For the first time in Pope John XXIII High School history, the boys’ basketball team has been crowned as MIAA state champs.
The Tigers (24-1) toppled Maynard (22-4) in the Division 4 title game on Saturday, March 17, by a score of 89-57 with a lethal, inside-out attack spearheaded by tourney MVP Angel Price-Espada – who had 49 points in the game and, at one point, had scored more points alone than the entire Maynard team.
In a contest that spiraled out of control from the opening tap, the junior sensation Price-Espada exploded for 23 points in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 52-31 halftime lead. Price-Espada didn’t let up in the third quarter, tossing in 18 more points as Coach Leo Boucher’s talented squad steamrolled to the impressive triumph.
“This is a very special group of kids who came together as a family to make history,” revealed Boucher. “I can’t say enough about the teams’ willpower and talent, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to help guide them on their journey.”
While Price-Espada wowed the crowd with his array of long range bombs and highlight reel “no look” passes, he had plenty of support from fellow Catholic Central League All Stars Marquis Bouyer (17 points, 10 rebounds), Michael Thompson (six points, 11 rebounds, fivs assists) and whirling dervish point guard Mekhi Collins (six steals, seven assists).
Also making important contributions were junior forwards Luis Velasquez (10 points, seven rebounds), Conor Kelly (two points, two rebounds, block) and Cameron Erickson (steal, two assists, three rebounds). With the outcome no longer in doubt, the PJ reserves reveled in showcasing the Tigers considerable depth and talent.
The historic win gives three-time “Coach of the Year” Leo Boucher (who landed at PJ after the sudden closing of St. Clement High School last year) his second state title in the last five years.
“It was very gratifying to see five (St. Clement) Anchormen transfers be welcomed with open arms at Pope John,” added Boucher. “The experience is one I will always treasure.”
It was an incredible ride by a remarkable ensemble of coaches, players, cheerleaders and fans, and a history-making season for Pope John boys’ basketball.