Titans defeat Cathedral High to win first state title
By Justin A. Rice
With about 1 minute and 15 seconds remaining in the Division 4 state championship boys’ basketball game on Monday afternoon at TD Garden, members of the New Mission girls’ basketball team started chanting “Cory, Cory, Cory, Cory!”
“Cory,” is the Titans boys’ coach Cory McCarthy, who led the girls program to their first ever state crown in 2007.
“Those were my girls in 2007,” McCarthy said after duplicating the feat by coaching the boys’ team to its first ever state championship by beating Cathedral High, 75-47, on Monday afternoon. It was great.
“New Mission High kids, I always tell people when I go on the train and when I go in public you can always pick out New Mission kids. Not because they’re the loudest but because they are usually the most well spoken, are aware of their surroundings and can have a conversation with anybody. This is for New Mission.”
When the previous boys’ coach left a team that was the doormat of the City League from its inception, McCarthy figured it was easier to take over the boys’ program himself and find a new girls’ coach.
But despite the fact that McCarthy is also New Mission’s Dean of Students, he still had to earn the boys’ trust.
“Corey coming in as a girls coach, I was thinking ‘He knows nothing about boys’ basketball,’” junior guard Samir McDaniels said after scoring 17 points against Cathedral on Monday. “So it was kind of hard for us to trust him. Girls’ basketball is a totally different story to be honest.
“Honestly, it took a couple practices and a couple games for him to show us he knows what he’s talking about, what he shows us actually works. We learned to trust each other. We became a family.”
Taking over the program last season, the easiest way for McCarthy to prove he knew what he was doing in those early days was to tell his players he’s coached on the famed parquet.
By the time they lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last season, McCarthy had well won over his new guys.
“We didn’t practice hard last year because they were still feeling me out, ‘Do I want to play for this guy, he thinks I’m a tough guy,’” McCarthy said. “Once they found out how much I loved them it changed. There’s a lot of love in that locker room.
“Thank you guys for allowing me to prove that I’m not a liar. This is where they want to be, they’re in awe of this place. I’m in awe of this place, in absolute awe of this place.”
Once they finally got the Garden the Titans (23-1) took it straight to Cathedral (19-6).
But after opening the game with a 10-2 run, Cathedral sophomore guard Anthony Bell drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make the score 29-23 about three minutes into the game. His squad went into the second quarter trailing, 29-25.
Cathedral got within three points, 29-26, with 2:15 to play in the first half but New Mission went on a 7-0 run to open up a 10-point lead after senior center Ousmane Drame converted a 3-point play and then scored on a post move.
McDaniels had a put back in the final moments of the half to go into the break leading 36-26.
“That was big, that was turning point of the game,” Drame said of the 7-0 run. “They were climbing. That was it. After that the game was basically over. After that all we had to do was play defense. We didn’t even need to score after that. So we were really happy.”
New Mission opened up the game quickly in the second half and never looked back. Senior guard Osmel Odena, who missed the teams’ only loss of the season against East Boston because he was tending to family matters in Florida, finished his final game as a Titan with 14 points.
“Osmel came back from Florida and he said ‘Corey I want to win a state championship’ and that’s what he did,” McCarthy said.
Odena can’t believe how far the program has come in four years.
“We’ve been through a lot since freshman year,” he said. “We never had any gym to practice in, it was always a scramble to find somewhere to practice.
“There were shaky times at the end of [last] season but at the end of the season we always trusted [McCarthy]. We had no choice. He’s our coach.”
But while McCarthy’s own players might not be questioning him anymore, there are plenty of folks outside their locker room that questioned New Mission’s Division 4 status this year as they not only beat up on everyone in their division but also on Division 1 teams. They defeated Rhode Island’s defending Division 1 champions Bishop Hendricken, 66-52, on Dec. 29.
And after losing to East Boston during the regular season the Titans bounced back to take out the Jets in the City Championships. New Mission ultimately fell in a thriller to Madison Park in the city championship game.
“It would be nice to get a second chance at [Madison Park] but the city championship wasn’t our goal,” McDaniels said. “Our goal was to win a state championship. We proved it. We beast Division 1 teams, we beat almost anybody. We proved we could win at any level.”
But while McCarthy said “Nobody will be able to question what New Mission high school did in 2010” he also said the team will most likely move up to Division 2 next year.
Luckily he has seven returning underclassmen and seven returning juniors.
“We probably won’t be in Division 4 so we’ll see how much tougher it will be but I feel like this year we could’ve played in any division,” McCarthy said. “The bigger the challenge the better. The girls were the challenge in 2007 and New Mission accomplished that. Then I moved over with the boys and now that we accomplished this I’m going to stay with the boys and we can move up a division.
“For a little school, 250 kids, it’s unbelievable. It hasn’t hit me yet.”