Top Melrose in overtime thriller to defend crown

HEAD COACH Brad Simpson (middle) instructs his team during yesterday’s overtime thriller against Melrose. The Warriors went on to win the game, 72-69, to capture the Middlesex League Freedom division title for the second straight year. (Donna Larsson Photo)

HEAD COACH Brad Simpson (middle) instructs his team during yesterday’s overtime thriller against Melrose. The Warriors went on to win the game, 72-69, to capture the Middlesex League Freedom division title for the second straight year. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the February 8, 2016 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Memorial High School varsity boys’ basketball team concluded its home schedule on Sunday afternoon after snow postponed the match-up with Melrose originally scheduled for Friday at the Charbonneau Field House.

The Warriors knew they could stake their claim to the Middlesex League Freedom Division title with a win and so did the fans who showed up in record numbers for this season to catch the final home game against the school’s fiercest rival for Senior Night.

A special moment for the Warriors was the introduction of senior captain Jon Miller, who saw his first action of the season after rehabbing off-season knee surgery.

It was evident from the very beginning that these two teams would be evenly matched throughout this one, and indeed that proved to be the case at the end as the game required an overtime period to decide the winner with the Warriors ultimately claiming a 72-69 win.

The win clinches the M.L. Freedom Division title for the Warriors as they have just two games remaining in the regular season. Wakefield also successfully defended the crown after sharing it with Melrose and Watertown a year ago.

“It was back and forth the whole time,” head coach Brad Simpson said after the game. “We were like a couple of heavyweights trading haymakers.”

It was a one possession game after the first quarter as Wakefield clung to an early 15-13 lead. The Warriors started five seniors and got six points from captain Tighe Beck and five from Andrew Auld to help Wakefield establish a slim advantage in the first quarter.

Wakefield took the ball to the basket aggressively in the second quarter resulting in numerous trips to the free throw line where it was able to convert 10-of-13 from the charity stripe.

Junior Kobey Nadeau had a big second quarter, scoring 12 points for the Warriors in the frame. Nadeau finished the night with 16 points.

Wakefield outscored Melrose 24-19 in the second quarter and took a 39-32 lead into the halftime break.

Melrose cranked up the defense after halftime and Wakefield’s shots couldn’t find the bottom of the net, as the Warriors notched just seven points in the third quarter.

Melrose put 17 on the board in the third quarter including eight from Avery Davis who finished with 15 points on the night.

Wakefield got six points from Auld in the third quarter as he was the only Warrior that had an effective quarter offensively.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Melrose had reclaimed a three point lead and the Warriors now trailed 49-46 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, Auld got things going with an early bucket. He had 10 points in the second half and 15 for the game. But he would eventually pick up a fifth foul and have to sit the remainder of the game.

The two teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter and the lead remained between three and five points most of the way. At about the four minute mark, Beck got a basket for Wakefield to cut the lead to just two. After Beck’s hoop, Melrose went on a 6-0 run to jump out to an eight point lead at 62-54.

At this point, Zach Price showed up off the Warrior bench. He’d warmed up with a pair of successful trips to the free throw line in the first half, but nobody came up bigger than Price in the fourth quarter. With Auld in foul trouble, Coach Simpson called his junior forward’s number and Price went in. He did a commendable job defending Melrose in the low-post and mixed it up on the glass, giving the Warriors the spark they needed.

However, Price’s largest contribution came at the offensive end. When the Warriors called on him they trailed by eight points. Price got into the game, scored a two to cut the lead down to six, then he hit consecutive three-pointers on back to back trips down the court to tie the game at 62-62.

“I have to admit, I was kind of looking for my pulse when we were down by eight, but Zach Price came up big,” Simpson said of his clutch performing junior. “Those weren’t lucky. We use him a lot around the post but he really is a good shooter.”

