Central High girl’s basketball crowned D-1 state champions

The Springfield Central High School girl’s basketball team claimed the Division I state title over the weekend.
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:10 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Springfield Central High School girl’s basketball team claimed the Division I state title over the weekend.

“It feels great, working this hard, coming this far is just a life-long dream,” said Central junior Julie Bahati.

Bahati and the Springfield Central Golden Eagles girls’ basketball team are Division I state champions for the first time since 2017 after defeating top-seeded Andover 43-40 on Sunday afternoon. Central built up a dominant 20-2 lead after the first quarter, but had to clamp down defensively to win the trophy.

“We just kept it cool, calm, and collected the whole time because if we didn’t, it probably would’ve gone a different way,” said Central junior Sydney Dodds.

James Gee led the Golden Eagles to a 22-1 record in his first season as head coach. He told Western Mass News that the team was battle tested all season long amid COVID-19 stoppages, come-from-behind victories in the playoffs, and a chip on their shoulder after losing the western Massachusetts championship in their last full season.

“Having to rally together and stick together, I think they were really used to that kind of pressure,” Gee explained.

When Andover’s potential game-tying half court heave fell short at the buzzer, Central senior Amani Smith said, “My heart dropped. I don’t even have words honestly.”

It meant senior Jasmine Love would be going out on top.

“It meant a lot because we were always the underdogs, especially because we’re a team of color. It just meant a lot,” Love noted.

Gee added that he preaches teamwork in the huddle and working hard as a unit.

“Being a good person, a person of character, treat people well. Those things will get you very far in life,” Gee explained.

For Dodds, the win is bigger than basketball. It’s about setting an example on and off the court.

“We did it for the community because it means a lot to them, I know it does, and like Julie said, for younger kids that see us, just know to work hard all the time and good things will come to you,” Dodds said.

Central junior Heaven Morris exclaimed, “We’re state champs baby!”