BRAINTREE -- A three-point shot at the buzzer clinched the New England CYO Basketball title for Cathedral Grammar School’s seventh and eighth grade boys on April 6. The team -- in its first year of existence -- ended the season with a win in the highest level of competition available in Catholic Youth Organization sports.
And the victory came during an already historic year marking the 50th anniversary of the NECYO Basketball Tournament, the 70th anniversary of Boston CYO Sports and the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Team members Kyle Lawyer and Curtis Howe, both eighth graders and two of the four co-captains, were not surprised by the win. In fact, they predicted it.
Cathedral Grammar’s principal, Sister Dorothy Burns, CSJ, told The Pilot, “When their eighth grade teacher said to them at the very first basketball meeting, ‘What is your goal?’ They said, ‘Our goal is to win the championship.’”
Kyle and Curtis began asking Sister Dorothy for a basketball team when they were in fifth grade. They asked again in sixth and seventh, but every year the answer was the same -- there was no money available to start a team.
But this year, the Friends of Cathedral, financial supporters of the school, along with rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Father John Connolly raised the money to start the team. The Friends of Cathedral also offered the female students either a girls’ basketball team or a cheerleading squad. They chose cheerleading and spent the season cheering on the boys’ team.
Sister Dorothy said of the boys’ basketball, “I think of them as a dream team. They had this dream, and they never gave up getting this team.”
More than 1,200 youth, representing 80 parishes and schools from 10 dioceses, participated in games at the Reggie Lewis Center and Milton High School this past weekend.
Other Boston teams competing in the New England tournament were 5-6 grade boys at St. Anthony School in Everett, 5-6 grade girls at Gate of Heaven School in South Boston, 7-8 grade girls at St. Francis School in Braintree, 5-6 grade boys and 7-8 grade girls at Sacred Heart Parish in Quincy, 5-6 grade girls at St. Pius Parish in Lynn, 7-8 grade boys at Gate of Heaven Parish and intermediate boys at St. Mary Parish in Franklin.
At the tournament’s annual Mass, held on the morning of the final day of competition at the Braintree Sheraton, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley began his homily by telling the players, “You’re all champions. You’re champions for being a part of the tournament, but you are also champions of our faith for being here this morning to celebrate this Eucharist with us.”
The cardinal told the young people to get to know their “best friend,” Jesus Christ. In Sunday’s Gospel reading, two disciples on the road to Emmaus invite the risen Lord to dine with them.
“Jesus wanted to be invited,” he said. “Jesus wants to be invited into our lives.”
In addition to the trophies handed out to the winning teams throughout the weekend, April 4-6, the first annual New England CYO Athletic Directors Award was presented to J. Kenneth Foscaldo who has served in Boston CYO for 38 years.
Foscaldo told The Pilot that the award is proof that service in CYO is appreciated by the youth and their families.
“I hope it’s an inspiration, a motivation, for those that are involved in youth ministry,” he said.
Foscaldo’s honor was “richly deserved,” said Peter Williams, director of athletics for Boston CYO.
Williams added that the Cathedral win was also well deserved.
He said of the team members, “They represented themselves, their parents and their school with great poise and class.”
Sister Dorothy said the boys worked very hard all season long. She recalled a comment from a player’s father; “If they don’t win by skill, they’ll win by wearing you out.”
Jonathon Mihal, Cathedral science and social studies teacher and one of the team’s coaches, said the boys have integrity, character and “the utmost respect for the game of basketball.”
They won all but one of their regular season games and played four tournament games over the past weekend.
The morning of the championship game, Mihal attended the Mass with the cardinal and received a personal blessing. At halftime, when the team was down by more than 10 points, he started praying the rosary in his pocket. Then, they came back and won.
“It felt complete,” he said. “It was destiny.”
Kyle said that he was excited that the team would play in the New England competition and more excited when they won.
“I was thinking that we’ve got to go out there and play as a team and just have fun. Don’t get nervous. Play your game,” he said. “A lot of people were saying we couldn’t do it. We proved them wrong.”
During the final part of the championship game, Kyle said he focused on getting the ball in the basket
Curtis said of the last minutes, “I thought we were going to go into overtime.”
He added that he is “amazed” that Cathedral finally has a team, remarking, “We have good teamwork.”
Both boys thanked the Friends of Cathedral and the coaching staff, and both plan to play at Cathedral High School next year.
Coach Mihal added that although 11 of the team’s 13 players are eighth graders who will move on to new schools next year, Cathedral Grammar School will definitely have a basketball team.