LYNN — The KIPP Academy boys basketball team fell one game short of winning the Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization Championship last season. This year’s team used that loss as motivation throughout the season, and it worked.
Saturday night the Panthers got themselves a second crack at the MCSAO Championship game and this time they brought it home. KIPP knocked off Edward Kennedy, 59-53, in a double-overtime win at Excel Academy in East Boston to avenge last season’s loss. Making things even sweeter for the Panthers is that they gained revenge over Kennedy, the team that beat them in last year’s championship.
Wallace Reed led the Panthers with a 20-point performance. Abdoul Barry added 14 points. Defensively, Dave Filias took three charges while Dominic Jette, who earned the league’s MVP award, and Pius Roberts also played strong defense.
KIPP didn’t take the easy route in this one. On two separate occasions the Panthers fell behind by double digits and it seemed as though Kennedy would run away with the victory. Both times, the Panthers answered the bell with crucial rallies to crawl back in.
The key to the win, said KIPP first-year coach David White, was execution down the stretch.
“We executed well down the stretch,” White, a former player and coach at Medford High, said. “We started out a little nervous, we fell behind 15-5. We had a strong game plan. We watched film before the game and we saw how we beat ourselves the first time we played them. We took care of the basketball against their pressure and we executed very well, especially down the stretch.
“It was great for the kids,” White added. “It was like a revenge win for them. They played the same team last year and lost in the championship game. They’ve been working hard all season. I was really happy for the kids and it was nice to see them get that win.”
The Panthers came together in hopes of sending their three seniors, Jette, Kymani Morrison and Dionne Rodriguez, out on a high note. With the win, KIPP accomplished that goal.
“It was special for our seniors,” White said. “To send all the seniors out with a championship was special. They went out on top. We sent them out the right way and they left a great legacy for the freshmen and sophomores on the team. They built the program and now it’s up to the younger guys to keep it rolling.”
White feels winning the championship gives the underclassmen an idea of what it takes to bring home a banner. Next year’s team will face the task of defending its title and White believes the Panthers will be up for the challenge.
“It sets the tone with our younger guys,” White said. “They know how much work we need to put in to get to that point. It’s not given that we’ll get back to this point. We have to defend our title now. Our work ethic has to go up a notch and our guys have to compete.”
White also credited his assistant coach, Andrew Jacks, for his efforts throughout the season.
“Coach Jacks does a lot behind the scenes,” White said. “We wouldn’t have reached our success this year without him so he deserves a lot of credit.”
The Panthers finished the season at 19-2.