Helen Ridley

Rams celebrate season at team banquet

ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
Classical coaches Tom Sawyer, left, and Helen Ridley, right, gave seniors Soneta Srey, second from left, and Priscill Alouidor a gift at the Rams’ girls basketball banquet Tuesday.

By KATIE MORRISON 

LYNN — The Lynn Classical girls basketball team had a season to remember in 2016-17. The Rams won 17 games, the highest win total for Classical since the 2003-04 season. They not only got the chance to host a state tournament game, but were able to win in their home gym, beating North Andover, 59-47, before falling to Billerica in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.

The Rams celebrated their impressive season on Tuesday night at Old Tyme Italian Cuisine in Lynn at the team’s annual banquet.

It was an emotional evening as Classical said farewell to a pair of seniors in Soneta Srey and Priscill Alouidor. Srey, a Northeastern Conference All-Star, was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year. The senior scored a career-high 33 points against Everett in a season filled with highlights for both her and the Rams.

“We always put her (Srey) on the other team’s most important player,” Classical head coach Tom Sawyer said. “She always came through. She’s an unbelievable athlete.”

Alouidor received the Academic Achievement Award, as she holds a 4.18 grade point average and is 20th in her class.

The two seniors gave their own speeches at the end of the evening.

“Playing basketball isn’t just about winning, but about the memories you make and the fun you have, and I just realized that,” Srey said. “What you learn on the court, you apply to life as well.”

“I’m grateful for all the memories. There are times when I questioned playing this year, but I’m glad I did,” Alouidor said. “Even though I won’t be playing basketball in college, I will always tell people about the wonderful times I had at Classical.”

Paris Wilkey was honored as the team’s Best Offensive Player. The junior, who is closing in on 1,000 career points, averaged 17 points per game, scored 35 percent of the Rams’ points, and reached double figures in 20 of 22 games this season. She, along with Revere’s Valentina Pepic, was named co-Player of the Year in the NEC.

Irianis Delgado was named the Rookie of the Year for the Rams. Delgado became a large part of Classical’s offense as the season progressed, and scored 16 points in a 23-point victory over Saugus.

“She’s grown by leaps and bounds,” Sawyer said.

Jeylly Medrano, the team’s other NEC all-star selection, was named the Most Improved Player. Medrano had the tall task of taking over for 2016 Classical graduate Chenysse Hill at point guard, and Sawyer said she “did everything we asked of her and alleviated those concerns.”

Tyarah Horton received the Lady Ram Award for her hard work, dedication and hustle.

“We never have to coach her effort,” said Rams assistant coach Helen Ridley. “She’s our unsung hero.”

Also receiving awards for the sub-varsity teams were Izzy McGaughey (freshmen team’s Most Improved Player), Amber Crayton (freshmen Most Valuable Player), Jean Gupton (JV Most Improved Player), Jasmin Masse (JV Offensive Player of the Year) and Rebecca Walker (JV Coaches Award).

Sawyer thanked his coaching staff, which includes Ridley, junior varsity coach Rob Smith and freshmen coach Frank DeLuca. Ridley had kinds words of her own to share about Sawyer.

“This team has the best coach in the city. He could be a college coach,” Ridley said. “Your daughters are in great hands.”

Delgado leads Classical to win

FILE PHOTO
Classical’s Irianis Delgado led all scorers with 16 points on Tuesday night. 

By HAROLD RIVERA

Prior to Tuesday night’s game against Saugus, Classical girls basketball coach Tom Sawyer said his team would have its hands full against a talented Sachems group. Perhaps the Rams play best when their hands are full.

Behind an offensive display that saw seven different Classical scorers, the Rams rolled to a 60-37 win over the Sachems at Saugus High.

“Most impressive was that they pressed us and we handled their press,” Sawyer said. “Against Saugus, it starts with being able to handle their pressure. We were terrific tonight. Jeylly Medrano, running the point, was unbelievable handling their press. It all starts there.”

Classical seized the momentum in the early goings of the game. Paris Wilkey missed her first few shots, but the junior drained a pair of three pointers in the first quarter. Irianis Delgado muscled her way to a pair of buckets in the paint, and the Rams led 18-6 at the end of the first.

