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Banner hosts Boston high school champions at a Celtics Game

Three MIAA title holders enjoy a night in the TD Garden

Mandile Mpofu
Banner hosts Boston high school champions at a Celtics Game
MIAA Basketball Champions Charlestown, Cathedral and New Mission High Schools at Big Night Live on Friday Night. BANNER PHOTO

Friday’s Boston Celtics win over the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden was a sweet victory for the team, and a big moment of celebration for another group of basketball players, too.

More than 30 students from Cathedral High School, Charlestown High School and New Mission High School — all winners of their respective basketball championships this season —  commemorated their victories at the game during a trip sponsored by the Bay State Banner.

For the high school players and their coaches, winning their championship was a momentous and emotional occasion.

“You would have thought we [were] a bunch of eighth-graders [who] just got the new PlayStation 5 for Christmas. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of tears, a lot of smiles, a lot of joy,” said New Mission boys basketball assistant coach Tyrique Lee. He said that while the team experienced “a couple of big losses during the season,” they stuck together long enough to make it to the end.

“It feels great,” said New Mission point guard and 10th-grader Solis Blue of his team’s championship title and the TD Garden outing. “Just coming to support the Celtics, after we just got our win we could bring home … it’s gonna be fun tonight.”

Before the Boston-Charlotte matchup, the young basketball players enjoyed refreshments at Big Night Live and played arcade games before heading to the arena to cheer on the Celtics in what ended up being a riveting showdown. After half-time, the players were recognized publicly for their achievements, as the names of their high schools — and their enthusiastic faces — appeared on the jumbotron along with the Banner’s logo.

The Cathedral girls team won its championship last season, making the Panthers back-to-back title holders, but this is the first time the girls’ victories have been recognized, said assistant coach Dashawn Oliver. The team had a “rocky” season, but the players kept their eye on their main priority: winning the last game.

“It feels great to have that opportunity to bring them to see some hopefully future champs,” said Oliver of his team’s trip to the Celtics game.

For many of the youth, the game was a taste of what’s possible, an example of what they could one day achieve.

Jaylen Hunter-Coleman, point guard for Charlestown, said he’s been playing basketball since the third grade. Now a 10th-grader, Hunter-Coleman said he loves everything about the sport — the highs, the lows and the opportunities for improvement. His end goal: play professionally.

“Even if I can’t get to the NBA, I would always want to play overseas in a different country, different continent. That’s the plan,” he said.

The winning season for Hunter-Coleman and his team was supported by Carlos Andres Ruiz, the team’s mental and spiritual coach. His job this season, Ruiz said, was to “build the character as a collective, because we knew we had the individual talent.” He led the team through mental and spiritual exercises to elevate the team’s performance and unite new and returning players. The labor of the season — the early morning sessions, the bad moments — bore fruit in the form of a championship title, acknowledged anew on Friday.

“Coming together to get recognition through winning the title, it’s a great cherry on top,” Ruiz said. “Just being part of it, it feels like it’s more than just a sports team.” He noted that the team could watch a Celtics game at any point, but “knowing that it’s because of what we achieved, I think it just reminds us of all those times that we were together.”