Last month, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the closing of West Philadelphia Catholic High School.
Unlike other schools on the cutting list, leadership at West Catholic made the decision to not the appeal the decision.
“I already knew the feeling of what it was like to lose a school,” said former West Catholic student athlete Will Mega. “But this was different, this was losing a dynasty.”
Last week, the West Catholic family — old and new — returned for the last girls and boys home basketball game.
“It was a family reunion-like atmosphere as we saw our fellow Burrs and former teammates enter the ‘Burr Dome,’” Mega said. “I brought a basketball with me. I had all the former players and coaches sign it with a blue sharpie.
“As the night began to come to a close all of our memories began to emerge and we saw ourselves in the players on the floor,” he added. “I walked away from my group trying to find a place of solitude and I found myself sitting next to Rashana Barnes, class of 1998.”
With tearful eyes and a heavy heart, Mega looked reality in the eye and accepted that a West Philadelphia legacy was coming to an end.
For just two years, Barnes has been the women’s basketball coach. Today, she remains heartbroken as the final days at West Catholic approach.
“It’s sad when money stands between inner-city kids and a good education,” she said. “These are the kids who have the least options and one great school has been taken away from them. We are losing a great piece of history as well as some promising futures.”
Putting her feelings aside, Barnes still had a job to do and that involved keeping the team motivated.
“It was really hard the first couple of weeks trying to keep up team morale,” she said.
Having played basketball at West Catholic, Barnes knew how important the school was to the team because she shared the same sentiment.
“It’s truly a second home,” Barnes said. “I told the team that they have to leave a great example of West Catholic Girls Basketball on the court because they are going to be the last to do it. I wanted them to look back and be proud of their output every single day. Being average was not an option.”
The girls team did not have the most successful season. But the team always showed up ready to practice, according to their coach.
“They are such a great example of resilience and fortitude,” Barnes said. “The girls provided me with a sense of fulfillment that not enough people get to experience. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to serve them in this capacity.”
Athletic Director and 1988 graduate, Brian Fluck has encouraged the staff and student-athletes to remember the good times and friends met over time.
“West Catholic will never die because it is in the heart and soul of the students, faculty, staff and alumni,” he said. “Wherever they go they will always to be proud to be a West Catholic Burr. Once a Burr, always a Burr.”