LYNN– It’s amazing how things evolve in a positive direction when the right people are put in charge, and there’s not many better examples of this than the Lynn Parks and Recreation Summer Basketball League.
When Lynn Parks and Recreation Department head Lisa Nerich put Fred Hogan and Jeff Byrd in charge 25 years ago, the league wasn’t a league at all. It started out as a four-week basketball clinic at Breed Middle School. But after massive numbers of kids started showing up every week, Nerich, Hogan and Byrd knew that a basketball league was the better option.
Fast forward to Thursday evening, and the popular league is wrapping up its 25th year with a trio of championship games to determine the top teams in the city of Lynn. Over the years, a second site in the city was incorporated, sponsors joined in and a “winner-gets-bragging-rights” tournament was set up to cap off each year.
“The league was another big success this year, we had over 250 kids come out again,” Hogan said.
“We have a great group of dedicated staff, and that’s what makes this league so successful each year,” Nerich said. “Fred and Jeff have run this thing so well for so many years, and it’s really turned into something special for the city. It keep the kids out of trouble and off the streets as well, which is great.”
Thursday night’s games were played on the brand-new court at Marian Gardens, which just had the final touches put on it in the days leading up to the tournament. As a matter of fact, the rims weren’t attached to the hoops until about an hour before gametime. The scorer’s table was sponsored by Mayor Thomas McGee and Cuffe McGinn Funeral Home, while the basketballs were donated in the memory of legendary Lynn English coach Ron Bennett.
In the elementary school championship, D’Andreo Brothers of East Lynn rode a second-half rally to a 63-39 win over West Lynn’s Pizza Lovers. While Pizza Lovers was able to take a 24-20 lead into halftime, D’Andreo Brothers locked things down on defense in the second half and outscored Pizza Lovers 43-15. Xavier Abreu, who took home MVP honors for D’Andreo Brothers, led all scorers with 24 points, while Travis Sanchez hit some big shots and finished with 12 points. For Pizza Lovers, Denzel Guillen and Deono Kabongo each finished with 13 points.
“The elementary school kids were especially excited for this day because they got to christen the new court and be the first ones to play on it, so that was really cool,” Hogan said.
The middle school division saw another win for East Lynn, as Councilor John J. Walsh took down Gannon Building Associates, 87-41. While Jeury Barbosa led John J. Walsh with 21 points, it was Kylia Reynoso who took home MVP honors with an 18-point performance. Jason Felipe led Gannon Building Associates with 14 points, while Tyrese Garcia added nine points.
In the high school division, Solimine Funeral Home’s 59-36 win over Rick Starbard gave East Lynn the clean sweep. Angel Soto scored 16 points and was named MVP for Solimine Funeral Home, while Jack Rodriguez scored 15 points. Rick Starbard was led by Dyrrell Rucker’s 12 points, while Natural Allen added eight points.
Once all the games were over and the trophies handed out, Hogan and Nerich reflected back on the number of local sponsors who made this season, and every season, possible. This year’s sponsors included Pizza Lovers, Irvine & Sons Inc., Cuffe McGinn Funeral Home, Lynn Firefighters Local 739, Councilor John J. Walsh, Lazy Dog Sports Bar, Meninno Construction, Lynn Housing Authority, Councilor Buzzy Barton, Columbia Insurance Agency, Gannon Building Associates, Ram Electrical Consult & Contracting Corp., Councilor Richard Colucci, Old Mill Realty Investors, D’Andreo Brothers General Contractor, A. James Lynch Insurance Agency, Panakio Adjusters, Committee to Re-Elect Rick Starbard, Dartworld Inc., Woods & Associates Insurance Agency, North Shore Heating Supply Co., Solimine Funeral Home, John’s Fuel Services and EZ Landscaping.
“Our sponsors are such a big part of this league each year, because they’re the reason this things is free for the kids,” said Nerich. “We really wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for our sponsors.”
“It’s great to see so many local businesses take an interest and contribute,” said Hogan. “We have the same group of sponsors come back each year, and we seem to add more almost every year.”
As for what’s next, there are some big plans in the works for next summer.
“We’re going to add a girls division and bring in a third site for next year, so we’re really excited about that,” said Hogan. “We’ve already talked to (English girls basketball coach) Mackenzie Charles and he’s going to get teams together, and we’re really excited about expanding the league even more.”