By Dominic Scianna
The CPS SCORE elementary school girls and boys basketball city championships took place at Whitney Young High School on March 10 with Alexander Graham Bell taking home the 7th-8th grade girls division title and Lindblom A.C. emerging victorious in the 7th-8th grade boys division.
Bell School’s girls basketball teams have been champions in three of the past five years. And technically, their titles can be considered a three-peat since the 2021 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“This was our third straight title (2020, 2022, 2023) and fourth time in the Finals (a 2019 loss in the championship game) in the last four competitions that were held,” said Mark Klein, Bell girls head coach, whose squad beat Ravenswood 31-14 in the title game.
Klein has been a part of five championships (the other two came in 2013 and 2015) overall in his tenure as girls head coach at Bell.
Bell was led this season by eighth-grader and team captain Leyla Hamilton, leading scorer Vega Ransom-Marks, shooting guard Mary Hickman, power forward Eliana Snopek, and center Allie Reynolds.
“Defense has always been our hallmark and this team featured four seventh grade starters,” admitted Klein, who has been a teacher at Bell since 1989 and coach beginning in 1994. “So we’re bringing back four key players for next year’s team.”
Klein and his school stress academics first and foremost, but athletics is also a key part of the student experience at Bell.
“Academics are obviously why this school exists in the first place but athletics can go hand in hand with academics if handled the correct way,” he said. “When you become more and more involved in a number of activities that actually helps you concentrate on the tasks at hand. When it’s athletics, it’s on the court – and when it’s academics, it’s in the classroom.”
For second-year Lindblom A.C. boys head basketball coach Keenan Robinson, it was a goal of the team to win the city championship since they did not participate in 2022. The team finished with a 33-3 record and a thrilling one point victory in the title game vs. Learn 8 Charter School.
“This team has been dealing with a lot of adversity since September and played a lot of games to get to where we wanted to be. We’ve won conference and network championships but we hadn’t won a (CPS SCORE) city championship,” said Coach Robinson. “That was our goal and we made it happen.”
A thrilling 42-41 come-from-behind win over Learn 8 in the title game capped off a fitting end to this remarkable CPS SCORE season. Lindblom’s Christian Hankins hit the game-winning, step-back 3-point shot with 10 seconds to play to complete the comeback after trailing by seven points with 2:19 to play in the fourth quarter.
Hankins was the sixth man and embraced his role along with other key contributors like center Xavier Johnson, who Robinson praised for doing the little things that don’t show up in the box score, London Rome, who played multiple positions in creating lineup flexibility for the team, and Edward Williams IV, starting point guard and the team’s catalyst all year as a “coach on the floor” for Robinson.
The title run was not lost on Robinson who told his team at the start of the season that they were going to have to work for it – and not think they were going to beat every opponent handily.
“I played at Curie High School and I won a city championship my senior year, so the most gratifying thing for me is seeing that feeling that I had reciprocated by these kids,” said Robinson.
And he admitted this Lindblom team gave him everything they had and benefited from the losses, even though they were few, in getting his team that championship focus they needed to succeed.
“This (championship) means the world to me and the boys,” noted Robinson. “They’ll understand later down the road the time we made history for our school.”