The Sachems carried their struggles into the second quarter. Classical ran a stingy 2-3 zone defense that gave Saugus issues throughout the first half.

“Classical did a good job,” Saugus coach Mark Schruender said. “They did a good job, they sped us up. I think when they started speeding us up, everybody started to take it upon themselves to come back from a poor start.”

Saugus committed three turnovers in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Classical capitalized on those mistakes with a 6-0 run that ended when Alessia Salzillo nailed a jump shot to get the Sachems back on the board. Classical led 34-12 at the half.

“Coach (Helen) Ridley and I talk before every game,” Sawyer said. “We both agreed that in this particular game we should play zone because Saugus is extremely active on offense. We gave up 12 (points) in the first half, so we stuck with it.”

Down 22 points at the start of the second half, Saugus was in need of offense. The Sachems began to hit their shots in the third quarter as a pair of free throws by Krissy Italiano slimmed Classical’s lead to 18 points at 36-18. The Rams held their end of the bargain and made a handful of buckets to carry a 48-23 advantage into the fourth quarter.

By the start of the fourth quarter, the game was in Classical’s bag. The Rams (7-3) rolled to their seventh win of the season.

Classical had three scorers in double figures. Delgado led all scorers with 16 points.

“Irianis had a terrific game tonight,” Sawyer said of the junior forward. “She’s a little banged up, had an ankle injury and didn’t know if she was going to be able to play. She’s a tough kid though, she said she wanted to play. We needed her.”

Medrano contributed with 13 points while Wilkey scored ten.

“What this shows is that we played our best game of the year,” Sawyer said. “It was an unbelievable effort by everybody, up and down our lineup. We’ll celebrate it tonight, it’s hard to win in this league.”

Classical will aim to stay on the win column when the Rams visit Gloucester on Friday.

On the Saugus side, Molly Granara led the Sachems with ten points.

“She (Granara) just competes,” Schruender said. “She’s a freshman that doesn’t know she’s a freshman. She works really hard in practice and yesterday I got on her in practice about defense. She responded really well.”

Salzillo had a strong performance of her own, with eight points.

The Sachems (6-2) will look to shake off the loss by correcting their mistakes. Saugus has a quick turnaround as the Sachems host Somerville tonight.

“Tomorrow’s a new day,” Schruender said. “We’re a game to game team. These kids are tough.”


Harold Rivera can be reached at hrivera@itemlive.com. 

Former Classical star leads by example

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Former Lynn Classical girls basketball star Helen Ridley now leads by example as an assistant coach for the Rams. 

By HAROLD RIVERA

LYNN — There’s no question that the tradition basketball holds in Lynn is a rich one.

The long list of hoop stars who were grew up in Lynn includes a number of players who took their talents to the Division 1 level.

The list includes Lynn Tech alumnus Antonio Anderson,  who played for coach John Calipari at the University of Memphis and in the NBA with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder; his brother, Anthony, who played at English and UMass Amherst; Tech’s Tony Gallo, who played at Coppin State; and Corey Bingham, another former Tech star, who played for the University of Toledo.

But make no mistake about it, the women have done their share to carry the torch too.

Helen Ridley, a former team captain and 1,000-point scorer for the Classical girls’ basketball team, serves as an example that the Lynn women have done their part in making the city proud.

Ridley played at Classical from 1997 to 2001 for former Rams coach and current principal Gene Constantino.

“It was great,” Ridley said. “I loved playing basketball. I was on varsity for four years and we got better as time went on. My junior and senior years we had some really great teams. It was an awesome experience.”

Ridley’s success on the court at Classical earned her a Division 1 scholarship to Quinnipiac University. She was a star there from 2001 to 2005, and a team captain in her final season with the Bobcats.

After graduating from Quinnipiac, Ridley coached at her alma mater and then at the University of New Hampshire.

She returned to her high school team in 2013, after stepping away from coaching for a year, as an assistant coach on Tom Sawyer’s staff.

