Classical girls basketball on track for tournament
By Joyce Erekson
The Classical High girls basketball team has reached the midway point of the season and (knock on wood) the Rams are looking pretty good heading into the second half.
Coach Tom Sawyer expected the team to be competitive this season after not qualifying for the state tournament last year. The Rams finished the first half with a 8-4 record and even in the losses, Sawyer has plenty of reason to be encouraged.
“We had a heartbreaking loss to Beverly by one point. We lost to Revere and St. Mary’s on their home courts, but we played really well in both games. I’m not happy with the losses, but I was happy with the way we played,” Sawyer said.
The other loss came in a non-league game against Everett after the Rams had won the first meeting between the two teams. On the plus side, Classical defeated Peabody and Danvers before Christmas.
“Those were big wins for us,” Sawyer said.
The Rams’ early success is even more notable because they’re without one of their starters, senior guard Shannon Magner, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game.
“That was a huge loss that we’ve tried to overcome,” Sawyer said. “She’s a senior captain with varsity experience. She’s a good kid and a steady ball player. She has maintained her leadership role (despite being injured). She’s involved in everything we do.”
Although Magner’s loss left a void, the Rams do have senior point guard and co-captain Chenysse Hill, who has been a force since her freshman year, back. Hill is averaged 12 points per game through the first 11 games with her season-high a 19-point outing against Everett.
“She’s our leader on the court,” Sawyer said. “She has the ball in her hands most of the time. She’s a very smart player and a fierce competitor with the drive to do whatever it takes to get the team a win.”
Hill does a great job taking care of the ball, Sawyer said, and she can score from outside and take the ball to the basket. The Rams are also getting plenty of bang from sophomore forward Paris Wilkey, who is averaging 13 points per game. Wilkey saw a fair amount of minutes as a freshman, coming off the bench and starting some games.
“She’s improved tremendously from last year,” Sawyer said. “She came in with a much improved jump shot and she’s continued to get better on defense.”
Wilkey’s high game offensively came against Everett when she scored 25 points, but she’s had several other double digit games to help the cause.
Junior forward Soneta Srey is another one who has stepped up her game this year. Like Hill and Wilkey, she plays year round. She’s averaging 10 points per game and is the team’s best defensive player, Sawyer said.
“She does an unbelievable job of rebounding,” Sawyer said. “She has an unbelievable ability to jump off the floor.”
Jeylly Medrano, a sophomore guard, has also been productive in the early going, averaging seven points per game. She played varsity as a freshman, but ended up splitting her time between varsity and junior varsity.
“She’s another kid who has improved tremendously and worked her way into the starting lineup,” Sawyer said.
The Rams fifth starter is senior guard Christina Behan, who got the call when Magner was injured.
“She’s a good outside shooter and a smart player,” Sawyer said.
Sophomore forward Tyarah Horton is first off the bench for the Rams with Priscill Alouidor, Nakyla Ramsey, Maryah Chandler and freshman Skyler Crayton rounding out the varsity roster. Alouidor, Ramsey and Chandler are all guards.
“We’re good enough to compete with anybody, but we’re also not so good we can just throw the ball out and beat anyone if we don’t focus and play with intensity,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer returned his coaching staff from last year with Frank DeLuca (the varsity volleyball coach) working with the freshman. Rob Smith (who coached the PowderPuff football team to its first win over English since 2009) coaches the junior varsity and former Classical High/Quinnipiac University player Helen Ridley is Sawyer’s assistant.
“I’m very lucky to be surrounded by other good coaches and good people who really care about the kids,” Sawyer said.
This Friday, the team has invited all Classical girls basketball alumni, both players and coaches, to cheer the team on at home against Gloucester (7). The festivities will include a social gathering after the game.
Tony Nicosia inducted in to North Shore Baseball League Hall of Fame
Tony “T” Nicosia Jr. was inducted in to the North Shore Baseball League Hall of Fame at an awards dinner Saturday at the Italian Community Center in Beverly.
Nicosia played 20 memorable years with the Swampscott Sox. A slick fielding second baseman, Tony, along with shortstop Angelo Salustri, formed the best double play combination the league has ever seen.
Tony, the second hitter in the Swampscott batting order, hit for power and average and was known for his clutch play when the games and championships were on the line.
A past league MVP, Tony was a three-year standout starter for the Swampscott High School baseball team. He was a member of the state champion Lynn Post 6 American Legion team. He continued his baseball career at the Community College of Rhode Island and Edison Junior College in Fort Meyers, Fla.
He also played professional baseball for the Massachusetts Mad Dogs in the Atlantic Coast League.
Tony provided the highlight of the banquet with a humorous acceptance speech that contained anecdotes from his many years on and off the field with his Swampscott Sox teammates and opposing players.
Tony also thanked his family for their support during his time in the NSBL.
Tony paid tribute to the late Jeff Blydell, a former manager in the league. A special tribute was held for Mr. Blydell, with league official Matt Sullivan presenting an autographed bat to Mr. Blydell’s son, league MVP Chris Blydell.