Awesome Achievements: Sawyer Earns 200th Career Coaching Victory As Classical Completes Regular Season at 20–0

When Lynn Classical girls basketball head coach Tom Sawyer convened this year’s team on the Monday after Thanksgiving, there was cause for optimism.

Classical was welcoming back four excellent senior leaders – Ava Thurman, Lauren Hennessey, Akiya Brown and Kylee Mills – and the feeling was that if the team worked hard each day in practice, played the Tom Sawyer-trademark team basketball on offense and the Ram-tough, tenacious defense at the other end of the court – it could be a special season.

The Lynn Classical girls basketball team is pictured after its game against Saugus High Wednesday, giving head coach Tom Sawyer a gift in honor of his 200th career victory. From left, Jadalys Tejada, Brooke Braswell, Nevaeh Eth, Gigi Ramirez, Linda Jallow, Ava Thurman, Coach Shardaye Berry, Coach Tom Sawyer, Keisha Perez, Lauren Hennessey, Akiyah Brown, Kylee Mills, Savannah Tang, Maegan Baker, Coach Alina Garrity, Kaleigh Bullock, and Mea Papazoglou.

And it certainly has been.

After claiming the Greater Boston League championship in unbeaten fashion, Classical took the court at Saugus High Wednesday with an opportunity to finish 20-0 for the regular season.

Classical accomplished that goal of perfection with an exciting 48-42 victory over the Sachems. The other achievement was also momentous: The win over the Sachems gave Tom Sawyer the 200th career victory in his brilliant coaching career.

“We went to Saugus, played at noon, which is not typical, and the kids rose to the challenge,” said Sawyer, crediting his players in the humble manner that is emblematic of his successful program.

Asked specifically about joining the majestic 200-win club, Sawyer, who is in his 17th season as head coach following three seasons as an assistant on Gene Constantino’s staff, replied, “It feels good, but it makes you feel old, though.”

The tributes to Sawyer, his team, and the program poured in following the game.

Classical Athletic Director Bill Devin summed up the dual accomplishments beautifully in an email to the school community:

“PERFECTION!!!  Congratulations to the Lynn Classical Girls Varsity Basketball team who defeated Saugus High School today 48-42 at Saugus to finish their regular season with a perfect 20-0 record!!! Absolutely awesome!!! Congratulations also to Head Coach Tom Sawyer, Rob Smith, Shardaye Berry, and Alina Garrity for all of their dedication and hard work with the team this past winter.  Today’s win over Saugus gave Head Coach Tom Sawyer his 200th career victory as the coach at Lynn Classical High School.”

Classical Principal Amy Dunn called Coach Sawyer to offer her own personal congratulations.

The game was back-and-forth, with Classical taking an early lead, Saugus rallying to go ahead in the fourth quarter, before Lauren Hennessey connected on two clutch three-pointers to help the Rams pull away in the final 90 seconds.

“We made just enough plays to get the win,” said Sawyer.

Classical received its usual balance on the scoresheet, a spread-the-wealth concept that has powered the Rams to their immense 20-0 record. Three players reached double figures. Keisha Perez led the winning effort with 13 points. Lauren Hennessey scored 12 points, while Lauren Wilson had 10 points. Ava Thurman contributed seven points. Akiya Brown had six points.

“That’s good balance, and that’s sort of been the theme of the season,” noted Sawyer. “Of the five starters, they’ve all led the team in scoring for a game more than once.”

Was there a thought of an undefeated season when Tom Sawyer and his staff began practices in late November?

“Going into a season, I never think like that,” said Sawyer. “I knew we had a good team, but you have to be good, you have to stay healthy – so many things have to go right to be 20-0. Did I look at our schedule and say, ‘Is there anybody on our schedule we can absolutely not beat?’ No. But I also knew that there was nobody on our schedule that if we didn’t play well, that we would beat. So, we had to play well. The kids have met each individual challenge along the way.”

With 14 GBL wins and six non-league wins now in the books, Classical is perfect and Tom Sawyer resides among the giants of girls basketball in Massachusetts with 200 career victories.

And in a noteworthy tie-in to the Classical girls basketball program’s history, Tom Sawyer was an assistant coach of the 2003-4 team, the last time Classical finished 20-0.

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