By Jean DePlacido
---- — BEVERLY — At this point of the season, wins are a must to keep the Beverly High boys basketball team’s playoff hopes alive.
The Panthers picked up a big one yesterday, 70-48, over visiting Lynn Classical yesterday. It was the second time in three days that the two teams had squared off, but this was a much different outcome than Friday night’s tilt in Lynn.
Classical made only a trio of 3-pointers yesterday and was outscored 33-18 in the second half. Beverly (9-7) now needs two more wins to qualify for the postseason tournament.
“This was a really big game for us,” said Panther senior Nick Cross, who led his team with 23 points and 13 rebounds. “We can build on this (against) Salem at home (tomorrow). We lost to them by four the first time we played and want to turn things around.”
The Panthers led by five at the end of one quarter and were up by seven at the half, 37-30. They had opened up an 11-point cushion after an 8-0 run fueled by Cross, Jonathan Berchoff (14 points) and Chris Sinclair (14 points), but the Rams answered with the final four points before intermission.
Classical’s Monte Wolfe (a team-high 14 points) hit two shots in a row to close the gap to three before Cross answered with a 3-point bomb. Beverly then switched from man-to-man defense to a zone, giving the Rams problems.
Berchoff, who had a dozen points in the first two quarters, picked up his fourth foul midway through the third and had to take a seat on the bench, but Sinclair provided a spark with an old-fashioned three point play. He followed that up with a driving layup that put his team ahead by nine heading into the fourth quarter.
“We went to a zone for two reasons. First because Berchoff had three fouls, and second because we wanted to throw a different look at them,” said Panther head coach Scott Lewis. “It worked great except Berchoff picked up his fourth foul about 10 seconds after we made the switch.
“They got cold from the outside, and we were transitioning well. I think we took the wind out of their sails quickly in the fourth quarter.”
Beverly hit three straight treys by Sinclair, Sam Traicoff (coming off the bench) and Cross to go ahead, 60-42, at the start of the final eight minutes. Cross then made two foul shots and Jonangel Franco hit a jumper for a 13-0 run and a commanding 22-point cushion for the hosts.
“That was the difference right there,” said Classical head coach Tom Grassa. “Their 3’s changed the game. We shot the ball well for 3’s last Friday (going 5-for-13), but today they weren’t going in.”
“We were able to run our sets and get open shots,” added Beverly’s Cross. “I got a couple of good screens and got in a groove.”
Lewis credits the Panther defense with winning the game. They put pressure on the Rams’ shooters and dominated the glass.
“We definitely won the game in the defensive end,” said Lewis. “Cross had a great game both on the boards and with his scoring. We felt we could get him down low and on the perimeter where he can shoot over people. He and Berchoff do a nice job setting each other up, but even with Burchoff sitting because of foul trouble we still were able to build the lead.”
Lewis went to his bench and got everybody into the game. Nine different Panthers figured in the scoring, and Gavin Sparkman was also a factor on the boards.