya “Maya” Belizaire-Arrendel, their beloved senior all-star and teammate who died unexpectedly earlier in the school year during the Fall. During the state tournament, the Lady Wizards averaged 69 points per game and held their opponents to an average of 35 points—a 34 point per game difference and a slight improvement over their regular season point differential with opponents. During the regular season, Prospect Hill shot just under 50% (81 for 163) on free throws. The team showed great improvement on this in the tournament by shooting 76% from the charity strip (38 for 50 overall) in the three playoff games. Four members of Prospect Hill’s starting five—Cadet, Joseph, Mitchell and Vass–were selected as MCSAO North Division all-stars. Coach Harris for the fifth time in six years was named the North Division Coach of the Year.
The collective dedication to Maya resulted in an unblemished regular season record of 17-0, a flawless overall record of 20-0 and the Lady Wizards repeating as both Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Association High School Varsity Girls’ Basketball North Division Champion and MCSAO State Champions.
Who knows what the future will hold for Prospect Hill Academy Lady Wizards’ basketball and its players? However, at this one moment in time everything is PERFECT.
Photos in order as they appear:
(1) Seniors with State Tournament Trophy & North Division Plaque–(L to R) Ashley Cadet, Ashley Fortune, Kaleesha Joseph and N’yshma Leroy
(2)Team with Trophy–Olivya Belizaire-Arrendel–injured (Samaya’s sister in middle in red, white & blue jacket)
(3) #1 Ashley Cadet–All-Star
(4) #2 Kaleesha Joseph–All-Star
(5) #23 Raiana Vass–All-Star
(6) #4 Mia Mitchell–All-Star