Although Fenway girls’ basketball coach John Rice says he’s moved on from last year’s ineligibility from the Boston City League Championships because of an MIAA violation, the thought of Fenway not being able to defend its title last season still affects him.
“It’s almost bringing me to tears right now,” Rice said. “It brought me to tears last year, I was hurting so much for the kids, for our student athletes. It’s just emotional for me.”
On Thursday night, 13th-ranked Fenway (17-2) made sure it made up for last year as the Panthers defeated South Boston, 49-23, to regain the Boston City League Championship at Madison Park.
Fenway’s Takora McIntyre led all scorers with 15 points and had six steals. She was named tournament MVP.
After shutting out South Boston, 16-0, in the first quarter, it seemed as if Fenway could not be stopped on either end of the court.
While the Panthers scored 32 points in the first half, it was the defensive execution that allowed them to score big.
Fenway’s full-court press suffocated the Lady Knights (16-3), preventing them from crossing midcourt for much of the first half. And when they did manage to beat the press, Fenway forced turnovers.
“We play up-tempo defense, gambling, but a help defensive system and the kids are smart players, they have a high basketball IQ,” Rice said. “And that’s why we’re back-to-back state champs, trying to go for the third.”
Defense isn’t Fenway’s only strong suit.
“We’re a defensive-minded team, but we have strong offensive-minded players as well,” Rice said.
“I was really trying to look for my outside shot, but it didn’t really work for me, so once again, I used my defense,’’ said McIntyre. “I used the steals to get my points.”
Alongside McIntyre’s MVP selection, Shai’Ann Nance (9 points) and Jalissa Ross (13 points) were selected to the all-tournament team.
Despite the disparity, the Lady Knights held Fenway to just 8 points in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, South Boston went on a 10-2 run, cutting a 29-point lead down to 21.
The city league championships was the first tournament for the Panthers, who have their sights set on the state title. But Rice isn’t looking that far ahead. Fenway is focused on the first game of the state tournament.
“We just have to worry about the next team,” Rice said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best game, we know that. But we enjoy it, we just try to make sure our kids enjoy it and don’t tense up with it, just have fun with the whole thing.”