By Justin A. Rice
Basketball bragging rights and citywide supremacy will once again be on the line when the Boston City League Basketball Championships kickoff at 4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon at Madison Park High School. Four girls teams and four boys teams will square off in the semifinals tomorrow and Thursday before Friday’s final round begins with the girls game at 5 p.m. followed by the boys at 6:30 p.m.
The most intriguing semifinal matchup on the boys’ side will be a rematch between New Mission (17-1) and East Boston (15-3) at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. Earlier in the season East Boston edged New Mission, 68-66, at Emmanuel College on Jan. 24 but the Titans were without senior point guard Osmel Odena.
But now Beantownhoops.com has New Mission ranked No. 2 in Eastern Massachusetts behind Madison Park while East Boston is ranked at No. 11.
“This is going to be a completely different game,” said Odena, who missed the Eastie game because he was dealing with a family emergency in South Florida. “Just having me on the floor, everything runs more smoothly when we have our whole team. It’s not because I was missing. If anyone on the starting five was missing it would be difficult. When we’re all together we just do well.
“I just feel like we just got to go out there and win. All month we already knew who would be in the cities and we’ve been prepared for it. We just gotta go out and play now.”
East Boston coach Malcolm Smith said even though his team won the first meeting he sees his squad as the underdog, calling Odena the best point guard “running around Eastern Massachusetts.”
“Besides having good attack moves off the bounce he has a vertical leap of 39 inches that allows him to hang and finish over the rim,” Smith said of Odena. “The bottom line is that in reality I’m not oblivious to the fact that we were able to be more successful with him not being there so, I mean, with him there that poses a more difficult challenge.”
In the first boys game on Thursday defending champion Madison Park (16-1) plays Boston English (13-7) at 4 p.m. While Madison Park returns almost the same team from last season featuring nine seniors, English has a complete new squad that took down top competition on the road this season, including New Bedford and Durfee.
“Oh no doubt, [English coach] Barry Robinson does a heck of job,” said Madison Park coach Dennis Wilson, who is going for his fourth city league title in 25 years. “After losing as many key players as he did, for them to be back in it is quite a tribute to him and his kids.
“Of course being defending champs adds another dimension for ourselves because we want to defend our crown.”
On the girls’ side, Fenway High (12-3) will take on J.E. Burke (12-3) at 4 p.m. on Wednesday before defending champion New Mission (15-1) plays Latin Academy (14-5).
Most enthusiasts are already looking ahead to a New Mission-Burke final on Friday, which would pit perhaps the best player in Eastern Mass, Khadijah Ellison, against her former team.
The junior guard, who is ranked No. 54 in the class of 2011 by ESPN, played one full season for the Titans a year after they won the state championship in 2007. She transferred her sophomore year to Burke, where she is now averaging 25 points per game.
New Mission is led by senior point guard Niesha Kelly (17.5 points per game), the only remaining member of the 2007 state championship team.
The Titans — the only city team ranked by beantownhoops.com at No. 15 — beat Burke twice this season but Ellison only played in the second meeting.
“It will be very intriguing,” New Mission coach Greg Berry said of the possibility of playing Burke in the final. “What I can say is it’s kind of like all their friends getting together and going into the Tobin [Community Center] to play full court. That’s how we played the last game against Burke. It’s like ‘We’re all here, pick teams Niesha on one team Khadijah on the other and let’s just play.’ There’s a lot of respect there. They’re all friends but when basketball is in the way they all come to play. It will be a strong collision course.
“This year’s City Tournament for both boys and girls will be fun to watch. There are great matchups, great games. The city did well this year; they did a good job with the pairings. How things turn out, we’ll have to see, but I think people will like it.”
BOYS AND GIRLS SEMI-FINALS AND FINALS WILL BE PLAYED AT MADISON PARK HIGH SCHOOL
GIRLS SEMI-FINALS, Wednesday, 2/17/10
4:00PM – 1st Place North (Fenway-Light Jersey) vs 2nd Place South (J.E Burke-Dark Jersey)
5:30 PM- 1st Place South (New Mission-Light Jersey) vs 2nd Place North (Latin Academy-Dark Jersey)
BOYS SEMI-FINALS, Thursday, 2/18/10
4:00PM -1st Place North (Madison Park-Light Jersey) vs 2nd Place South (English-Dark Jersey)
5:30PM -1st Place South (New Mission-Light Jersey) vs 2nd Place North (East Boston-Dark Jersey)
ADMISSION: Adults: – $8.00
Students: – $5.00
MIAA passes will be honored (No Team or VIP Guest List Permitted)
FINAL CONTESTS ARE TO BE PLAYED AT MADISON PARK
GIRLS’ FINAL – 5:00PM
BOYS’ FINAL – 6:30PM