Classical’s defense stumps young Winthrop team

Winthrop's Cam Conway shooting over the defense of Classical's Tony Palavra. (Owen O'Rourke)

WINTHROP — Behind suffocating defense and solid team play on offense, the Classical boys basketball team earned an 81-39 win over Northeastern Conference foe Winthrop at Chris Tsiotos Court Tuesday night. The Rams snatched 13 steals in the victory, with seven of them coming in the first quarter alone.

“I thought we were a little sluggish at times but for the most part the effort and execution was all there tonight,” said Classical coach Jasper Grassa. “The press (defense) was really there tonight and the guys executed it beautifully. We were able to get a lot of points off of turnovers tonight.”

Classical was led on offense by sophomore guard Jeff Hill, who scored 21 points off the bench. Grassa noted that Hill is adjusting well to his new role on the varsity squad.

“He’s a tough kid and a really good player for us,” Grassa said. “I’m happy he’s finding his role here because it was a little off at first. He’s a kid who played JV last year as a freshman and played the whole game, now he’s playing less minutes with older players. So it’s nice to see him fitting in.”

Senior guard Deontae Plouffe had 11 points, two rebounds and two steals in the win, while senior guard Jaylen Johnson had 10 points, three rebounds and four steals. Senior forward Keith Ridley contributed six points and seven rebounds, while senior guard Dyrrell Rucker had four points, two rebounds and five steals.

For Winthrop, sophomore forward Cam Conway had a big game with 20 points and five rebounds. Junior guard Engjell Ramadoni had eight points and three rebounds, while senior center Chris Castro had three points and six rebounds.

“Clearly we had our hands full with Classical, they’re a very good team and we have a young group,” said Winthrop coach Dave Sacco. “But on the bright side, our young guys have been thrown in the fire early against some good teams, so they’ll grow up quick. We can only get better from this and this tough start will only help us in the long run.”

The Rams opened the game with a flurry on both ends of the court, running out to a 10-0 lead in the first few minutes behind great full-court defense. But Classical went a little cold from there and allowed Winthrop to get right back in the game. By the end of the first, Classical held a 15-10 lead.

But over the next two quarters, the Rams took control. Defensively, Classical held the Vikings to just eight total points in the second quarter. On the other end, Hill was lighting up the floor with perimeter shots, allowing the Rams to stretch their lead to as many as 16 points by halftime.

The third quarter was much of the same, as Classical outscored Winthrop 20-9 to blow the game open. The majority of the fourth quarter saw reserves playing for both teams as Classical coasted to a victory.

Things don’t get any easier for Winthrop (0-2). Still searching for their first win of the season, the Vikings travel to Lynn Thursday night to clash against the undefeated English Bulldogs.


“The NEC is never easy, and it’s no different this year,” said Sacco. “No other Division 4 team plays a schedule like we do, so I think that helps us in the long run. It’s just a matter of the younger guys seeing things they haven’t seen before and playing their way through it.”

As for Classical (2-0), next up will be a home game against Swampscott Thursday (7).

“We just have to keep up this level of play defensively,” said Grassa. “We’re a little streaky scoring the ball, but if we keep up the defensive intensity we’ll be tough to beat.”

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