When Lynn Classical girls basketball coach Tom Sawyer describes his team as a family, he means it.
Four of the varsity players at Classical – 25 percent of the entire roster – are related. Senior Monta Connolly, junior Christine Connolly, and sophomore Chelsea Rogers are sisters. Their cousin is freshman Chenysse Hill.
Connolly, the oldest of the four, said the three sisters travel to school and practice together. “My mother [Linda Connolly] picks us up after practice,” said Monta.
The three sisters [Monta and Christine are adopted] started playing basketball together in elementary school and often talk about the game at home. “We talk about the team all the time,” said Monta, who tries to be a role model for the girls. “I try to help them out.”
Monta, who turns 18 on Dec. 24, began her career at Lincoln-Thompson Elementary School. She continued playing at Breed Middle School and joined the Massachusetts Thundercats AAU team. She is in her second year as a starter for Classical.
She expects her sisters to make big contributions this season. “Chelsea is a really good three-point shooter. Christine is really good at rebounding. Chenysse is becoming a really good point guard.”
An honor roll student, Monta is looking at colleges including Framingham, Bridgewater, Westfield State, and UMass/Dartmouth.
Christine Connolly, 16, said Monta sets a good example for the family. “She’s a good role model,” said Christine. “We hang out together sometimes.”
Christine said it’s fun having sisters on the team. The family’s closeness has a positive impact on the rest of the girls.
“We work well together,” said Christine. “This team is like a family more than a team. I love my sisters and my cousin.”
Christine said that coach Sawyer has been helpful to her. “He’s a really, really good coach and I appreciate what he has done for me. He has helped me a lot throughout the program and I feel I am the player today because of coach Sawyer.”
Chelsea Rogers is one of the Rams’ top three-point threats. “My father [Anthony Rogers] taught me how to shoot the ball. He played at Malden High.”
Rogers said it’s great to have two older sisters on the team. “I looked up to them for guidance. I like having them because we help each other out. If I need some help, Monta and Christine will help me out. People ask me if we argue but whatever happens outside of basketball, we don’t bring in to the court. It’s a different story on the court. We’re teammates and we work hard and try to do the best we can.”
While all three sisters are athletic, Chelsea Rogers gets the crown as best dancer. She is a member of a dance group, ITM [In the Making], at the Lynn YMCA and rehearses three times a week. She will be performing with the group at halftime of an upcoming Boston Celtics game.
Chelsea is hoping that the sisters can help the team earn a trip to the State Tournament. “Coach Sawyer is a great coach and believes in us. He trusts us to work hard and I like him for that.”
Chenysse Hill is the daughter of Jeff Hill and Joan Connolly (Linda’s sister]. She’s earned a spot on the varsity in her first season in the program.
“It’s a fun experience having three cousins on the team and I learn from all three of them,” said Chenysse, a product of the Callahan and Breed schools. “They push me and they help me. We play a lot of basketball together. Coach Sawyer is helping me become a better player.”
Sawyer said Chenysse’s older sister, Brianna Connolly, also played in the Rams’ program. He said each of the four current players adds something special to the team.
“Each girl brings different things to the table,” said Sawyer. “They all compete hard which is nice. It’s fun to watch them play together. We ran a drill where we played four-on-four and I put all four of them on the same team and you could see that they had obviously played basketball together by the way they move on the court and interact with each other.”
The three sisters and one cousin are assets to the Rams’ program.
“They’re all great kids,” said Sawyer. “They’re very respectful and they want to learn. They want to get better. And they’re high school students so they want to have fun playing the game. So we try to make sure that we have an environment here where we can work hard and play hard and also have some fun.”
Junior co-captain Kristin Lauria said the family foursome is well liked by all the players.
“They work well together and we as a team work well together,” said Lauria. “I really like them and they’re all great basketball players. They’re good additions to the team.”