South takes boys’ and girls’ All-Star titles
By Justin A. Rice
Osmel Odena rolled out of bed on Saturday before making his way to the Cabot Center for the Boston City Basketball All-Star Classic. Playing for the South All-Stars, the senior guard from New Mission was asleep the entire game before scoring his first bucket of the night with 16.1 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
“I just got out of bed and I was asleep,” Odena said after the 80-79 victory against the North squad.
Trailing 62-50 about halfway through the final quarter, North went on a 12-2 run to go up 70-68 with 33 seconds to play. And when South turned the ball over on consecutive inbound plays, it looked like the game was over. But after North missed a pair of free throws New Mission’s Charles Gunter came down with the rebound for South and was fouled. North rebounded Gunter’s second missed free throw but threw the ball away to Odena, who darted down the lane and used an up-and-under move to tie the game at 70 and ultimately send it into OT.
“I needed that, I needed that,” Odena, who scored four points in overtime, said of his first bucket. “I wanted to win. It wouldn’t have been as much fun if we lost.”
In overtime both teams traded buckets before Odena scored to go up 78-76. Madison Park’s David Campbell—who scored a game-high 18 for North—missed a put back dunk for North and Brighton’s Charles Nedd-Aruajo scored on the other end to put South up four points.
East Boston’s Jeff Amazon (10 points) hit a buzzer beating 3-pointer for North but it was too little too late.
Madison Park’s Spencer Braithwaite scored 11 points for North and Brighton’s Kenny Jean added 10 for South while New Mission’s Ousmane Drame took home MVP honors with 13 points.
“We played together, we played as a team out there,” said South coach Barry Robinson, who normally coaches English High. “We had a bunch of All-Stars, which I’m extremely grateful to coach. These guys are the best in Boston and I’m telling you I enjoyed coaching them.
“We came together and we played tough defense.”
In the girls game, the South team defeated North, 58-43, before New Mission Donnaizah Fountain won MVP honors.
“It just means I worked hard to play my game,” Fountain said after scoring six points. “I used my team. It feels good. I feel like I’m important. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
The game also marked the first time the Burke’s standout junior guard Khadijah Ellison played with former New Mission teammate Niesha Kelley since freshman year. Ellison transferred to Burke during her sophomore year.
“That’s my big brother right here,” Kelley (11 points) joked before Ellison (5 points) added , “Yeah, that’s my big brother right here, we do everything…. Nah, nah, nah. She’s like a big sister to me.”
The game was Kelley’s last as a BPS student.
“I was looking forward to it because we haven’t played with each other in a long time and we’re happy to be together,” the senior said. “It’s always fun and a joy when we play together.
“It feels good. I’m glad to be reunited with Khadijah. I’m just ready to move on. Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity to play with her.”
Ellison’s Burke teammate Fredrika Lawson scored a team-high 12 points for South and was given the Sportsmanship Award.
The Academic All-Star team was also announced Saturday night.
“It’s a great honor,” Boston Latin Academy’s Mike Howard, who will attend Worcester Poly Tech in the fall, said after winning the Academic Award. “I put a lot of work into my school work so it paid off.”
Burke senior Adrienne Martin won the girls’ Academic Award. She hopes to attend Wellesley College in the fall.
“It means a lot to me because money is an issue for me,” she said. “So it really helps me out with my college tuition and proves my coaches are paying attention to what I’m doing.”
All five members of the girls’ Academic All-Star team and boys’ Academic All-Star team were awarded $1,000 scholarships by the newly created Boston Scholar Athlete program (BSA).
The BSA, which is funded through Suffolk Construction’s Red & Blue Foundation, collaborated with Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) to put on Saturday night’s event. BCYF has organized the event for the last nine years with various partners.
“A lot of times we’ve had to make do with very little,” said BCYF’s Director of Recreation and Fitness Ryan Fitzgerald. “With Red and Blue they have people, they have resources and they had a focus on this event over the last couple months to drive attendance, get the coaches and players involved and get the families involved.
“By far this has been the strongest partnership we’ve had.”
About 1,000 fans attended Saturday’s All-Star games.
“The turnout was fantastic, I think the kids are having a great time,” said Evan Davis, BSA’s associate executive athletic director. “Reebok did a great job with the uniforms, the kids look fantastic. We got some college kids here recruiting. It’s a great evening had by all.
“This game is only going to get bigger. It’s the first year of our partnership with BCYF. So we’ll go back, we’ll meet and make it a little bit better for next year. The thing is it’s only going to help the talent in the city get exposure with the college recruiters, which is the goal of what we’re doing. These kids need any avenue they can get to get to college.”