Youthful team returns in 2016

Published in the December 18, 2015 edition

DEVONDRE WILLIAMS' 23 points weren't enough for the Melrose Red Raider basketball team who fell to Belmont Tuesday night at the Melrose Middle School gym, 66-58. (Donna Larsson photo) 

DEVONDRE WILLIAMS’ 23 points weren’t enough for the Melrose Red Raider basketball team who fell to Belmont Tuesday night at the Melrose Middle School gym, 66-58. (Donna Larsson photo)


MELROSE — The Melrose Red Raider boys’ basketball team hit the floor Tuesday night in their season opener against Belmont at the Melrose Middle School Gym. Melrose took a 66-58 loss but enjoyed a boatload of scoring from emerging players who show deep potential for Melrose.

Last year the Red Raiders split the Middlesex Freedom League title with Wakefield and Watertown. This season Melrose hopes to earn the inside edge. The Raiders have youth on the roster, with just two seniors on the squad, and they come equipped with speed, agility and athleticism.

Led by senior captain Julian Nyland, a major scorer for Melrose last year, the Raiders will see a more balanced offense this season, with contributions from returning starters who include Nyland, T’Mahri Mercer, Avery Davis and Sean Prendergast.

Against Belmont on Tuesday, Melrose sent Nyland, Mercer, Davis, Prendergast and Sean Donovan to the floor as starters. Leading all scoring for Melrose was junior Devondre Williams with 23 points but a host of Raiders put double digit numbers on the board including junior Avery Davis with 16 points and T’Mahri Mercer with 10.

Melrose faced an uphill battle against a three point barrage from Belmont, including those from senior Matt Kerans who tossed at least four of them. The Marauders also played an impeccable game on the foul line, going 14-16. Belmont took a lead of 18-13 at the end of the first despite some solid shooting from Prendergast, Nyland and Mercer. Melrose took their first lead of the game halfway through the second when Prendergast hit a shot and drew a foul that gave Melrose a 21-20 edge. Avery Davis and Devondre Williams extended the Melrose lead with a series of baskets that gave the Raiders a 32-28 edge until Belmont cranked up the three pointers and went 4-4 on the foul line. At halftime Belmont regained the lead at 37-34.

It was a tough third period for Melrose, who struggled to find the basket in their first five minutes of play until Melrose’s Williams hit consecutive shots. But Melrose fell to a 51-42 deficit they could not erase in the last quarter of the game, despite some dazzling play by senior James Liles, who came into the game late and left his mark with 6 points and an assist. There was some more fine shooting from Davis and Williams but Melrose failed to keep up with the Marauders, taking their first loss of the season, 66-58.

Earlier this week, Melrose head coach Mike Kasprzak spoke of the wide variety of scoring Melrose brings to the floor. That includes his senior captain Julian Nyland, a guard, will be counted on for leadership on or off the court according to his coach. “Julian will be a major contributor, he is a leader on offense with a lot of natural gifts.”

Also returning is Sean Prendergast, who will use his height to his advantage. “Sean will see time at center. He has tons of potential this season and has a great attitude,” says his coach.

Those on the roster at press time include: captain Nyland, Prendergast, senior James Liles, juniors T’Mahri Mercer, Sean Donovan, Devondre Williams, Malik Monteiro, Andrew Buonopane, Avery Davis and sophomores Anthony Colozzo, Joseph Stanton and Alexandre Santos. There could be additions to that roster with the late tryouts attributed to the extended season of the MHS Super Bowl team.

Overall expect the Raiders to be a team who becomes more threatening as the season progresses. They displayed agility and finesse Tuesday that will be aided with game-time experience.  “We’re young so I’m trying to teach the teams not to over think while they play and show confidence,” says their coach. “That’s something I expect will develop over the season.”

“This is a team that is going to tough by the end of the season,” predicts head coach Mike Kasprzak.

Melrose hosts Arlington this Friday night at 5 p.m. before hitting the road for three games.