Continuing Success Story: Classical girls basketball team captures share of GBL championship

One year after going undefeated in the Greater Boston League and finishing the regular season with a perfect 20-0 slate, the Lynn Classical girls basketball team was facing a difficult challenge in their quest for a repeat.

The Rams had lost three GBL All-Star players (two of whom were GBL Co-MVPs) to graduation in June, and when you’re the defending champion with a big-time reputation for success, opponents circle your school on the schedule.

But Coach Tom Sawyer’s new-look Lady Rams would not be denied GBL supremacy this season. The championship run took every ounce of fortitude and stick-to-itiveness – right down to the last quarter of the last game – as Classical earned a decisive 47-36 victory over Division 1 tournament-bound Medford (15-4) on the Mustangs’ home court. Classical (12-2) shares the GBL crown with Revere (12-2). The two teams split their regular-season meetings which were both decided by a single point.  

Senior captain Lauren Wilson saved her best for last in the must-win over Medford. Wilson led all scorers with 19 points, helping Classical erase a three-point deficit at the half by scoring 16 points in the second half.

Head coach Tom Sawyer’s strategic installation on defense in the third quarter was also crucial to the victory.

“In the third quarter, we employed a full-court press which the players executed very well,” said Sawyer, whose team outscored Medford by 14 points in the frame.  

From there, Classical maintained its lead, Wilson kept the offensive pressure on the Mustangs – and the Rams had another championship banner for their school gymnasium.

A key emergence of

the returning players

Tom Sawyer said, “It has been fun to watch the three returning players that got significant playing time last year – Lauren Wilson, Keisha Perez, and Linda Jallow – transition into leadership roles with increased responsibilities.”

“Equally fun to watch has been the remaining players step up their roles on the team and do things on the court which I don’t think they believed they could do when the season started,” commented Sawyer.

 The goal was, in

fact, a league title 

Sawyer was asked if he had envisioned a title after losing key players and top scorers from a 20-0 team.

“We always have a goal of winning the league,” said Sawyer.  “I knew we wouldn’t be the favorites going into the year.  But I also knew what we had coming back.  And if you add freshmen Divine Egbuta to those returning players, I knew that we could compete with anyone in the league.   I think we had more close games in the league this year than ever before.  We were fortunate enough to pull enough of them out as victories. This has been a very rewarding season as a head coach. The combination of the returning players leading the way and the new players stepping up and contributing so well at the varsity level brought us to a championship.” 

Special praise for
 Lauren Wilson

When an esteemed coach with an appreciation for Lynn Classical sports history like Tom Sawyer compares you to two of the school’s greatest all-time, three-sport athletes – Paula McGinn and Franki Galeazzi – you know you’ve having an accomplished career.

And that’s the super-elite category in which Lauren Wilson now resides, according to Sawyer. Classical sports followers will remember that as a freshman Wilson scored the winning goal in a GBL soccer title-clinching 1-0 victory over Revere. This past fall Wilson was an all-league goalkeeper who earned Boston Globe Player of the Week honors at one point for making 31 saves in back-to-back shutouts.

“Lauren is one of the best multi-sport athletes that I have coached during my time at Classical,” lauded Sawyer. “She has natural athletic ability but also has a competitive drive to win unlike most others.  Given she is a soccer, basketball, and softball player, Classical greats Paula McGinn and Franki Galeazzi come to mind.”

Tom Sawyer credits

Classical Administration

As Tom Sawyer prepares his team for the  MIAA Tournament which opens next week, the legendary mentor with 211 career victories and 13 post-season berths in 17 seasons took the time to thank the school administration for its support.

“The Classical Administration and Athletic Staff have been very supportive of the girls basketball program every year and this year is no different,” said Sawyer. “The Classical Administration led by Mrs. [Amy] Dunn as the principal and all the vice principals, especially Chris Warren, who always answers my call for whatever I may need help with, have been very supportive. Athletic Director Bill Devin and Assistant Athletic Director Cathy Ellis have been so helpful in everything that goes into running a smooth athletic season.  I’m lucky to have them and all the other Classical folks, too many to name them all, as willing supporters of the girls basketball program.”

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