The CYO boys basketball team of St. Martin de Porres School in Philadelphia won the state championship tournament April 3 in Erie. The Saints, representing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, bested the champions from the state’s other seven dioceses.

Some 475 students, waving pompoms and placards, will gather in a victory parade to honor the team at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 21 near the school along 2300 West Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia.

The victory celebration featuring the Philadelphia 76ers drumline will culminate in a formal program in the school auditorium ending at 11 a.m. Notable Philadelphians, including Mayor Jim
Kenney, are anticipated to attend.

The Saints did not seem to be likely contenders for a championship. For starters, St. Martin de Porres, an Independence Mission School located in North Philadelphia, doesn’t even have a gymnasium. The boys honed their skills using a portable basketball hoop in the school’s auditorium and played together in the school yard during lunch, in practices and competitive games at other city schools. And just a few weeks before the state championship tournament, the Saints lost their starting center to an injury.

Despite the setbacks, St. Martin de Porres handily defeated St. Elizabeth of Allentown, 53-41, in the tourney’s first round Friday, April 1, after driving nearly eight hours in a bus earlier the same day. The Saints then beat St. Clare/St. Paul from the Scranton Diocese with a 55-45 win, thanks to a fourth quarter rally.

In the final game, the St. Martin de Porres defeated the Pittsburgh Diocese’s St. Bernadette, 53-41. Shortly after winning, the team boarded their bus just before 7 p.m. and arrived back in Philadelphia at 1:40 a.m.

Like all students at St. Martin de Porres, the boys took to heart their school’s principle, “Stand Up and Stand Out,” both on and off the court.

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.