“I took a year off from coaching and that year I helped my dad (St. Mary’s principal James) with his AAU program (Thundercats),” Ridley said. “I was around a lot of the high school coaches at the time. I definitely missed that competitive aspect.”

Now that Ridley’s career has come full circle, she works closely with the players on her team and serves as a case study for those who seek to play hoops in college.

“That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day,” Ridley said. “If I can talk to them about using basketball as an avenue for getting an education, that, to me, is coaching.

“Being able to help an athlete in that way is more meaningful than winning or losing games, especially the athletes that may be first generation college students,” she said.

Ridley’s experiences as a star at Quinnipiac serve to help her advise the girls who are looking to continue the trend of Lynn natives earning basketball scholarships.

Ridley said the trend is growing, especially on the women’s side.

“The females do a good job of going to high-level programs,” Ridley said.

Current females carrying the Lynn basketball torch in the college ranks include Brianna Rudolph (UMass Lowell), Sharell Sanders (Caldwell), Diondra Woumn (Franklin Pierce), Catherine Stinson (Southern New Hampshire), Chenysse Hill (Plymouth State) and Monta Connolly (Framingham State).

“In the past 10 years, there’s more than a handful of Lynn kids who have gone on to play Division 1 or 2 and there are more that have played in Division 3, which is no small feat,” Ridley said. “There aren’t too many athletes who can continue their careers in college. It’s pretty awesome for those who get that opportunity.”

Former women’s basketball stars who have paved the way for today’s college players representing Lynn include Ridley, Jeannette Anderson (Caldwell), Tori Faieta (Stonehill) and Monique Lee (Quinnipiac).

Ridley noted that she, along with other Lynn women who were fortunate enough to continue their basketball careers in college, look to mentor today’s high school players who aim to follow in their footsteps.

“We try to let them know they can do it and we try to show them how it’s done,” Ridley said. “It’s not easy. I think we try to serve as that mentor figure.”

She added, “showing them an avenue of how to get into college and how to get recruited, it’s huge for the city to have those avenues. I don’t think we had that 15 years ago. I don’t think it was as prevalent when I was in high school as it is now. If these athletes want to be mentored, there are so many avenues.”


Harold Rivera can be reached at hrivera@itemlive.com. 

Young Rams prepare for new season

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Classical coach Tom Sawyer coaches his team through a drill in practice. 

By STEVE KRAUSE 

The Lynn Classical girls’ basketball team will have some holes to fill. But coach Tom Sawyer considers himself fortunate that he has players ready to fill them.

Last year, the Rams won 14 games and made it to the second round of the Division 1 North sectionals before losing to top-seeded Lowell.

Gone from that team is Chenysse Hill, who is now playing at Plymouth State. Sawyer acknowledged that is a big loss.

“From a basketball standpoint, that’s a lot of minutes to replace,” he said. “The good news is we have lots of eager young student-athletes who are willing to take on the challenge.”

Central among them is senior guard Priscilla Alouidor, a sixth man last season. This year, she’ll be in the starting five.

“We’ll look for her to provide a lot of energy on the court,” he said. “She is very athletic, and very aggressive, and we’re going to look for her provide a spark and set the tone defensively for us with her aggressiveness.”

The bulk of the team, however, is young. There are five juniors returning: Paris Wilkey, Jeylly Medrano, Tyarah Horton, Nakyla Ramsay and Maryah Chandler.

Wilkey was all-conference last year as a sophomore forward, but Sawyer said, “we will need her to play even better than she did last year — not just scoring points, but in all aspects, defense, rebounding, assists and leadership. We’re going to need it all from her.”

Medrano played 2-guard last year, and is expected to be the team’s point guard this season, Sawyer said.

“We’ll need her to take care of the ball, score points, and play good defense, and generally just make sure the entire team executes what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively.”

Horton, a forward, “is a tough kid and good rebounder,” Sawyer said. “She’s undersized for a forward, but she makes up for it in tenacity and toughness. We’re going to need her to rebound for us, and play good defense — and score some points for us.”

Sawyer hopes to see something out of sophomore Olivia Pedro, who came up at the end of last season from junior varsity when injuries hit the Rams.

