By Joyce Erekson
When it comes to tournament time it’s a one-game season. A loss and you go home. For the underclassmen on the court there’s always next year, but for seniors like Chenysse Hill, a guard on the Classical High girls basketball, it means the end of a high school career.
Hill saw the ride come to an end last Friday night when the Rams, who had defeated Northeastern Conference foe Beverly, 45-34, in the first round of the Division 1 North tournament, lost to No. 1 seed Lowell, 46-29.
Hill has been a fixture in the Rams’ lineup since her freshman year when, after a couple of games splitting between junior varsity and varsity, coach Tom Sawyer brought her up to varsity for good.
“She hasn’t looked back,” Classical coach Tom Sawyer said.
Hill had to bide her time when it came to claiming the starting point guard position but that was ok. The person occupying the job was her cousin, Monta Connolly. When Connolly graduated, Hill went from backup to big time. She was a sophomore.
“She was athletic. She was skilled, but most importantly, she was a great competitor,” Sawyer said when asked what he saw in Hill early on. “She would do anything to help her team win the game.”
Sawyer said with each year Hill became more confident in her own offense and in the offense she generates by setting up her teammates. Hill is the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 11.6 points per game. She’s also good for approximately five assists and she’s a master at creating turnovers.
Sawyer said her role varies from game to game.
“Some games she needs to score, to take pressure off other players,” Sawyer said. “And some games she can concentrate on setting up others. She takes what the defense gives her. She doesn’t force it … Defensively she’s very good at anticipating. She has very quick hands and creates turnovers.”
Basketball runs in the family for Hill. Her older sister, Brianna, and three cousins (Monta, Christine Connolly and Chelsea Rogers) all played for the Rams. Monta Connolly, a junior on the Framingham State University women’s team, was recently named to the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference all-conference second team following a season that saw her average 11.4 points and 9 rebounds per game. Hill’s father, Jeffrey Hill, was a three sport athlete at Classical (football, basketball, baseball). Her younger brother, Jeffrey, is also an excellent athlete.
Hill said started playing basketball when she was six or seven years old, but it wasn’t until her freshman year in high school that she really committed to the sport.
“I looked up to my cousins so much, I decided I wanted to stick with it,” Hill said, recalling how nervous she used to get when she would step on the court as a freshman.
Those jitters are long gone. Her focus this year was getting into the tournament for the third time in four years.
Hill said she’s very grateful to all the coaches (Sawyer, assistant coach Helen Ridley and her AAU coaches, Jim Ridley and Marvin Avery) who have helped her develop as a player over the years. She’s hoping to play at the college level, possibly at one of the state colleges, but said it will feel weird to be coached by anyone other than her high school and AAU coaches.
Hill said the Rams started the season pretty well, but there were ups and downs.
“With this team you never know what to expect. We have our bad games and good games, but at the end of the day we’re a family,” she said. “We all have each other’s backs, on the court and off. We’re supportive of each other and we push each other in practice.”
Hill is one of three seniors on the team. Shannon Magner missed the season with a knee injury, opening the door for senior Christina Behen to pick up more minutes. Now it will be up to the underclassmen to carry the load.
“It was a great experience,” Hill said of her four years playing for Classical. “I know the underclassmen will stop up and take the seniors’ positions.”