D2 North: Lynn Classical 66, Beverly 60

BEVERLY, Mass. –- If the game had gone five minutes longer, there may have been a different result, but Lynn Classical was able to pull out a 66-60 road win over Beverly on Tuesday night -— a matchup that truly was a game of runs.

After Beverly took a 25-22 lead with 4:30 to go in the second quarter, Lynn Classical went on a 10-2 run to finish the second half. They were able to maintain the lead until late in the second half.

“We really know how to make it interesting huh? Every time we had a little bit of breathing room, they came right back. We have turnovers in clusters, one point we were up 11 and then had four consecutive turnovers and Beverly converted each time," Classical coach Tom Grassa said. “They’re a good team and I give them a lot of credit, we just beat them three weeks ago by 22.”

The Rams used a balanced attack both on the glass and in the scoring column, and because of that were able to pull out a close victory. Jorge Perez (10 points), Phillip Rogers (16), Eraldo Custodio (14), and Jalen Brown (14) were all in double figures for Classical -— which really only managed to let one Beverly player hurt them in the scoring column all night.

Totaling 23 points on 4-6 from behind the three point line, Nick Cross led the way for Beverly. Classical was able to hold John Berchoff to 12 points on 14 shots from the field, while Jonangel Franco managed just five points on eleven shots. Even despite having some offensive woes at times, Beverly was able to march all the way back to tie the game up with under four minutes to go -—thanks to a steal and lay-up by Chris Sinclair. On the next possession, Cross hit a turn-around jumper a la Kevin McHale to put Beverly up 55-53 with three minutes to go.

Grassa said Classical had a hard time, at some points, with choosing who to key on defensively.

“Oh take your pick," Grassa said. "Cross we know, has been very effective, Berchoff and [Cam] Rogers too. We tried to focus our attention on those three, and I think [Beverly coach] Scott [Lewis] was telling his guards to take my guys to the hole. Because as soon as you go to help, they kick it, and Cross...he had a big game [because of that]. He’s a terrific player."

Rogers, Custodio continue strong play: When senior Jalen Brown went down with an injury seven games ago, it was on the sophomore forward Phillip Rogers to step up for Lynn Classical and continue the production that the Rams were used to getting from Brown. So far, Grassa says, the 6-foot-3 Rogers hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s been terrific for us all year, a lot of times he takes a back seat to Eraldo [Custodio] and Jalen," Grassa said. "What happened was: seven games ago, Jalen got a real bad high ankle sprain, and during his seven game absence I think we went 6-1.

“But with Phillip we asked him to really step up his game and be more assertive on offense. A lot of times he’s so unselfish that he won’t become assertive."

Grassa wanted to make so much of an impression on Rogers, that he refused to take the sophomore out of the starting lineup even after Brown was back from injury. In fairness to how Rogers stepped up in Brown’s absence, the coach didn’t want to attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken. It’s a plan that Brown backed up, Classical’s size and presence on the glass was, at many points in the game, too much for Beverly thanks to the contributions from Rogers and Custodio.

“It was real important because we knew [Beverly] can jump just as high as we can, so we figured that if we dominate the boards and keep them shooting from the three-point line, that we can easily beat them from the inside,” Brown said. “They’re some of our better players, bigger players, they really help us out on the boards. Whenever we need it they can go down low, they can get that easy two points pick up a foul and get a nice free throw—all that.”

Custodio came out on an absolute roll in the first quarter, scoring ten points in the period—mostly on mid-range jumpers, and setting an aggressive tone early for Classical. Also finishing with seven rebounds for the Rams, who won the rebounding battle 32-26, he still kept his motor up after getting a scolding from his coach in the second half.

“He did get it going, but then I managed to ice him after an ill-advised shot," Grassa said with a laugh, enforcing the Rams’ gameplan to shoot as few jumpers as possible. "It was a shot he made the previous six [times], in the third quarter he was wide open from 14 feet, and he front-rimmed it. I screamed at him ‘That’s it with the outside shots’. So blame me for icing him.

"We emphasized all week that this is one of the most difficult places to shoot because of the backdrop. We weren’t going to take any threes. I think we only took three, made two. The last time we played here, we took three threes, everything was in the paint."