“She worked on her game all spring and summer on the AAU Thundercats. She’s going to be given an opportunity to help this year.”

Sawyer says he has “about six or seven” other players who are trying out, “but I don’t know which ones are going to step up and help. They’re all sophomores. We have a couple of weeks to figure it all out.”

Classical Hall of Famer Helen Ridley will assist Sawyer on the bench.

“She is a tremendous asset to the program,” he said. “As coaches, we just want to work with the kids and help them achieve to the best of their abilities. Both of us strive to do that. And when you’re playing with a lot of sophomores and juniors it takes time. The good thing about Classical kids is their willingness to listen and to learn.”

Classical opens Tuesday, Dec. 13, against Everett in what will be the last non-league game between the two schools. Next fall, the Greater Boston League and Northeastern Conference will merge into one league.


Steve Krause can be reached at skrause@itemlive.com. 

Classical wraps up season with banquet

ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
From right – Jeylly Medrano, Paris Wilkey, Chenysse Hill, Tyarah Horton, Soneta Srey.

By KATIE MORRISON

LYNN — The Lynn Classical girls’ basketball team held its annual banquet at Old Tyme Italian Cuisine in Lynn on Wednesday night.

The highlight of the evening was when seniors Shannon Magner, Chenysse Hill and Christina Behen delivered heartfelt speeches and thank-yous to their family, coaches and teammates, as a final send-off from the program.

Rams’ coach Tom Sawyer thanked the seniors for their “energy, dedication and all of the laughs” they provided throughout their careers.

“The three seniors have greatly impacted this program, and they will be truly missed,” Sawyer said.

Magner was forced to miss her entire senior season due to an ACL tear, but was lauded by her coaches and teammates for how she handled the devastating injury with grace.

“This season started tough,” said Sawyer, referring to Magner’s injury. “Shannon had dedicated herself to basketball like she never had before. She’s everything a student-athlete should be. I told the team that she wouldn’t want us not to play, and that she’d die to be out there, and I think it served as motivation for us.”

“She couldn’t have set a better example for the team,” added assistant coach Helen Ridley. “She led the team with a smile every day.”

Magner thanked her teammates for her four years in the program, and for respecting her and allowing her to lead as a captain, despite her inability to play. She also encouraged them to cherish every day in the Ram uniform, since no one ever knows when their last game will be.

“This injury helped me find myself as a person, not just an athlete,” Magner said, holding back tears. “I found my strengths and weaknesses, and learned not to take anything for granted. As much as the injury broke my heart, it broke my parents’ hearts more. I’m so thankful for them, they’re my heroes.”

Magner, who was presented with the academic achievement award, also reminisced about the day she and Hill found out they’d made the varsity team as freshmen.

“I’ll always remember us jumping and hugging each other,” she said.

Hill, another four-year varsity player, was a NEC All-Star this season, and led the Rams to a first-round playoff victory.

“I love you all, and I wish I could have one more year with this team,” said an emotional Hill, who said the younger girls on the team were like little sisters she never had. “There have been so many memories I’ll never forget. We’re like one big family.”

Hill was presented with the Lady Ram award for her fierceness and competitiveness on the court.

Behen, who was presented with a coaches’ award, was unsure at the beginning of the season if she even wanted to play basketball her senior year. But after a talk with Sawyer, she decided to stick it out.

“I wasn’t sure if my heart was in it,” she said. “But I’m so glad I played, because it was my best season yet.”

Behen urged the younger players to “never put down the ball, and to take every opportunity your coaches give you,” and said she’d “remember this season for the rest of (her) life.”

Sophomore Jeylly Medrano was presented with a coaches award, and junior Soneta Srey was named most improved player.

Paris Wilkey, who led the team in scoring, recording 16 games in double figures and scoring a season-high 31 points against Revere, was named the Offensive Player of the Year.

Sawyer recounted the many highlights from the Rams’ season, which ended with a loss to No. 1-seed Lowell in the quarterfinals of the Division 1 North tournament.

Sawyer said that after the game, Lowell’s coach approached him to tell him that the Rams “played the game the right way.”

“That’s the greatest compliment a coach can receive,” Sawyer said.