A Winning Basketball Tradition: Tom Sawyer’s Classical Contingent Will Contend for GBL Championship

When Lynn Classical girls basketball coach Tom Sawyer was asked how many wins he has had in his highly successful career, he couldn’t answer the question right away.

Sawyer had to look up the statistics and add up the season-by-season totals before providing the number: an impressive 178 victories in 16 seasons.

Add in 12 MIAA state tournament appearances and Sawyer stands as one of the most successful girls basketball coaches in the city’s history. He also served as an assistant on Gene Constantino’s staff for three seasons.

The Rams are led by three outstanding senior captains, Ava Thurman, Lauren Hennessey, and Akiyah Brown. Lauren Wilson and Keisha Perez are also in the starting five. Key reserves are Linda Jallow, Nevaeh Eth, and Kylee Mills.

The Thurman-Hennessey backcourt combination could be the GBL’s best duo.

“It’s a very good backcourt,” said Sawyer. “They’ve been playing basketball together for four years. There is no backcourt in the league that I would rather have.”

Sawyer said the goals are to compete for the league title and qualify for the MIAA Tournament.

“We have a good group of kids eager to learn,” said Sawyer. “I’m excited about the season.”

Classical finished 16-4 last season, falling just shy of winning the GBL title in a last-second 51-49 loss to Lynn English. Both schools were competing in their first season in the GBL.

The Captains Talk About Basketball

Classical’s captains, Akiya Brown, Lauren Hennessey, and Ava Brown talked about the 2022-23 season during a break in practice Monday.

“Our goals this season are to win as many games as possible and get a good seeding for the state tournament,” said Brown.

A 5-foot-10 forward, Brown said that Coach Tom Sawyer has been an excellent mentor during her Rams’ basketball career.

“He’s been a great mentor and a great coach during my four years, and I’m really grateful to have him as our coach,” said Brown.

Can Classical win the GBL title this season?

“Definitely,” replied Brown.

Hennessey and Thurman have been a backcourt duo since sixth grade. “We’ve been a backcourt for a while, so I think it will be good for the team,” said Hennessey.

Hennessey’s association with Classical basketball goes back to third grade when she began attending Tom Sawyer’s free basketball clinic. “Coach Sawyer has been really great for me and throughout the four years, I feel he’s stayed consistent. He inspired and motivated me to be the player I am today,” said Hennessey.

Thurman is coming off an MVP season for the Classical girls soccer team. She’s ready for her final high school basketball season.

“It feels really good to finally have the title of a [basketball] captain, even though I feel like l’ve always been a leader,” said Thurman, a three-time league All-Star.

Thurman lauded Sawyer’s guidance throughout her time in the basketball program.

“He’s always been almost like a second father to me since freshman year,” said Thurman. “He’s really helped grow and I’m happy about the season ahead.”

Duchane Jamboree a Success

Tom Sawyer said he was pleased with the response to the annual Paul Duchane Basketball Jamboree that was held Saturday at Classical.

“The jamboree was great,” said Sawyer. “It honored Mr. Duchane. We raised over $1,000 for scholarships for graduating seniors. We had 18 teams playing in good, competitive games, and we had a large crowd all day enjoying all the action.”

Assistant Coaches are Classical Alumni

Shardaye Berry, a former Lynn Classical standout, will be the assistant varsity coach. Rob Smith, also a Lynn Classical alumnus, will be the junior varsity coach. Lynn Classical alumna Alina Garrity, who teaches at the school, will also be an assistant coach.

 Boverini Tournament Ahead

Classical will compete in the Walter Boverini Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27 and Dec. 29 at Classical. Lynn Tech, Lynn English, and KIPP Academy are the other participants.

Classical Wins Season Opener

Lynn Classical won its season opener, 52-17, over Somerville Tuesday.

Ava Thurman led the way with 11 points and five assists. Keisha Perez (10 points) and Lauren Hennessey (9 points) also helped Classical pull away from the Highlanders in a solid opening-night team effort.

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