LYNNFIELD — It was mission accomplished for the Lynnfield girls basketball team and an enthusiastic group of alumni, friends and family who gathered to honor the memory of former coach Jim Perry in the first annual “Play for Perry” Lynnfield Girls Basketball Alumni Game Tuesday.
Perry suffered a fatal heart attack last spring, a short time after the conclusion of his third season as head coach of the Pioneers.
Perry had spearheaded a campaign last year to organize an alumni game to help instill a sense of tradition and camaraderie among his young players, who were struggling to find success on the court.
Former captain Kelly Look, a junior at UMass Amherst majoring in sports management, was the event’s point guard.
“I didn’t get to play for coach Perry. I spent the season behind the scenes my last year when I was injured, but I got to see him up close and knew how much he cared about the girls,” Look said. “He approached me a couple of years ago and wanted to start this tradition so that the older girls could share their experiences with the younger players on the team so they could see what some of their predecessors had done.
“I started thinking about this game last summer and thought it would be a great way to honor him and raise money for heart disease, so a bunch of us got together and planned it. It was a lot of work, but worth it as we had a great turnout.”
That’s putting it mildly as the event raised over $1,100 through several raffles, a bake sale and donations, which will be donated in Perry’s memory to the American Heart Association.
One of the former players who helped organize the event was Look’s fellow captain, Abbie Weaver.
“My senior year was the first year coach Jim had an alumni game because he knew the girls on the team had no idea of the talent level of the players who played before us,” said Weaver, also a junior majoring in sports management at UMass Amherst. “He thought it would help the younger girls get better. He loved the concept of alumni games for that very reason and this game is a real tribute and honor to him.”
Also on hand to honor Perry’s memory was Perry’s widow, Susan Perry, who wore an ear-to-ear smile the entire night.
“This was a very special night and the girls did a wonderful job organizing it,” said Perry.
“I know that Jim would have had an impact on all of the players and I like to think he is their special guardian angel watching over them.
“I’ve been to a lot of alumni games, but this one had so much energy and was just great for everyone.”
As far as the game went, the alumni gave the Pioneers all they could handle in the early going before going down, 51-30.
Toni Dicesare showed the alums had come to play, knocking down a three-pointer to stake the alums to a 3-0 lead. A rebound and layup by Emma Mancini, a Katherine Lawless rebound and coast-to-coast layup, and an offensive board and putback by Mancini put the alums on top 8-5. A Caroline Waisnor trey followed by a a Cate MacDonald and offensive rebound and putback by Tori Morelli put the Pioneers on top for good, 12-11 after the first quarter.
It was only fitting that play from start to finish was a true display of unselfish teamwork on the part of both teams as 16 players contributed to the scoring.
The Pioneers were led by Morelli (13 points), twin sister Melissa Morelli (11 points, Waisnor (9 points, 3 threes) and Riley Hallahan (6 points) Susan Perry. The alums were led by Dicesare (9 points, 3 threes), Mancini (8 points), Lawless (4 points) and Abbie Weaver (3 points).
For Perry’s successor, his good friend Peter Bocchino, the night was bittersweet.
“It was so nice for the girls on the team to have the alums come out and support the cause,” Bocchino said. “It was a good friendly game but it was competitive and both teams played hard. I thought Tori, Gracie and Caroline played great and then Riley heated up against the zone. I just wish Jim was here to see it. He loved this.”
Look credited the efforts of Weaver, Shannon Furey, Lizzie Shaivitz and MacKenzie O’Neill for their efforts in making the night a success.
“It was a lot of work, but worth it as we had a great turnout and couldn’t have been done without their help,” Look said. “They sure stepped up in a big way.”