Classical's Maryah Chanlder (left) and Jean Gupton (right) battle Somerville's Emily Sabatino for possession. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

Rams down Highlanders, Wilkey inches closer to 1,000

LYNN -- Classical senior Paris Wilkey came within shouting distance of scoring her 1,000th career point Wednesday night against Somerville, but stout defense from the Highlanders and a sluggish start left her five points short of the milestone.

But if you ask Wilkey, there's only one thing that matters: her team won.

"I didn't make it today, but Friday (or Saturday) is the goal," Wilkey said. "They didn't let up on me, and I'm glad they didn't. I have to work hard for it. I'm just going to keep working for it."

The Rams spread the offense around and held off Somerville's offensive attack to defeat the Highlanders, 47-27, at Classical Wednesday night. Wilkey caught fire in the second half, but ran out of time to reach the plateau. Needing 18 points for the mark coming into the game, Wilkey scored 13, with 10 of those points coming after halftime.

"She didn't disappoint, not at all," Classical coach Tom Sawyer said. "It was a good win. They were focusing all their defense on Paris, had two people on her often, got to her early in transition. They made her work for every point. Hats off to her, she worked hard for those 13 points. It will happen, it's just a matter of when. She's worked hard for it."

Somerville hung with the Rams for the first couple of minutes, but Classical put up 16 unanswered points to wrap up the first quarter with a 20-4 lead. Timely steals from Tyarah Horton and three defensive rebounds from Irianis Delgado helped the Rams stake a comfortable lead. Wilkey swished a three late in the quarter to ignite the Classical crowd, but the forward was double-teamed throughout the game and struggled to get to the hoop for layups.

However, plenty of other players had hot hands early on. Jazzmine Masse had her shot working, racking up nine points, all coming in the first half. Jeylly Medrano added another seven, and Horton and Delgado added four apiece in the half. The Rams led 32-10 at halftime.

"It started with Paris making some really good passes and finding open people," Sawyer said. "Jazzmine Masse started out hot for us. We had balanced scoring. We want to be a team where you have to defend five people."

The Highlanders started getting shots to fall in the third quarter, and outscored Classical 9-8 to cut the deficit to 40-19. Wilkey made a free throw and a layup in the quarter, and needed 12 points in the fourth to reach the milestone.

Wilkey took over in the fourth, scoring all of Classical's seven points. But as time wound down, the Rams ran out of chances to get Wilkey the ball. Even with the big number inching closer, Wilkey still made the most of Classical's possessions, dishing strong passes when she didn't have a shot.

"She did everything we asked of her tonight," Sawyer said. "Eighteen points in a high school game is not a given, and she has nothing to be upset about today."

A big reason why Wilkey was quieter than usual offensively through three quarters was the defense of Somerville's Jemima Joseph. The sophomore played lock-down defense, and Wilkey, a strong free throw shooter, only made one trip to the line all evening.

"She is without a doubt, a kid who wants to play basketball and is by far our best defender," Somerville coach Sheila Freitas-Haley said of Joseph, who was playing with 13 stitches in her forehead after a collision in a game last week. "That's one thing my assistant coach, Indira Evora, works with her every day in practice on, and she said make defense your thing. I look at that as a success. We were prepared defensively, but (Paris) is a great player and I wish her luck, and I know she'll get it next week."

The Rams move to 5-1 on the season. Wilkey will look to seal the deal Friday night (7) when Classical hosts Salem.

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