LYNN — It may not have been pretty, but the Classical boys basketball team held on to beat Northeastern Conference foe Salem, 52-47, at home Thursday night. The Rams let a 17-point lead slip away in the second half, but some clutch defense and free throws down the stretch helped them hold on.
“We played good defense for almost the entire game and that kept us in it,” said Classical coach Jasper Grassa. “The shots weren’t falling tonight, but the guys stuck together and played hard out there. I’m happy with the win.”
Classical was led by senior guard Jaylen Johnson, who scored 14 points. Senior forward Malik Anderson added 10 points and five rebounds, while sophomore guard Jeff Hill had seven points and two rebounds. Senior forward Javahn Carter had six points and nine rebounds, senior forward Keith Ridley had six points and six rebounds and junior guard Brandon Summers had six points and three rebounds.
For Salem, senior forward Isaiah Williamson led the way with 11 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Mathew Silva and sophomore guard Guillermo Pimentel each added eight points, while senior guard Galvin Gonzalez and senior forward Jhoan Vago each had six points. Sophomore guard Tommy Beauregard had five points and three rebounds.
“I thought we dug ourselves into a big hole, but the second half was a much better effort from our guys,” said Salem coach Tom Doyle. “It’s too bad we came up short, but we gave ourselves an opportunity at the end.”
Salem started the game off strong, taking a small lead in the early minutes. Classical started to find a groove as the first quarter went on, eventually taking the lead behind some strong play from Hill and Summers. The Rams took a 14-10 lead into the first break.
The second quarter was the strongest of the night for Classical. The Rams extended their lead to nine points within the first two possessions of the quarter, eventually growing that lead to 17 points. But just when it looked like Classical would be taking that huge lead into halftime, Pimentel hit back-to-back three pointers for the Witches to cut the deficit to 11 points at the break.
That momentum carried over into the third quarter, where Salem played its best quarter. The Witches held Classical to just four points in the quarter, bringing a lot of energy to the defensive end of the floor.
“We just talked about playing team defense and stepping up the intensity level on both offense and defense,” Doyle said. “Our guys responded well and made a good run.”
“We certainly weren’t doing ourselves any favors by missing open shots,” said Grassa. “But we got caught dribbling too much and we weren’t moving the ball like we should have been.”
By the end of the third, Classical’s lead had been cut to just three points at 38-35.
Salem actually came all the way back to tie the score at 47-47 with about five minutes remaining in the game, but the Witches could never take the lead. Defense took over on both sides for the final five minutes, as Classical wasn’t able to take the lead back until there was just over one minute left. It was then that Anderson and Hill were able to hit some clutch free throws to allow the Rams to escape with the victory.
Salem (4-2) plays next Monday with a matchup against Boston English.
“We just have to focus on playing a full game out there,” said Doyle. “Hopefully we’ll learn from this loss and be better for the next game.”
Next up for Classical (5-1) is another NEC matchup, this one against Beverly next Monday.
“We obviously have to get better if we’re going to compete in this league, because it’s a test every night,” said Grassa. “We’ll get back to practice and keep working so we can try to make a run at this thing.”