By William Frothingham, BPSsports Correspondent
ROXBURY — After a closely fought defensive battle in the first half of the opening game of the Boston City League Championships between Fenway High and New Mission on Wednesday night, the Panthers made a run late in the second quarter to take a one point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Fenway managed to hold the lead the rest of the game before securing the 63-53 win.
“We just came out tight, we just weren’t playing our game,” Fenway coach John Rice said. “We worked hard on all the little things. After halftime we just settled down, I just gave them that halftime speech, we gotta be who we are, we have a game plan we gotta stick with the game plan.
“I’m really proud of these kids they came out and played well in the second half.”
O’Bryant beat Madison Park, 53-28, in Wednesday’s second matchup and will take on Fenway at Madison Park at 5 p.m. on Friday to decide the City Championship.
In Wednesday’s opening game, Fenway and New Mission both came out firing after the break, exchanging baskets on every possession for the first two minutes, but the momentum shifted toward the Panthers after back-to-back New Mission baskets were called off.
New Mission coach Cory McCarthy, who filled in for Brianna Forde while she attended a family funeral in Trinidad, was livid about the officiating.
“The outcome of that game was totally based on who got what calls,” Coach McCarthy said after the game. “I’m not going to blame the refs but I don’t think the game was as evenly called as it was supposed to be. They got a lot of favorable opportunities and it didn’t allow us to do what we usually do.”
After falling behind by as many as 22 points in the second half, New Mission stormed back late in the fourth quarter behind extended pressure defense. However the run fell short as junior point guard Tajamay Veiga-Lee, who led all scorers with 17 points, went 6-for-8 from the free throw line in closing minutes, sealing the game for the Panthers.
“I wasn’t too nervous, I was just hoping me and my team could come together and pull it through,” Veiga-Lee said. “And that’s what we did.”
Senior guard/forward Kayla Cox added 13 points for Fenway and freshman center Jalissa Ross had 12. Sophomore guard Jazala Laracuente led New Mission with 15 points and senior forward Tiana Johnson scored 14.
Ross, who scored eight straight points in a run that pushed Fenway into the lead for good, said she wanted O’Bryant to win the day’s second game.
“In order to be the best, we want to beat the best,” Ross said.
She got her wish.
After jumping out to an 8-0 lead, O’Bryant let Madison Park pull to within one in the second quarter as junior guard/forward Krystal Edwards hit a 3-pointer and senior guard/forward Kjiyana Issac scored on a put back with 45 seconds left in the half.
But O’Bryant, paced by sophomore forward Raven Kelsey’s eight first-half points, took a 25-20 lead at the break. Junior center Kiana Daley sank a pair from the line to go up 23-20. Then Kelsey stole the ball and fed it to junior guard Laetitia Dorsinville for a buzzer-beating layup.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we played in the first half,” O’Bryant coach Trudy Fisher said after the victory. “But in the second half we stopped making turnovers, and our scorers started scoring.”
O’Bryant was rolling in the second half, outscoring Madison Park 19-5 in the third, and allowing the Cardinals only two points in the fourth quarter.
Madison Park coach Carla Hands said mental mistakes prevented her team from competing in the second half.
“What killed us is we didn’t box out very well and our turnovers [were] big time,” Hands said. “We gotta compete for 40 minutes of basketball, not one quarter, not two quarters but all four quarters.”
Madison Park scored their last basket with 6:29 remaining in the game but O’Bryant kept pouring it on.
“I was patient tonight,” said Kelsey who led all scorers with 14 points. “I’m best when I let the game come to me.”
Freshman forward Araion Bradshaw added 13 for the Lady Tigers. Edwards had a team-high seven for the Cardinals and Kjiyana Isaac and sophomore center Reti Johnson each contributed six points apiece.
Last year, Fenway beat New Mission in the City Championship but lost to the Titans in the Division 4 North title game, 64-55, at Tsongas Center in Lowell.
Fenway’s Veiga-Lee thinks they might meet New Mission again in the state tournament.
“They are going to try to get at us again,” she said.
McCarthy, who won a state title with the New Mission girls’ team in 2007 before leading the boys’ team to back-to-back state titles the last two seasons, is not discouraged by New Mission’s early exit in cities.
“Come state tournament time we will be ready,” he said. “New Mission will not lay down for any other school. We will not lay down.”
BPSsports Correspondent Steve Musco contributed to this report.
William Frothingham is a junior at Boston University.