By Cary Shuman
Tom Grassa’s Lynn Classical teams have won two state championships and many “big games” during his legendary career. His son, Jasper, now an assistant coach, once silenced an entire North Andover gym with a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the State Tournament.
Grassa said Tuesday night’s 64-57 win over No. 3 ranked Everett ranks among the best in his tenure.
Sparked by the trio of Jaylen Johnson, Eric Solis, and Edwin Solis, Classical rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to hand Everett its first loss of the season on the Rams’ home court.
Everett led 44-34 before the Rams uncorked an amazing 30-point fourth quarter highlighted by Edwin Solis’s clutch three-point shooting and court-length outlet passes. Solis, a 6-foot-2-inch junior, had 10 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds. Solis’s three-pointer tied the game at 50-50.
“When Edwin hit the three-pointer that tied the game, that really sparked us,” said Grass. “I think the pressure started to mount.”
Johnson’s layup made it 52-50 before Everett guard Ghared Boyce hit a three-pointer for his team’s last lead of the game.
Erick Solis’s clutch free throw shooting (10-of-12 from the line, 14 points) and Classical’s superb team defense allowed the Rams to maintain the edge and secure the upset.
Johnson scored 20 points, including a streak of breakaway layups off of long, lead passes from Edwin Solis. Gilbert Minaya was also a standout with 10 points. Dyrrell Rucker also delivered a solid two-way effort.
Grassa felt defense was one of keys to victory.
“Even though we were down 14 (32-18) at the half, I felt we did a better a job defensively than the first time around against Everett (an 82-75 defeat). Offensively we had to chip away and we changed our defense a couple of times and the guys responded.”
Classical held Everett’s Boyce, one of the state’s leading scorers at 25 ppg, to a season-low seven points.
Grassa assessed the magnitude of beating one of the state’s top teams in Everett, who is becoming a member of the Northeastern Conference.
“This win is right up there,” said Grassa. “Last year we were up on Everett by nine with two minutes to play and lost the game. So a lot of our guys on this year’s team remembered that. We knew Everett would apply pressure and foul us down the stretch and we made our shots.”
Asked if the win over Everett, a Division 1 state title contender led by football/basketball coach John DiBiaso, would bode well for Classical in the postseason, Grassa wisely maintained his perspective.
“It’s way too far off to even think about that – we’re at the halfway point,” replied Grassa.
Still, the near flawless second half showed that Classical can beat the best and this win could be a signature moment in what has been a fine season to-date.