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Classical valiant in loss to Charlestown

CHARLESTOWN – Anyone who missed last night’s Charlestown-Classical boys basketball game will never have the opportunity to tell their children, or their friends, that they were there for one of the highest-scoring, and most entertaining, contests in state tournament history.Unless, of course, 10 years from now, the crowd at the Charlestown High gym mysteriously swells by a couple of thousand – as it seems to do whenever games of epic proportions are played.These two teams have met four times in tournament games in the last six years, and the Townies have won all of them. Two of them have been blowouts, one was excruciatingly close, and this one wasn’t close as much as it was whiplash-inducing.High-school teams rarely score into the 80s in regulation, but Classical did last night. The Rams scored 87. Ordinary, that would be good enough. The problem, for them, however, was that Charlestown scored an even 100.You read that right. The final score was 100-87, Charlestown, and lest anyone get any false impressions, there was no “garbage time” in this game. Charlestown needed every one of those 100 points because Classical never quit, despite being down by 20-plus points a couple of different times.”It was a lot of fun,” said Charlestown coach Steve Cassidy. “It’s fun to be a part of a game like this. We thought we’d thrown a couple of knockout punches at them, but (Classical) just kept fighting back.”This is a game that makes you nervous as a coach,” he said, “but it must have been a heck of a lot of fun to watch.”Although the loss eliminated Classical from the Division 1 North tournament, Rams coach Tom Grassa couldn’t say enough about his team.”With what we have,” he said, “our kids worked hard and gave it everything they had. I’m very, very proud of them.”Twice, we got down by over 20 points and made runs to get it close to single digits.”The problem, though, was that Charlestown went through stretches where it sank three-pointers as if they were layups. In all, the Townies sank seven of them, and just about every one of them came when the Rams threatened to get the lead down to single digits.Central to Charlestown’s offensive explosion was 6-1 senior Greg Hackett, who poured in 35, hitting shots from all over the court. Helping out were Shabazz Napier and David Riley, each of whom dropped in 17.For Classical, Jarell Byrd was almost as devastating as Hackett was. The sophomore forward had 27 points.”He really had a great game, and he finished up strong for us,” Grassa said.Byrd was ably aided by Jasper Grassa, who had 20. Tony Johnson, playing in his final game, had a strong 12 points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.”To that point,” said Grassa, “Tony was playing a great game. That really hurt us.”However, with Johnson out, Classical got some key contributions off the bench, none of them more important than Sebastian Bejin’s brief foray into the game. Bejin took two passes from Quivari Jackson (9 points) and scored at the end of the third quarter at a time when Classical was closing one of those 20-plus-point deficits.Classical trailed by only three after one quarter (25-22), and while the Rams scored 22 points in the second period as well, Charlestown took off, pouring in 31 to go up by 12 (56-44) at the break.Classical got the lead down to 10 when Johnson sank two free throws to open the third period, but Charlestown went off on a 19-2 run after that to open its biggest lead of the night, 75-48, late in the third quarter. But that’s when Classical regrouped, and ended up going on a 13-1 run to close the quarter, knocking the lead down to 15 (76-61).And that’s how it pretty much stayed. Charlestown would make a run to go up by 20, and Classical would answer it to get it back to respectability.Charlestown will be the place to be Saturday (4 p.m.) when East Boston – the team that beat the Townies for the city championship – comes to town in a quarterfinal game.

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