Fenway High does not have its own gymnasium, so there is no facility to put a championship banner on display. The Panthers play their “home” games at the Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury.
But year in, year out, the Fenway girls’ basketball team makes a run at the Boston City League title.
And the 2019-20 season has been no different.
With their 49-40 victory over 20th ranked New Mission Thursday afternoon at Madison Park, the Panther girls completed a city title three-peat.
“If you’ve been in Fenway High School, it doesn’t look like the big juggernaut-type environment,” said Fenway coach John Rice, who has guided his program to 20 City League championships. “Throughout all that, we have tremendous support from the staff and the students.
“I’m happy for the kids, I really am. They made a great effort.”
The Panthers (13-7) received a game-high 17 points from junior Omariah Ashley, sophomore Kayana Armbrister delivered 13 points and 16 rebounds to earn tourney MVP honors, and senior Janyah Gulley had 11 points and 17 rebounds.
“I needed to end on a big note for my senior year,” Gulley said. “I couldn’t go out on a loss.”
Seniors Jayla Gonzalez (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Jasharee Greene (14 points) delivered strong performances for New Mission (15-5).
After a slow start, the Panthers took their first lead on a put-back from Armbrister, off a missed free throw, with 6:22 to play in the second quarter and never relinquished the advantage.
Fenway led, 21-15, at the half on 7 points apiece from Armbrister, Ashley and Gulley.
Ashley started and ended the third quarter with triples, Armbrister canned two more, and Wynter Neal drained one for a 42-30 margin.
“We had to encourage our guards to shoot, they were scared to shoot,” Gulley said. “As a team, we just needed to keep on scoring, put them away in the third quarter so that we could try to relax in the fourth. But as you can see we had to do a little more on defense in the fourth to make sure they didn’t come back.”
The dramatics did not end even when the ball wasn’t falling through the hoop.
Armbrister fouled out with 6:27 remaining in regulation. There was a stoppage nearly every possession, and the second half took well over an hour of real time. The Panthers, painstakingly, hung on despite not making a fourth quarter field goal.
After erasing a 13-point first quarter deficit in a 64-52 victory over Latin Academy in Wednesday’s semifinals, New Mission couldn’t follow with another comeback victory less than 24 hours later.
“This ranks up at the top, if not the best,” said Rice. “The more you achieve, the tougher the mountain gets.”Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.