LYNN — The Classical boys basketball team bounced back into the win column Friday night with a 69-52 victory over Northeastern Conference rival Peabody on the Rams’ home court.
Jaylen Johnson led Classical (6-2) with 15 points. Also reaching double-figures were Dyrrell Rucker (14), Jeff Hill (14) and Deontae Plouffe (11). Malik Anderson scored nine points off the bench.
“We did a great job moving the ball against the zone,” Classical coach Jasper Grassa said. “This year and last year, that’s the best we’ve moved the ball. We didn’t shoot it particularly well. We were thinking shooting instead of just driving, driving. We threw the ball away a lot. We have to clean that up.”
Mike Tansey paced the Tanners with 11 points and Alex Jean added 10. Chris Canela finished with eight points.
Peabody (5-4) struggled with turnovers, logging 25 of them.
“Classical’s a tough matchup,” Peabody coach Thad Broughton said. “They’re a very good team. We had to shut a couple things down. We weren’t successful in the second half. They hit some big shots.”
Hill banked in a 3-pointer on the first possession of the game and found Javahn Carter for a lay-up. Peabody kept pace with a 3-pointer and a basket but Rucker netted another three for the Rams to give them an 8-5 edge. That’s how it stayed for the next few minutes, until Johnson found his footing. The senior guard swished three 3-pointers, guiding Classical to a double-digit lead. Save for a pair of free throws from Canela with 20 seconds on the clock, Peabody went scoreless for the rest of the period. The Tanners trailed 19-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Anderson gave Classical a spark off the bench with five points to start the second quarter. Chris Perez hit a three from the wing to keep Peabody within striking distance, down 24-15 midway through the quarter. Then the Rams went on a 10-4 run, taking a 34-19 lead and forcing Peabody to burn a timeout. Keith Ridley denied Peabody of a last-second bucket with a monster block in the paint. At recess, Classical carried a 36-22 advantage.
Peabody’s offense gained steam in the third quarter. The Tanners sliced Classical’s lead to six points (36-30) with an 8-0 run led by Tansey (basket, two freebies).
“I think we played a little bit better in the second half,” Broughton said. “We just turned the ball over so many times. That was the key to the game. Even if we played good defense, we came down and turned the ball over. That was our Achilles’ heel. Classical played really well but we certainly didn’t help ourselves.”
Hill got Classical back on track with a 3-pointer from the wing. The rest of the quarter was back and forth with Jean capping the period with a pair of free throws. The Rams led 48-37 after three.
“It’s in the basket if Jeff can get it off without rushing his shot,” Grassa said. “He’s a huge weapon for us.”
Classical kept Peabody at an arm’s length through the final quarter. Peabody came as close as within nine points of the Rams before Plouffe caught fire in the closing stretch. Plouffe scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help put Peabody away for good.
“Deontae’s someone that has the talent,” Grassa said. “He’s trying to put it together and find his role with the team. I think he definitely found it tonight.”
Despite the loss, Broughton noted a few positives.
“Joangel Lugo brings it every single night,” Broughton said. “He’s just a competitor. He played from the second we got on the court to the second we took him off. His energy was fantastic. Alex Jean gave us a good boost. Overall we have to be a lot better to beat a team like Classical.”
Both teams are back on the court Wednesday (7) when Peabody visits Medford and Classical visits English.