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Boston’s high school basketball champs

Jimmy Myers
Boston’s high school basketball champs
(top)The Dragons of Latin Academy City Champions who won their second title in 3 years, beating last years champs New Mission, 62-41 (bottom) The triumphant Charlestown Championship Team. The Townies beat Burke 72-56. PHOTOS: Patrick O’Connor

The young women of Boston Latin Academy and the young men of Charlestown High School are the new city champions of high school basketball following impressive victories over New Mission and Jeremiah Burke in their respective finals.

The BLA Lady Dragons scored a dominating win, storming out to a 13-0 lead over the Lady Titans of New Mission en route to a convincing 62-41 victory and their second city title in the last three years.

Dragons Coach Greg Berry, who has filled in for Bill Dever since he fell ill to a virus earlier this season, did a masterful job of coaching through a year of adversity. The 17-3 team dedicated its championship game win to Dever.

Berry cited the strength of character, the ability to push through adversity, and a strong work ethic as the keys to this team’s success.

He said the players were excited because the team that they lost to last year, New Mission, was the team that they faced in the championship this year.

“So, the girls were highly motivated,“ he said.

The Lady Dragons used a pressing full-court defense and running game to power their early lead. Their defense forced 41 turnovers, with at least 11 turnovers in three of the four quarters. Dominant rebounding at both ends of the floor was also a key component for Latin Academy. Further, the starting five were made up of one seventh-grader, one eighth-grader, two ninth-graders, and one senior, said Berry, suggesting strong performances in upcoming seasons.

Ninth-grader Amiah Noel, the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, and teammate Kiara Collins combined for 42 points for the victorious Lady Dragons, with significant help from seventh-grader Maddie Andrade and senior captain Mikayla Davy. Noel was the game’s leading scorer with 26 points.

Latin Academy fell short in their quest for a state title, falling to the St. Paul’s School of Worcester by a score of 54-40.

The young men’s championship game unfolded as a contest of grit and mental toughness on the part of the Charlestown team.

After falling behind 15-1 at the start, the Townies started their comeback march. Led by Jaylin Williams-Crawford, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (26 points, 13 rebounds, five steals), and teammate Jaylen Hunter-Coleman, who scored 21 of his 22 points in the second half, Charlestown proved to be too much for Jeremiah Burke. The two Charlestown stars led the charge that wiped out a 9-point lead by Burke late in the third quarter.

The nip-and-tuck battle reached the 5:05 mark of the fourth quarter, with Burke holding a 52-51 lead on a basket by Jaeden Roberts. But it was all Charlestown from there.

Following a free throw, Hunter-Coleman went coast-to-coast for a basket. Ahead 56-54 with 2:50 left, Jordany Mak drilled a clutch three-point shot to give the Townies a 5-point lead.

Helping the Townies down the stretch were missed free throws, poor execution at the offensive end, and critical turnovers by the two-time defending city-champion Bulldogs.

A tip-in by Williams-Crawford and six straight points from Hunter-Coleman pushed the Charlestown lead to 67-56 with 1:30 remaining. It was curtains from there as the Townies rolled to a 72-56 triumph.

It is the first city title for Charlestown since 2011 and gives the Townies a sense of revenge since losing to Burke in last year’s championship final.

Coach Hugh Coleman is no stranger to championship glory. He led Brighton High School to three city titles and two state titles on his way to winning the “Heroes Among Us” award from the Boston Celtics in 2017.

Following a solid high-school playing career at Charlestown, Coleman put in four years at Bowdoin College, graduating with a degree in English and a minor in education.

“My passion is education, said Coleman, “‘and my players know that I am very firm about that.”

This team has responded by placing eight out of 13 varsity players on the honor roll.

Coleman’s portfolio includes his role as an assistant coach during the Townies’ four straight state title runs under Jack O’Brien from 2000 to 2003.

“That’s where I learned to coach,” he said. “And I have carried those lessons with me.”