Patty Suprey took a brutal hack on the arm as she drove down the lane, two points shy of being the first girl in the history of Boston Public Schools (BPS) to score 1,000 points in a career.
Standing in the Charlestown High School gym on Jan. 30, 1980 – some 41 years ago this week – she stepped to the free-throw line, looked over happily at her mother and swished both free throws to make Boston City basketball history.
“I had 10 points to go and we were playing a home game at Charlestown High,” she said. “I needed 10 points to get to 1,000 and I had scored eight. I went up for a layup and got cracked by the other girl and missed the shot. I had to go to the free throw line to get it done. The gym was packed; there were probably 300 people in there. I took the ball and looked right at my mom because she was my idol. I got the first one, it swished through, and that was 999. Then the second went through and that was 1,000. They stopped the game and we had a huge ceremony.”
Suprey was the first girl in BPS history to score 1,000 points in a career.
It was a moment in Charlestown sports history, and in Boston City sports history, that few would think they could ever forget, and that has been cemented in neighborhood sporting lore. Yet, at the same time, the monumental feat has slipped the mind of some in BPS, and her banner denoting the historic moment doesn’t even hang in the high school anymore.
Suprey, now 59, hasn’t forgotten a moment of it, and credited all of her success to her father and mother, Walter and Mary (McNeil) Suprey.
“I owe everything to my parents,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have achieved anything.”
Certainly, Suprey grabbed some of her athletic ability from her mother, Mary. A trailblazing athlete herself, Suprey said her mother was the stuff of legend as she played Women’s Professional Baseball in the 1940s for a team called the Olympettes – likely based in East Boston, she said.
Neighborhood Sports reporter Kevin Kelly said Suprey’s mother was said to have played an indoor baseball game in the 1940s at the Boston Garden as well.
She also credits her father, who was a Boston Police Officer for more than 30 years, and was always willing to play sports at the park with his 10 children, including Patty.
“My father was a lot of fun and he would always take us to the park next door and shoot baskets with us in the park, especially the girls,” she recalled.
Kelly said Suprey was a pioneer for girls sports in the neighborhood, and was also a great swimmer, hockey player and softball player – in addition to the hoops.
“Patty, along with other female athletic phenoms, earned their stripes playing youth sports – Little League and CYO baseball and basketball – against the boys,” he said. “She paved the way for other female hoop phenoms such as Corey Gallagher (Jason and Derek Gallagher’s sister), who scored over 2,000 points at Matignon and over 900 points at perennial power Bentley College, as well as Nicole Matson – another 1,000 point scorer for Charlestown High. Sharon Fidler was also a standout hoop player at Christopher Columbus High and at Suffolk. Ellen Crotty Pistorino is in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame as a scoring legend at Suffolk College, and she is also in the Suffolk Hall of Fame for softball.”
Suprey said she also credits her athletic development to simply having a park – Doherty Park – right next to her home. That, and having nine siblings to play against.
“We grew up directly across from the park and it had basketball courts, a playground, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a place to play hockey on the courts,” she said. “In the winter we even used to throw our nets over the fence at the pool and play hockey in there…My mom would take us to the park and say, ‘Here you go.’”
Beyond that, she just wanted to play and have fun, build on teamwork.
“I heard a girl in Somerville had scored 1,000 points and I figured I could do it too,” she said. “I never really set out to do that. My thing was about teamwork, and having fun and building relationships and growing.”
She said she could have accomplished the feat in her junior year – after three years of varsity – but broke her ankle badly during a game in January 1979. She didn’t return that season, but easily made the mark her senior season.
Part of that team and teamwork was the fact that Suprey played in the busing era and Charlestown High was central to that piece of Boston history. She said many of her friends had been taken out of Charlestown High and sent to Matignon to avoid the busing issues, but she stayed on and was always grateful for it.
“I stayed with the public schools and I was grateful,” she said. “It taught me character and how to be tough…We went to school with busing and I met a lot of my Black friends there from Dorchester and Roxbury. We were always very good. We always hit number one. We went to states, but the suburban teams always beat us out. They had the height.”
Suprey recalled her coaches, especially the late Mike Sheeran, John ‘Ditzo’ Doherty and Joe Gunn. She said in the era of busing, the white and black team often found themselves in precarious positions on the road.
She said one night in Jamaica Plain, they whole team got jumped after winning a road game. The girls fought their way to the bus and Suprey laughingly remembers Coach Doherty protecting them.
“We got jumped in JP one night,” she said. “We won the game and a group jumped us. The coaches got us on the bus and then Doherty came out of there swinging a bag of basketballs and telling everyone to get away from the bus. It was crazy.”
Nowadays, Suprey still plays and stays active, though she was injured three years ago while working at Deer Island for the MWRA. However, once past that, she said she plans to re-join a few adult basketball leagues. Most of her relatives still live in Charlestown as well, including many brothers, uncles, nephews and nieces that work as nurses or for the Boston Police or Boston Fire.