With the score tied at 62, Wakefield had a chance for the win with under 30 seconds remaining. Wakefield was moving the ball around the perimeter as time wound down. Eventually with under 10 seconds to play, Nadeau made an aggressive drive to the hoop. Nadeau’s shot banked in off the glass, but he charged through a Melrose defender in the process and the basket was waved off.

Now with under 10 seconds to go, Melrose had the ball in the front court and the referee called a late, touch foul on Alex McKenna sending Melrose’s T’Mahri Mercer to the free-throw line for two shots. Mercer had 11 points in the game and shot 4-of-6 from the free-throw line, but his two misses couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.

The noise in the Charbonneau Field House was far more deafening than at any point all season, and Mercer missed both shots. Wakefield claimed the rebound and the time expired, sending the game into overtime

“The fans were terrific tonight,” Simpson said of the crowd that turned out for the last game. “That was tournament level noise, tournament level turnout. The old sixth player, the Red Sea was out today. It was great all the way around.”

In the overtime period Melrose jumped out to a quick five point lead as Sean Donovan made the first two points for Melrose, then came up with a play on the defensive end to get the Red Raiders a stop. With Melrose back on offense, Sean Prendergast converted a three-point play and Wakefield looked dead in the water.

The Warriors drew new life and inspiration from their hard-working captain Beck, who fought for every rebound and came up big with an offensive board in the OT. He was fouled on the put back attempt and hit 1-of-2 from the line. After a Melrose miss, the Warriors got 1-of-2 free throws to go down from Nadeau.

Auld, who had been playing with four fouls since the third quarter, picked up his fifth on the next Melrose possession and he had to leave the game. Melrose had three players foul out in the overtime period as well.

With Corey Imbriano unavailable after having picked up a technical foul earlier in the game, Coach Simpson called on junior John Evangelista off the bench to sub in for Auld. Evangelista saw a few minutes of playing time in the first half but didn’t factor in the scoring. He’d been sitting on the bench most of the second half but that didn’t cause him to tighten up any. The call from Simpson paid immediate dividends.

Evangelista, one of the top shooters on the Warriors, found himself unguarded at the three-point line with the Warriors down by three. His shot went down tying the game at 67-67.

“We were very fortunate,” Simpson said. “Tighe had a loose ball rebound, kicked out to Johnny right in the corner, nobody was near him. He was wide open. Johnny is one of those kids where that’s like free throw if you leave him open.”

Melrose got the next basket to go down but Wakefield cranked up the “D” the rest of the way keeping Melrose off the board.

Wakefield got some big time clutch free throws as Nadeau hit 3-of-4 from the line down the stretch and secured the win for the Warriors by a 72-69 final score.

“Kobey Nadeau put the game away,” Simpson said of the junior’s three clutch free throws.

“Melrose is a very good team,” Simpson said of his opponent. “They have outstanding players right through their lineup.”

On Tuesday the Warriors head to Burlington and Friday the regular season concludes with a trip to Watertown.

“On the road again next week, but right now we’re going to enjoy this win,” the coach concluded.


WAKEFIELD 72, Melrose 69 (OT)

At Charbonneau Field House


Melrose (69) — Liles 1 1 3; Mercer 3 5 11; Donovan 2 0 4; Williams 1 2 4; Monteiro 0 0 0; Prendergast 7 2 16; Nyland 4 2 12; Davis 5 5 15; Veinot 2 0 4. Totals 25 17 69.

WAKEFIELD (72) — Evangelista 1 0 3; A.Miller 0 0 0; Beck 5 4 14; Imbriano 1 0 2; J.Miller 0 0 0; Carmilia-Smith 0 0 0; McKenna 3 4 10; Nadeau 5 6 16; Price 3 4 12; Auld 7 1 15; McGunigle 0 0 0. Totals 25 19 72.

Score by Quarters — Melrose 13-19-17-13-7 — 69. WAKEFIELD 15-24-7-16-10 — 72.

Three-point FGs — Mel, Nyland 2. Wak, Price 2, Evangelista 1.