St. Mary’s storms to North Sectional title
Echevarria, Ridley power Spartans past Lowell Catholic
By Cary Shuman
Sophomore guard Jalen Echevarria poured in 25 points and sophomore forward Keith Ridley Jr. came off the bench to score 14 points and grab 12 rebounds to lead St. Mary’s to a convincing 65-46 victory over Lowell Catholic in the Division 4 North final Friday at Tewksbury High school.
Lowell Catholic came in to the game with reputation for its prolific downtown shooting, but it was Echevarria who lit up the scoreboard with a selection of three-pointers and drives to the basket.
Meanwhile, Ridley, grandson of St. Mary’s Principal James Ridley, answered the call from coach David Brown in big-time fashion when the starters were hampered by foul trouble. He complemented his solid performance with an artful tip-in of a missed shot.
“I was just coming off the bench trying to help my guys win the game,” said Ridley. “When you come off the bench, you have to have that certain energy. My teammates looked for me and I got a lot of boards.”
Ridley said in practices, “coach Brown makes sure that the reserves are ready for these game situations.”
Ridley said his father, Keith Ridley Sr., was most instrumental in developing his game as a youth. “And now I have coach Brown, who’s a great coach. My teammates are great and I’m hoping we can go on and win it all.”
Jonathan Mola continued his outstanding play in the tournament with 15 points. Senior guard Mike Cerulli keyed another sterling defensive effort for St. Mary’s against Lowell Catholic, who had scored 86 points in its semifinal win over Matignon.
“Everything starts on the defensive end,” said Brown, whose Spartans were set to play Cathedral Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal.
Classical boys basketball loses a thriller to Brighton
By Joyce Erekson
Classical High boys basketball coach Tom Grassa knew heading into the Division 2 North Final Saturday at Woburn High that Brighton’s Tyrone Perry was going to be a factor. The Rams had done their scouting and the senior guard was high on the watch list.
“No. 11 (Perry) is a great player, but I didn’t see him take any threes. I saw them live twice and on film two times … His game is attacking the basket. His game is the foul line jump shot.”
Although Perry only hit three threes, they were all deadly and were part of a 32-point performance that propelled Brighton to a 79-73 win over the Rams and a trip to the Eastern Mass final.
This game was a dogfight. Although Classical (21-5) bumped its lead up to seven briefly in the third quarter, it was never safe. This was a two-to-three-point game most of the way with every basket on either side more crucial than the next.
Although calling it a turning point would be a stretch, when Perry, who had been killing it all night, hit a three-point buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter, the momentum seemed to shift a bit. The bucket trimmed Classical’s lead to four and seemed to set the tone for a rollicking fourth quarter.
The final eight minutes were all-out warfare. Classical sophomore Jaylen Johnson, who had a monster second quarter with 11 points and finished with team-high 20, converted on a three-point play to put the Rams up 56-51. Brighton responded by hitting a couple of free throws and then tying the game on the second of Perry’s timely threes.
The Bengals took the lead at 59-56 on a Willie Veal three (12 points, all on threes) but Erick Solis (13 points) came right back for the Rams to trim the lead back to one. The Rams took their final lead at 65-64 when Gilbert Minaya (10 points) scored on a drive to the basket and was fouled. He made the free throw.
Brighton (21-5) came right back and regained the lead on the second of Perry’s threes. That hoop launched a 7-0 run for the Bengals that ended with them leading 71-65 with 1:40 left in the game. Classical never gave up and with three-for-four free throw shooting by Erick Solis and Minaya, the Rams found themselves down three with 1:11 left. Brighton opened up some breathing room with another three by Veal, but Johnson kept the Rams alive with a hoop with 40 seconds left. Brighton sealed the deal by scoring the final six points.
“It was an outstanding effort against an excellent team,” Grassa said.
Classical had five players in double figures led by Johnson (20), Edwin Solis (13 with three, threes, 6 rebounds); Erick Solis (12); Minaya (10) and Jonathan Nicosia, who came off the bench and contributed 10 points. Dyrrell Rucker was right behind the pack with eight points, all in the second quarter, and nine rebounds..
“We had a great game by Nicosia off the bench,” Grassa said, saying his points came with limited minutes and on very few shots.
Grassa said Johnson and Minaya made some awfully tough shots and Rucker had a “phenomenal” performance on defense. He also praised the all-around play of Edwin Solis.
“I thought Edwin played outstanding at both ends of the court. He rebounded well, hit some big shots and made some terrific passes … he’s really a guard who sprung up,” Grassa said.
This was the Rams’s sixth trip to the North final under Grassa. They only lose one player (who sees playing time) to graduation and that’s Minaya. Despite having only one senior in the starting lineup, Grassa said they never looked at this as a building year for the future.