Latin Academy wins first BCL hoops title since 1993

BOSTON — Nobody on the Latin Academy roster had been born yet the last time the program had won the Boston City League tournament championship, but that sure didn’t make Saturday’s reclaiming of the title after 27 years taste any less sweet.

Senior Mason Lawson, the hero from Friday’s semifinal win, came through late again by scoring the Dragons’ final eight points to secure a 46-44 win over New Mission in a tight game which saw nine lead changes or ties in the fourth quarter alone. The Titans made BLA earn every lead, mercilessly attacking the paint and glass to keep them close despite committing 28 turnovers.

That Dragons defense proved to be the difference, though, preventing New Mission from getting a solid look on a game-winning attempt at the buzzer. Lawson, who still freshly remembers losing the title game last year, earned tournament MVP honors with his team-high 13 points and timely play.

“Hats off to New Mission, they were super, super tough,” said head coach Dan Bunker, who lost the title game twice as a player and last year as coach. “It was a battle the whole game … I’m really proud of our guys. 1993 isn’t going to be too lonely up there (on the banner) anymore.”

“I felt all the emotions of losing last year,” added Lawson. “I told myself I wasn’t leaving BLA without winning a City championship.”

Back-and-forth the game played out through all four quarters, with neither team gaining a lead bigger than six points. For every turnover New Mission coughed up, it made up for it by forcing poor 3-point shooting and by terrorizing the paint with Kenmar Morgan (eight points, 13 rebounds — eight offensive) and Hassan Jenkins (16 points, six rebounds — four offensive).

The fourth quarter proved to test the hearts of everyone in the gym, though, trading baskets the whole way. Osasu Woghiren (10 points, six rebounds, four blocks, two steals) tied up the game at 34-34 to kick it off, before 4-0 runs from each unit canceled each other out to knot it at 40-40 midway through. Lawson used his body well to get to the charity stripe, hitting a few to pull ahead 43-41 with under two minutes to go. Forty-three seconds remained when Shamari Peterson put the Titans ahead on his own free throws, not too long before Lawson came through again with an and-one layup 10 seconds later.

Sophomore Brennan Shapiro delivered a game-saving block to get the ball back up 46-44 with 22 ticks left, yet New Mission came up with its own defensive magic by forcing a turnover near the Dragons basket. That’s the closest it would get, though, as BLA prevented any penetration and limited the Titans to a prayer of a 3-pointer that fell short of the hoop for the win.

Multiple players came up huge on the defensive end all night for the Dragons, with Lawson (four steals), Woghiren, Shapiro, Abdulahi Aden (seven points, three steals) and Benny Martinez (two steals) each providing their own dose of havoc.

“(Defense) is all we do, we live off defense,” said Lawson. “In practice we chant, ‘First-Team All-Defense’ for that, that’s what we work on a lot.”

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