The St. Martin de Porres Saints won the Pennsylvania State CYO Boys Basketball Tournament on Sunday, April 3 at the Joann Mullen Gymnasium in the Prep & Villa Events Center in Erie. The champions from each of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses competed. St. Martin de Porres, representing the Diocese of Philadelphia, took the crown.
The Saints did not seem to be likely contenders for such a sweeping victory. For starters, St. Martin de Porres, an Independence Mission School located in North Philadelphia, doesn’t even have a real gymnasium. The boys have honed their skills using a portable basketball hoop in the school’s auditorium, playing in the school yard during lunch, and in practice and competitive games at other city schools. Moreover, just a few short weeks before heading to the state championship games, the Saints lost their starting center to an injury.
Despite these setbacks, St. Martin de Porres handily defeated St. Elizabeth of Allentown by a score of 53-41 in the Friday, April 1 game after driving nearly eight hours in a bus earlier the same day. The Saints advanced to the second round to take on St. Clare/St. Paul from the Scranton Diocese, and in a closely contested match that was tied 26-26 at the end of the first half, the Saints rallied in the 4th quarter to top Scranton 55-45 in the Saturday afternoon game. In the final game, the Saints triumphed over the Pittsburgh Diocese’s St. Bernadette with a score of 53-41. Shortly after winning, the team boarded the bus at 6:55 p.m. and arrived back in Philadelphia at 1:40 a.m.
This is the first time that the Saints have won the state championship, but perhaps it’s really not so surprising after all. Students at St. Martin de Porres are weaned on a “Stand Up and Stand Out” principle for living. Before they ventured to Erie, the team promised, win or lose, to stand up and stand out, on and off the court. By all accounts, they took that to heart.
Located in one of the most economically depressed and crime-ridden areas of North Philadelphia, St. Martin de Porres School has served poor and minority families for over 100 years under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Ninety-nine percent of the School’s 400 students are African American, and many come from families living below the poverty line.