North High Men’s Basketball Program Is Set To Make History In State Championship On Saturday


Usually when I report on stories there is some sort of villain or bad guy who is being exposed. So this afternoon I’m going to write a couple blogs about local area athletes that are uplifting and positive, with no villain involved.

I’ve always enjoyed watching high school basketball. There’s something about the noise of small high school gyms that make it exciting. Ultimately the stakes aren’t the biggest deal, because at the end of the day it’s a high school basketball game. But for the kids involved it means the world, and as a graduate of the Worcester Public Schools (Worcester South) I couldn’t be prouder of what the Worcester North Men’s basketball team is doing right now.

Remarkably no Worcester Public School team has ever won a Division 1 MIAA State Championship in basketball, despite being the second largest city in New England. Often the WPS lose their best athletes to prep and catholic schools like Worcester Academy, St. John’s, and the former Holy Name and St. Peter Marian. There have been some great, competitive teams, but they almost always fall just short. Former NBA player and Big East Player of the Year Mike Bradley led Burncoat to the title game in 1997 only to fall short.

That can all change Saturday.

My 5 year old son loves watching basketball so I’ve been taking him to several North games, and he’s a huge fan. He can’t stop talking about North High in our house and always asks when their next game is. We’ve been following them on their journey through the D1 state tourney, beating Wellesley, Beverly, and Brockton by an average of more than 20 points. On the season their average margin of victory is 28. They have not lost to a single team in Massachusetts, and defeated the top 2 ranked teams in Lawrence and Newton North. Their only 2 losses are to Broken Arrow (Oklahoma) and Radnor (Pennsylvania) by a combined 7 points. Both of those teams are favored to win their respective state titles. However, the non-Massachusetts losses factored into the way the MIAA seeded them, so they were only ranked 6th.

Last night we went to Taunton High School to watch the Polar Bears for a rematch against last year’s state finalist, and 2006 state champion Newton North, in the D1 semifinals. It was a back and forth game that was tied 46-46 with 5 minutes to go before Worcester North exploded for 18 points to close with the 64-57 victory. Sophomore Ty Tabales hit back to back to 3’s to put them ahead for good.

They now have a chance to become the first WPS team to win a State Championship on Saturday in Lowell as they await the winner of North Andover and Needham, and will be heavy favorites.

When I was in high school North was the joke school. I went to South, and we were horrible at pretty much everything, but the one win we were guaranteed every year in every sport, was against North. But Coach Al Pettway has completely transformed the culture there. Instead of players leaving the district to play for more competitive private schools, players are now transferring into the district to play for North. The Boston Globe wrote a story on their journey last month. Junior Khari Bryan and sophomore Amir Jenkins transferred from Springfield Commonwealth Academy to attend their neighborhood public school.

Amaren Minor left St. Paul as well.

Their star point guard Tahlan Pettway averaged 30 points a game last season for Burncoat, before transferring to play for his uncle Al. Number 3 is smooth like butter.

The team has one senior, but every member of their 7 man rotation is an underclassmen. These kids have grown up playing together and you can tell. They move the ball like a college team and are much more disciplined than any city school team I’ve ever seen. The twin towers down low, Joe Okla and Teshaun Steele, like to dunk a lot.

Tabales spent 18 days during the middle of the season in Boston Children’s Hospital and had to undergo two surgeries after a serious bout of toxic shock syndrome. He missed their victories over Lawrence and Newton North, arguably the two best teams in the state. Since coming back he has been electric, and capped it off last night with the go ahead scores.

Their season has been documented by a content creator who goes by Ambitious Angelo on Facebook, who produced a documentary about them.

Win or lose on Saturday this team should be honored by the City Council and School Committee for what they’ve accomplished. They’ve made me proud to have grown up in Worcester, and I look forward to watching them end the drought in Lowell. Ultimately it’s just a game, but the life skills these kids have picked up by learning how to work as a group and follow the leadership of their coach will be transferable skills that will enable them to be successful adults as well.

P.S. Shoutout to David Prouty Regional in Spencer for the historic season they’re having as well. Their school has no tradition of basketball whatsoever, but is currently undefeated and playing in the D5 State Semifinals tomorrow night in Framingham against Holbrook.


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