The Cathedral Panthers girls basketball earn their second consecutive MIAA State Championship title in Division IV on a 14-game winning streak, picking up honors and milestones along the way.
It was another banner season for the Cathedral Panthers girls varsity basketball team, both figuratively and literally. The girls dominated Division IV in Massachusetts and took home the MIAA state crown for a second year in a row wrapping up what turned out to be an incredible season.
Though the Panthers finished strong, the season started a bit slowly. Facing a tougher and more aggressive schedule than last year, the team took a little longer to find its rhythm. Giving up 26 offensive rebounds per game early on, Head Coach Clinton Lassiter re-focused on fundamentals —rebounding, boxing out, and discipline— to counter the team’s tendency to rely on their natural athleticism.
“We made some mistakes early on, said Coach Lassiter, “but we were still winning games based off raw talent.” Determined to continue to improve the program, the team looked outside of Massachusetts to find tougher opponents. Amid travelling to three states to face nationally-ranked teams, Cathedral went to Hartford, Connecticut to take on the top team in the state: Capital Preparatory. The girls returned home having ended Capital Prep’s eight-year home-court winning streak.
During the season, two players achieved significant personal milestones. Both Masseny Kaba, a senior, and Dejah Jenkins, a sophomore, celebrated hitting 1,000 points in their varsity careers. Kaba, a 6-foot-3 center who goes on to play next year for Central Florida, was also a McDonalds All-American nominee.
The Panthers closed out the season strongly with a 14-game winning streak leading The Boston Globe to declare the team’s “cruise control…to a repeat in Division 4” as number 8 on their list of ten moments to remember from high school sports this winter. The final victory played out at Springfield College where the Panthers handily beat Quaboag 61-32 in the state finals game.
In the wake of this season, Masseny Kaba was named by The Boston Globe as a Player of the Year and joined her freshman teammate Mackenzie Daleba on the Globe’s All-Scholastic team — a list of the top 20 players in the state. Nearly unheard of to be named All-Scholastic as a freshman (and the only one this year), the Globe observed that Deleba “emerged as a pivotal piece” averaging 17.7 points per game. Kaba also picked up her second consecutive title as Catholic Central League MVP award. The league also named Junior Taliyah Countrymon to its All-Star Team alongside Deleba, Jenkins, and Kaba. Coach Clinton Lassiter rounded out the honors earning his second Boston Globe Coach of the Year recognition in three years.
Not only did the girls basketball team represent Cathedral values on the court, they also performed well in the classroom. The team achieved an average GPA of 3.6 for the season. “It’s important our scholar-athletes are champions in the classroom, on the field, and in the community,” said Dr. Oscar Santos, Head of School.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently invited the team to the State House. The girls received a tour and gave the governor a Cathedral Panthers t-shirt as he congratulated them on the stellar season. “He asked for a schedule for next year’s season and said he’d like to come to a game,” added Coach Lassiter. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, state representatives, and other officials at the state house also congratulated the team.
Where do the girls go from here? “That’s always the question,” says Coach Lassiter. With six graduating seniors, the team will be looking to new leadership. “We’ll continue working hard no matter who comes to our doors and make adjustments,” he added. It is an exciting time with a bright future for the girls basketball program at Cathedral High School.