Despite the COVID-19 pandemic upending normalcy in Boston City League basketball, one theme remains the same: Fenway reigns as girls’ tournament champions.
The Panthers on Saturday won their fourth consecutive championship, 42-37, in a back-and-forth road battle with previously-unbeaten O’Bryant. First-year coach Caitlin Fenn continued the winning legacy, though she praises the players for keeping tradition alive.
“I feel, like right now, I can’t really take credit for it,” she said. “The girls deserve all the credit for this. They’re carrying on the things they’ve learned in the past.”
Junior wing Kayana Armbrister led the Panthers (11-1) with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. But the Tigers (10-1) challenged her by throwing different defensive looks, including a box-and-one that forced her into tough passes.
“We had studied a lot of game tape,” Fenn said, “and [O’Bryant] threw new stuff at us that we weren’t prepared for. They did slow us down.”
O’Bryant used its pesky defense to stymie the Panthers early. Freshman Jasmine Cox scored 10 points as part of a 13-2 Tiger run to take a 20-14 halftime lead. After watching her team cough up 10 turnovers in the second quarter alone, Fenn instructed them to play within themselves.
“I don’t have any new plays for you to run; I don’t have any new defenses for you to play,” Fenn said she told the players. “You guys just have to play smarter. You know how to do this.”
Armbrister led a 7-0 spurt and helped Fenway reclaim a 21-20 edge early in the third quarter. Then she picked up her fourth foul and sat out the rest of the period, prompting O’Bryant to wrestle back a 26-25 advantage.
“Even though I was in foul trouble, I’m still going to play [my] game,” Armbrister said. “Got to take that W.”
Down 30-28 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers dug deep for two critical and-one finishes by Armbrister and Janaiya Printemps. When the Panther benchs chanted “D-Up,” the players on the floor listened. O’Bryant scored just seven points in the final frame as Fenway slowly pulled away.
Cox paced the Tigers with 13 points, while senior Jahbria Horsley added 12.
“I just kept thinking, ‘We got, this, we got this,” said Fenway senior Omariah Ashley, who finished with 9 points. “Slow it down and think.”
The entire Boston City League season packed itself into less than a month. Though Fenway could only practice twice per week, the players wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“It’s a fun, short season … I’m proud of us,” Armbrister said.