LYNN — Sometimes a team uses a loss to learn from its mistakes and improve as the season progresses. Perhaps that’s the direction the Classical boys basketball team’s moving toward after Monday night’s 64-61 loss to New Mission.
In a back-and-forth battle, Classical put forth one of its best performances of the season against a talented Titans team but fell just short at the final buzzer.
“That was probably our best effort all season long,” Classical coach Jasper Grassa said. “Behind English, I think that was probably the most talented team we’ve faced so far this season. The way we came out and competed was reassuring.”
Jeff Hill led all scorers with 26 points. Dyrrell Rucker scored 19 with three assists and Jeff Barbosa added six points. Javahn Carter hauled in 11 rebounds with four steals.
Sequan Dare led the Titans with 18 points. Dhakari Brown (14) and Abukar Aden (11) also scored in double-figures.
New Mission scored the first basket of the game and ran out to a quick 8-5 lead out of the gate. A pair of 3-pointers from Hill put the Rams back in the right direction and they led 19-16 at the end of the first quarter.
“Jeff’s a great, talented offensive player for us,” Grassa said. “Especially shooting the ball. We broke their pressure and that leads to open shots. Jeff’s one of those guys, you can’t leave him open.”
Brown hit a 3-pointer and Dare muscled his way to a bucket, giving New Mission a 21-19 lead to start the second quarter. Hill caught fire again in the second quarter but the Rams had no answer for Dare in the paint. An 18-point period for the Titans gave them a 34-31 lead at halftime.
Classical’s offense cooled off with 12 points in the third quarter. New Mission carried a 48-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
“They sped us up,” Grassa said. “In the first half we did a good job of breaking their pressure and leading right to scores. I felt like in the third quarter we broke their pressure but they hustled back and forced us to tough shots.”
Brandon Summers’ basket to start the final period started a 9-2 Classical run. Rucker highlighted the rally with a 3-pointer and a lay-in, giving the Rams a 53-50 lead.
“We needed to take advantage of every possession,” Grassa said. “I think we did down the stretch. Once we adjusted from turning the ball over a couple times against their pressure we found a good shot every single time. We put the ball in Dyrrell’s hands down the stretch there and he did a good job.”
The Titans regained the lead at 58-55 but another Hill 3-pointer, with under two minutes to play, knotted the score.
After the teams swapped baskets, Rucker drew a foul with 14.0 seconds left. He made one of two freebies, handing Classical a short-lived 61-60 edge (along with their final point of the night).
New Mission raced the ball down the court and grabbed a 62-61 lead on Marshall’s second-chance hoop with 1.7 seconds left.
Classical turned the ball over on its ensuing attempt to inbound it, Juan Salas swished a pair of free throws and New Mission hung on for the 64-61 win.
The Rams (8-5), two wins away from qualifying for the state tournament, host Malden Tuesday night (7).
“We have to make a run,” Grassa said, “but if we keep playing like that, we’re going to be okay. We just have to stay consistent now with that.”