English High basketball coach Barry Robinson speaks to his team during a timeout of a tough loss to Madison Park last Tuesday night. Photo by Patrick O'Connor.
The following is the fifth in a series of blog posts about English High’s basketball team and the school’s efforts to hold their athletes to higher academic standards. The posts are a follow up to the Boston Globe Magazine story I wrote about the school increasing its eligibility threshold for athletes to a district-high 2.5 GPA.
By Justin A. Rice
Friday was not only English High’s matchup against the defending MIAA Division 2 state champs, New Mission, it was also the deadline for all makeup work in senior guard Marquis Lewis’ English Language Arts class — exactly one week before the marking period ends this Friday.
“I got them all in,” Lewis, who has the lowest GPA on the team, said of his 24 outstanding English assignments. “I had to spend some long nights up but I got them all in. … [My teacher] didn’t think I was gonna do it.”
Lewis, who was academically ineligible last year, knows just merely turning in his makeup assignments doesn’t guarantee him a passing grade in English. And then there are the poor grades in his other classes, not to mention a slew of unexcused absences.
“It’s all about quality,” he said after last Friday’s 78-67 loss to New Mission, the 12th ranked team in the Boston Globe’s Top 20. “I tried to explain every answer thoroughly, double check and went over every answer I needed to.”
Lewis’ potential for failing off the team felt all the more real after he scored a game-high and career-high 18-points in a 64-57 win against a much bigger West Roxbury team on Jan. 13. Trailing 36-32 at halftime, English got within one point, 47-46, of Westie after senior small forward Kwame Townsend banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter. Lewis got the assist the big shot after grabbing an offensive rebound that clanked off the front of the rim.
“It was just crazy it was just a loose ball, I saw Marquis fumbled it and he gave it to me so in my head I was like ‘I have to make this to get our team back,’” Townsend said afterwards. “So when I shot it, it just felt good; the release of it, oh my God.”
Then with 5:22 left in the final quarter Lewis hit his own 3-pointer to give English its first lead of the game, 52-49. The Blue & Blue opened up a 9-point lead before blowing it. They ultimately hung on for the 7-point win by hitting 6-of-10 free throws in the final stretch, including a pair by senior forward Wiley Shipman and a pair by Townsend with 32 seconds left to go up 62-57.
The win improved English to 5-3 overall and put them in third place in their league.
“I want to say that for some of us, mainly me, it was the first time that I’ve ever been in a situation like this,” Lewis told his teammates in the locker room after the game, “and I don’t know some of you guys the same so I just wanted to say now that we’ve been in this situation, let’s do nothing but get better from it.”