As a former All-Scholastic guard who once averaged 25 points a game at Classical and hit a game-winning buzzer-beating, three-pointer in a State Tournament game, Classical head coach Jasper Grassa knows that everything begins in the backcourt.
Grassa saw two outstanding performances by guards Dyrrell Rucker and Jeff Hill carry his team to a 63-46 victory over Medford in a Division 1 North first-round game Tuesday night on the Rams’ homecourt.
Rucker led all scorers with 21 points while Hill finished with 18 points, including three 3-pointers.
Combined the two players were 17-of-18 from the free throw line, with Rucker going a perfect 10-of-10.
The Rams surged to a 21-4 lead after one quarter as Hill heated up immediately from long range. The Mustangs would eventually get within five points in the fourth quarter, but Hill and Rucker’s accuracy from the line, coupled with excellent contributions from Jeff Barbosa (12 points) and Malik Anderson (7 points) kept the Rams in firm control of the scoreboard.
Grassa likes Hill’s leadership on the court. “Jeff has really good vision and they have to cover him all the way out there,” said Hill. “He can really shoot the ball. He has a nice touch from the free throw line, too. I thought the entire team played with great defensive intensity and we showed composure down the stretch.”
Hill, a 5-foot-10-inch sophomore, is the son of former three-sport star Jeff Hill and Joan Connolly. His sister, Chenysse Hill, starred in Tom Sawyer’s Lady Rams program and currently plays basketball at Plymouth State University. He has another sister, Briana Connolly. He is the nephew of former Major League pitcher Kenny Hill.
“We came out ready to play,” said Hill. “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy win. Medford fought back but we stayed together and played well as a team.”
Hill took over the starting point guard position at mid-season. He has a nice outside shooting touch and can also drive to the basket with his highly polished dribbling skills.
He is aware of the family’s athletic tradition at Classical. “I think I get my athletic ability from my father,” said Jeff. “I know he was pretty good in sports. I’m just trying to carry it on. I’m concentrating on basketball and football and hope to play college basketball.”
Classical (15-6), the No. 7 seed, plays at No. 2 Lowell (20-3) in the North quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. Lowell defeated St. John’s Prep, 66-60, in the first round.